Rockstar Energy Drink Royal Group Team’s Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, both from Quebec, Canada, became the newest Rally America National Champions after a spectacular drive at the drama filled New England Forest Rally!

This is Antoine L’Estage’s first Rally America title and Nathalie Richard’s third co-driver title. She co-drove for her brother, Patrick Richard, on his way to win the 2005 Rally America and 2004 SCCA ProRally Championships.

L’Estage led the 2010 Championship heading into the season’s final round with a 13 point advantage over New England hometown favorite, Bill Bacon a full-time Firefighter from Nashua, NH, and just needed 5th place or better to gain enough points to become Rally America’s third ever title holder. Bacon, who has doggedly pursued L’Estage on the podium all season, was the only driver within striking distance of L’Estage, but he had to win the event outright and rely on L’Estage finishing outside of 5th place to snatch the Championship for his own. But Bacon suffered a devastating flat tire on Stage 9 that pushed him back to an overall 6th place finish.

Luck was on L’Estage’s side though as he faced the return of 4-time Rally America Champion, Travis Pastrana from Davidsonville, Maryland, and Monster World Rally Team’s Ken Block from Encinitas, California. Pastrana missed two crucial rally events when he was in Australia for two months performing in a Live Nitro Circus television show, thus costing him valuable points and relegated him to a 3rd place position in the overall Championship points.

Early on, Ken Block led the New England Forest Rally in his Monster Energy-backed Ford Fiesta until he went too wide in a sweeping Stage 4 corner and ditched his car damaging his rear suspension. That left Pastrana in the overall lead by nearly 3 minutes until Stage 11 when he lost oil pressure in his 2010 Subaru WRX STI and was forced to retire. L’Estage and Richard then cruised to the end, winning the New England Forest Rally and stepping into the record books as the new 2010 Rally America National Champions!

It was not an easy season for L’Estage and Richard. At the start of 2010, they planned to compete in just four Rally America events in addition to their Canadian Rally Series schedule with just one car – a 2010 Mistubishi Lancer Evolution X prepared by US Rally legend John Buffum and his team at Libra Racing. But once the two Canadians found themselves at the top of the overall Rally America points in early spring and with two West Coast Rally America events looming, they mustered enough energy and funding to trek across the country from Quebec to see if they could maintain their overall points lead.

“I’ve never rallied in the West Coast, so it was a huge gamble for us,” said L’Estage following the Olympus Rally. “I came to the West Coast with the goal of maximizing recce at Oregon Trail and winning this rally. At Olympus there was no point in catching Pastrana. I just wanted to save my 2nd place for the big picture.”

L’Estage also placed his West Coast finishes in perspective: “Travis Pastrana has been out here rallying for years and should know these roads. I suppose it would be the same situation if Pastrana came to the Canadian Baie Des Chaleurs Rally where I know those roads and he just showed up for the first time.”

Antoine L’Estage has even more on the line competing in two North American Rally Championships with a single car making his run for a title even more special and improbable. Each event L’Estage entered he hoped for a smooth and problem-free run. Any catastrophic failure meant throwing away his season in both the Rally America Championship as well as the Canadian Rally Series, not to mention the coveted North American Rally Cup.

With the Rally America Championship secured, he and Nathalie can now focus their efforts on finishing the Canadian Rally Series season where they currently sit in 4th place overall.

Before he returns to his homeland, L’Estage has one more stop on U.S. soil at the Summer X Games 16 in Los Angeles where he plans to compete in both Rally Car Racing and the newly added discipline for Rally cars, SuperRally.

An experienced X Games competitor, L’Estage has even more momentum on his side heading to the big show in Los Angeles to win his first X Games medal. Plus, he will be part of motorsports history as a participant in the first-ever SuperRally competition featuring four rally cars at a time battling wheel-to-wheel on the L.A. Memorial Coliseum floor.

This has been the dream season that has validated Antoine L’Estage’s talent as one of North America’s best rally drivers. There are many ways to win a Championship and L’Estage, along with his co-driver, Nathalie Richard, have shown that consistency pays huge dividends in the world or rally. With that, L’Estage and Richard have cemented their place in rally history as the duo who broke Travis Pastrana’s run of four consecutive Rally America Overall Championships. And now he joins his co-driver’s brother, Patrick Richard, as only the second Canadian rally driver in history to win the Rally America Overall Championship.

About Rally America, Inc.:

Based in Golden Valley, Minnesota, Rally America sanctions the premier rally racing series in the United States, the Rally America National Championship Series. In 2009, Rally America will conduct nine National Championship events at venues across the country, from Portland, Ore., to Newry, Maine. Rally America competitors reach speeds well over 100 mph in modified street-legal rally cars on natural-terrain courses consisting of gravel, dirt or snow.

Rally America is introducing “Rallycross” to America for the first time on August 27-28, October 9-10, and November 6-7 at the New Jersey Motorsports Park. Fans will be able to watch two-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive rally cars compete wheel-to-wheel on a closed-loop 1.3 mile tarmac and gravel circuit in timed heats from the comfort of grandstands and special viewing areas.

Rally America is proudly supported by Subaru of America, Inc., BFGoodrich Tires, the Team O’Neil Rally School, Able Planet, Hawk Performance Brakes,,, Exedy Racing Clutches, RECARO, Mazda and the Danza del Sol Winery.

To watch RAM TV videos from the New England Forest Rally go to:

For Results from the New England Forest Rally visit:

Photo: Mike Proulx/World Rally Sport/Rally America



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