The Western Canadian Rally Championship season opener at Cochrane proved to be as exciting as everyone had expected with several teams facing terminal problems or long waits in snow banks, destroying their chance of victory. The first time pairing of Hardy Schmidtke and John Hall ended up winning the event, with two novice drivers covering the remaining podium spots.

For Jennings-Bates however, the rally has left him with bittersweet memories. “We were driving a fantastic race and dominated the first two stages on tricky conditions and even on the third stage our pace was enough to win, even against competitors on gravel tires while we ran studded winters… and not unlike Ken Block at the WRC last weekend, one fraction of a second was all it took to end the event for us.”

The team of Colin Armstrong and Mark Jennings-Bates had been the pacesetters on the morning stages and were confidently tackling the clean gravel stages of Harold Creek when a poor pace note led to an off and a 40′ drop down a very steep bank that left the team waiting for an extraction crew as the clock ticked over past the maximum allowable time on the stage.

“Mark very nearly recovered on that corner,” commented Armstrong, adding “he managed to rotate the car in a very short space and attempt to drive away from the hazard, but today wasn’t our day as the slope lifted a front wheel and reduced our ability to escape!”

The next event on the calendar is Round 2 of the National Championship in Calgary, Alberta. The Rally4Life Subaru STi is being carefully restored by AGAR Paint and Autobody in the Okanagan and will be ready in time for the event on the last weekend of May.

Jennings-Bates; as philosophical as ever was buoyant after the Cochrane experience. “We had a fantastic time, and were able to prove that our pace is back to where it needs to be after developing the STi last year. We expect to be competing at a high level in Calgary and look forward to going head to head with some of Canada’s top drivers again after our best ever national finish at Pacific Forest Rally last year.”

The team’s regular co-driver, Jennifer Daly will be returning for the Calgary event, a favourite on the calendar for many fans, but an event that can be dogged by bad and unpredictable weather. Unlike other events in the series, Rocky Mountain Rally runs on orgainser supplied Jemba notes, with an added bonus this year that competitors will get to do a slow speed pass once on all stages to check the supplied notes.

The Rally4Life Canadian team is based in Kelowna, British Columbia and competes in the Western Canada Rally Championship and select events in the Canadian Rally Championship which is broadcast in High Definition on TSN and will be Canada’s first competitive car entry into the Dakar Rally in January 2011, driving a Bowler Nemesis.

Locally, the team is supported by Ksport USA, Aerius Engineering, BC Resort Homes, Big O Tires Westbank, AGAR Paint and Autobody, Wyatt Autoparts, Provision Data, Bell Racewear, Pinnacle Elite Athletes and Pinnacle Physiotherapy, K96.3FM and Castanet.net.

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