A taste of the US Northwest…

Reigning Canadian, Rally America, and North American champions, Antoine L’Estage, of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu (Quebec) and his co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, NS) are contesting the two western rounds of the Rally America championship, a series they won in 2010. The team recently returned from Ocean Shores, Washington and head to Portland this week for the Oregon Trail Rally.

At the wheel of the Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi Evo X, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard headed into the Olympus Rally on April 30th with much anticipation and high expectations. The team started the rally as first car on the road, a position that was to be extremely penalizing for the duo. “Starting first on the Olympus roads, which are extremely loose with large gravel, is a big handicap because we are sweeping the surfaces for the cars behind us,” explains Antoine. “It’s a problem that is regularly encountered in the World Rally Championship but also in North America. We had to deal with the situation and even though we lost some time on the first stage, we made it up and more on the second stage, which used the same road,” adds the Quebec driver.

Winners of the previous Rally America event, the Rally of the 100 Acre Wood, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard were sitting in second place after six stages, fifteen seconds behind the leader and with a comfortable lead ahead of third spot. The car was in great shape and they were looking forward to clawing back time on the last two stages of the day. Sadly, the rally was cut short when Matthew Marker, a young driver from Michigan, was in a fatal accident. His co-driver did not suffer serious injury.

“From a competitive standpoint, I was disappointed because I was looking forward to the long stages on Day 2 that I know well. From a human standpoint, I of course respect the decision to cancel the remainder of the event after such a horrible tragedy,” confides the champion.

Heading to Oregon this weekend…

This second place finish in Washington allows the Rockstar Royal Group team to inch closer to the top of the championship leaderboard after three rounds. The Oregon Trail Rally is the next event in the 2011 calendar. “Last year was my first time at this rally and even with my mechanical problems that dropped us to seventeenth place on Day 2, we fought back and set the fastest time all of the remaining stages to get ourselves back onto the podium” comments Antoine L’Estage. “I like this rally and there’s always so many spectators at the Portland International Raceway on Friday. Our Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi Evo X is in excellent condition and the battle at the front of the pack will be a good one. I have confidence in our line-up of Yokohama tires and we have the best tires available to us for Friday’s asphalt stages at PIR and for the rest of the weekend’s gravel roads,” he concludes.

Antoine L’Estage holds three North American championship titles (2007, 2008 and 2010), three Canadian titles (2006, 2007 and 2010), one American title (2010), and twenty-seven overall victories in Canada and the US. Nathalie Richard holds six overall national championship titles (3 in Canada and 3 in the USA), as well as thirty-three overall rally wins on both sides of the border. She is also a six-time North American Co-Driving Champion (2004-2010, excluding 2006).

Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard participate in the 2011 Rally America and Canadian Rally Championships with the support of Rockstar Energy Drink, Royal Group, Yokohama Tires, Mitsubishi Canada, Drenth Motorsport Gearboxes, Garrett Turbos, Energie Cardio, Libra Racing, Driver’s Edge Autosport (OMP), VP Racing Fuels, exe-Tc and Hawk Performance Brake Pads. For more information on the team or on rallying in general, visit antoinelestage.com.

Photo credit : Matt Galantuomini, World Rally Sport



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