Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage, co-driven by Nathalie Richard, both of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu (QC), took part in past weekend’s Rally of the Tall Pines, the final round of the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship and the North American Rally Cup. The Rockstar Royal Group team demonstrated during almost the entire event that they were set to take home the rally victory and the two drivers’ titles at stake. Heart-breaking mechanical issues prevented the couple from claiming their third Canadian and third consecutive North American titles. The team, who was debuting a brand new 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, nonetheless takes away a very positive track record for 2009.

“When the new car was built in January, we planned on this being a developmental year for the Evo X. Our victories at Rallye Perce-Neige and Rallye Defi started to change our minds as we took the lead of the Canadian Rally Championship up until last Saturday night,” explains Antoine. The privateer Rockstar Royal Group team was having a perfect rally, winning five of the first seven stages without so much as a scratch on the car before solidifying their objectives and dialing back their speed.

“I think we proved to the two-car manufacturer’s team that we were there to claim the Canadian Championship. We had a great rally and going into the last stage we had enough of a lead to just drive a steady stage without taking any risks,” explains Antoine L’Estage. “Unfortunately, a clutch problem made it almost impossible for us to make it up the hill to the start line of that last stage and we lost over eleven minutes trying. It was devastating to watch our competitors start the stage as two championship titles slipped through our fingers. We finished the rally in fifth place and finish the season as Canadian Rally Championship runner-ups,” he confides. The two-time Canadian and two-time North American Champion adds, “It’s obviously disappointing when such an incident takes place in the last stage of the last rally of the season, but that’s rally and we have to accept it and move on,” he concludes. L’Estage tied for top points in the North American Rally Cup driver’s title but tie-breaking rules gives his fewer but higher finishing rallies, a second place overall.

2009 was a transition year for the Rockstar Royal Group rally team. With two victories, only one mechanical DNF (did not finish), and a total of five “Top 5” finishes, the season met all expectations and earned Antoine L’Estage top spot in the Mitsubishi Cup.

“We’re both very competitive and wanted to win this year but we didn’t expect to be in such an advantageous position for both Championships coming into the last event of 2009. Antoine did some of his best driving in Bancroft and didn’t succumb to any of the pressures that were being put on him. He deserved those titles and it was truly a heart-breaking end to the year. We extend a huge thanks to our fantastic crew and all of our partners and we promise to be there even stronger in 2010!” added Nathalie Richard, who finishes the year as the North American Co-Driving Champion as well as the Canadian Ladies’ Champion.

Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard have won the Mitsubishi Cup this year. They have participated 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.

Photo Credit: Neil McDaid



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