A come-from-behind charge from defending North American rally champion Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard ended in a snow bank this weekend at Canada’s icy season opener.

“No regrets,” said Comrie-Picard. “A podium finish would have been nice but we had a clear shot at the win – we had to go for it.”

The NOS Energy-backed rally team of ACP and co-driver Jeremy Wimpey had already overcome an early misstep and had clawed from 53rd overall to second place, and were angling for the win, when they went off road just a few kilometers from the end of the grueling ice and snow contest.

The duo had planned a strong start, but a surprisingly slick corner on the first stage caught them off-guard. They were the second leading car to wind up in the ditch early in the event — following defending Canadian champion Pat Richard’s tracks right off the road at a popular spectator corner.

“You can count on Quebec spectators to help you out, but even we thought this was a lost cause,” said Comrie-Picard. “The car was deep in a ditch; I can’t believe they got us out.”

The crowd of spectators, led by legendary Quebec rally driver Sylvain Erickson, hooked a tow rope to the team’s competition car and pulled them back on course. The incident cost them five minutes, damaged the driveline, and dropped them to 53rd place overall.

But the team didn’t give up. The NOS Energy service crew repaired the car and Comrie-Picard and Wimpey put in a clean performance and steadily climbed up the standings until the long, deep forest stages late in the contest when they turned up the heat and clawed into second place overall.

A cautious drive to the end would have virtually guaranteed the team a podium finish, but with one long stage to go and a minute-and-a-half to gain, Comrie-Picard saw an opportunity.

“Points are points, but it’s called ‘racing’ for a reason,” said Comrie-Picard. “We had won the previous stage by over a minute, so we decided to push for the win.”

The team drove to the limit, sliding wildly at times and using the low snow banks to nudge the car back into line at full speed.

With just six kilometers to go, the team was on pace for the victory when they slid wide on a treacherous corner and wound up in a snowy field. The team dug frantically and put deadfall wood under the tires, but it took a hard pull from the car of competitor Ian Crerar to get them back on the road. The team lost 20 minutes on the stage and finished out of the points.

Comrie-Picard’s team was not the only one to have difficulties. The other two key championship contenders had problems this weekend, so the points race remains wide open.

Rally car racing is considered the extreme sport of automobile racing and is often described simply as “real cars, real roads, real fast.” This all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover more than 100 miles of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads.

The sport is featured in the annual X Games, the premier action sports event on the globe, featuring athletes competing for medals and prize money in sports including BMX Freestyle, Moto X, Skateboard, and Rally. Comrie-Picard has been among the dozen invited drivers in each of the four years since the rally discipline was introduced to the contest and he expects to return in 2010.

For more information and video highlights, visit: www.acprally.com. Find us on Twitter, YouTube or Facebook under ACP Rally.

The ACP Rally program is made possible by: NOS Energy (www.drinknos.com), K&N (www.knfilters.com), Yokohama Canada (www.yokohama.ca), Bully Dog (www.bullydog.com), Motul (www.motulusa.com), AMS (www.amsperformance.com), Ohlins (www.ohlinsusa.com), Brian Crower (www.briancrower.com), JE (www.jepistons.com), Exedy (www.exedyusa.com), Oakley (www.oakley.com), Mishimoto (www.mishimoto.com), Innovate Motorsports (www.tuneyourengine.com), Works (www.worksevo.com), Team Dynamics (www.teamdynamicsracing.com), Pfitzner Performance Gearbox (www.ppgearbox.com.au), Endless (www.endlessusa.com), NBB (www.nbblights.ca), Sparco (www.sparcousa.com), NGK (www.ngksparkplugs.com), Rockford Fosgate (www.rockfordfosgate.com), Piloti (www.piloti.com) and Skull Candy (www.skullcandy.com).

Photo courtesy of Mat Janiak, www.WorldRallySport.com.

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