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BC based team overcomes adversity to claim 2009 Canadian Rally Championship title, and claim manufacturer’s championship for Subaru Canada

Subaru Rally Team Canada driver Patrick Richard and his co-driver Alan Ockwell are the new 2009 Canadian Rally Champions, by virtue of their win at the Rally of the Tall Pines held this past weekend near Bancroft, ON. Their top finish also secured the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship manufacturer’s title for Subaru Canada.

Their stunning victory marked the fourth win of the season for rally driver Patrick Richard, of Squamish, BC, and his co-driver Alan Ockwell, of Toronto, ON. As reigning 2008 Canadian Rally Champions, this is their second consecutive overall rally championship win driving their Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

“We came into this event knowing that we needed a win to claim the championship title,” explained Ockwell. “The heavy rain and muddy conditions ensured it was going to be a very tough event.” During the final practice before the rally start, the team snap rolled the car into a swamp on a slippery left hand corner, and the car was unable to drive under its own power. “After Friday night, we didn’t even know if we could make the start of the event, and winning the championship seemed far, far away.” A frantic battle ensued for the team’s service crew from Rocket Rally Racing in Squamish, BC. “After three hours of gruelling work by our crew, the car was ready to drive, and in fact it was almost impossible to tell that we had rolled it – a new windshield, hood, fenders, radiator, you name it, they fixed it.”

And fixed it they did. Richard went on to take the lead of the rally by the event’s second stage, ultimately winning 8 of the 15 individually timed stages.

“With no options for us except to win, and no second chances if we had crashed or broken, we made sure that we were going as fast as we needed to in order to stay in front,” said Richard. At the start of the event’s 10th stage, Richard and Ockwell had a 13 second lead over their second placed rival, and were looking firm for the win. “We didn’t have to push too hard, but we were slowly ratcheting up the pace, and by the ninth stage we were putting in about a second per kilometer on our main rivals. We were feeling confident about the win.”

But it all came apart on the 10th stage, where a transmission problem forced the team to first slow, then ultimately stop on the stage. “We lost about a minute on that stage, and with that, the championship faded before our eyes.”

The team’s BC based service crew sprung into action, and performed a miracle 17 minute transmission change which kept the pair in the rally. “Our crew was amazing. After staying up all night repairing the roll damage, they then came through with a 17 minute transmission change. Incredible.” Despite having a new transmission installed, it was in fact a standard, production gearbox. Richard and Ockwell’s other racing gearbox was installed in the team’s second car, which was being driven by six-time Canadian Champion Frank Sprongl, who was also entered into the event to secure manufacturer points for Subaru Canada. Sprongl went on to eventually finish third.

“We won every stage after the transmission swap, and had whittled down the time lost with the transmission problem to just 25 seconds, with one 25km stage to go. It was going to be an epic finish.” But alas, the team’s primary rivals had a clutch problem on the very last stage of the event, handing the event and the championship title to Richard and Ockwell.

“We had a roller coaster of an event. From the roll, to comfortably leading the event, to losing the lead – and the championship – with the transmission issue, to fighting back and leading it again. All this in a 24-hour period!”

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After taking a two year hiatus from the sport, Richard is now a four-time Canadian Rally Champion (2002, 2004, 2008 and 2009) and is now poised to break the all-time championship record of six, jointly held by Frank Sprongl and Tom McGeer. Richard has also previously won the Rally America Championship several times, including the overall North American Rally Championship.

“Aside from driver-induced damage the car ran flawlessly and I have to credit both Subaru Canada and all of our associate sponsors including Vision-X Lighting, Crawford Performance, ACT, and our Squamish, BC based Rocket Rally crew,” exclaimed Richard.

Rocket Rally Racing is based in Squamish, BC, Canada and operates the Subaru Rally Team Canada on behalf of Subaru Canada, with associate sponsors Vision-X Lighting, Crawford Performance and ACT providing product support for the 2009 championship campaign. “Everything ran perfectly and I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2010.”

All rounds of the Canadian Rally Championship are televised nationally on TSN, TSN2 and RDS, and internationally. For television times, please check your local listings. More information about the Canadian Rally Championship can be found at the Canadian Association of Rallysport’s website www.carsrally.ca. Photos, videos and more information about the team can be found at the team’s website www.rocketrally.com.

Photos by Andrew Harvey

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