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This past weekend, at the wheel of their Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi Evo X, Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage and his co-driver Nathalie Richard, both of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu (QC), earned valuable points to maintain their lead in the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship. By finishing second at the Pacific Forest Rally in Merritt, BC, the penultimate round in the series, current North American Rally Champions L’Estage and Richard have made it one step closer to claiming their third overall Canadian title.

“A strong finish at this rally was our main objective,” confides Antoine L’Estage. Sitting in second place with a fifteen second deficit at the end of Friday night, the L’Estage/Richard duo took charge the following morning by winning the first four mountain stages.

By the end of the ninth of sixteen stages, and without taking any unnecessary risks, Antoine and Nathalie had climbed back to within less than a second behind first place. “Unfortunately, we suffered a small problem with the turbo that cost us about forty seconds. From that moment on, we accepted that we would just manage our second place until the end of the rally. Mother Nature teased us a little before the start of the rally but our Yokohama tires once again did the job for us in these challenging road conditions” adds L’Estage.

Championship points were the most important goal for the Rockstar Royal Group team, who lead the 2009 hunt for the title by six points and one rally remaining. “We usually don’t settle for anything other than the rally victory but we had to keep the big picture in our minds. Any smart team would’ve done the same thing and we are happy with the result – we keep the championship lead and that’s what we wanted to return home with. We didn’t want to take any risks here and the car heads back east without even a scratch,” indicates Nathalie Richard.

The battle for the 2009 title will play out on November 21 at Ontario’s Rally of the Tall Pines, a rally that Antoine L’Estage has won three times. “I really enjoy the Rally of the Tall Pines and I’m confident we will clinch the championship there,” concludes L’Estage. Even if their closest championship rival wins the last rally, L’Estage and Richard could once again settle for second place and still be crowned 2009 Canadian Champions.

Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard participate in the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship with the proud support of Rockstar Energy Drink, Royal Group, Mitsubishi Canada, Yokohama Tires, Mobil, Energie Cardio, Libra Racing, OMP Racewear, and MBF Racing. For more details on the team or general rally information, please visit the Coyote Rallye Website .

Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard in action at the 2009 Pacific Forest Rally.
Photo: Andrew Snucins www.worldrallysport.com

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