Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage (of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and his co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, NS) won this past weekend’s Rocky Mountain Rally, the second round of the 2011 Canadian Rally Championship amidst extreme weather conditions in the Kananaskis region of Alberta. This marks their fifth consecutive victory in the series, after having won the last three events in the 2010 season and the first round of 2011 earlier this year

The Rocky Mountain Rally definitely lived up to its reputation of having challenging weather conditions. This year, in addition to rain and mud, the competitors were faced with persistent snowstorms covering the high altitude competitive stages with up to a foot a snow. This paved the way for a showdown between championship rivals Rockstar Royal Group in the Mitsubishi Evo X and the Subaru Canada factory team. “It was really a great battle! We won more than half of the competitive stages even though we were handicapped by being first on the road for the entire duration of the rally, forcing us to plow the sometimes deep snow for the cars behind us. We had to make sure we avoided even the slightest error to remain amongst the leaders, especially during Friday morning’s stages,” comments Antoine L’Estage.

At the wheel of their Evo X, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard kept the pressure on their rival for several stages before taking over the lead on the penultimate stage. “I pushed to my maximum, especially on the last two stages. I’m very proud of this win because when a battle is this tight, anything can happen. Our car was once again perfectly reliable. We claimed the rally win with a five second lead and not even the slightest scratch on the Evo X. It’s a big victory for our entire team and it puts us in a good position in the championship,” adds the Quebec driver. This victory is one that will remain etched in the Rockstar Royal Group duo’s memory. Coming out on top after a tight battle where neither team suffers from mechanical problems is a memory to hold onto – this is the second time the team has enjoyed this experience in 2011.

For the duration of the rally, Antoine and Nathalie used the Yokohama A031’s, particularly suited for the mud and the best possible choice for Friday’s conditions, explains the reigning champion. “It really helped us to have the Yokohama A031’s available to us, we need to have confidence in our tires in order to constantly drive at the limit and succeed at the top and we have that with our Yokohamas.”

This victory, the Rockstar Royal Group’s fourth win at the Rocky Mountain Rally, increases the team’s lead at the top of the championship standings, as well as at the top of the fight for the North America Rally Cup. “We have a small but passionate team and we all work very hard so this kind of success is the fruit of our labour. John Buffum and our mechanics do a great job and of course my co-driver Nathalie Richard was once again perfect in these difficult conditions,” adds Antoine L’Estage.

The Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs, the third round of the Canadian Rally Championship, will take place in Quebec on the first weekend of July. Before that, however, the Rockstar Royal Group team will contest next round of the Rally America championship in Pennsylvania. The STPR rally will be held in just a few days (June 3rd and 4th). Reigning STPR winners, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard hope to use this event to increase their lead in the North American Rally Cup and to jump to the front of the hunt for the Rally America title.

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-eight 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-four 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 Suspensions and Hawk Performance Brake Pads. For more information on the team or on rallying in general, visit antoinelestage.com.

Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, winners of the 2011 Rocky Mountain Rally.
Photos: Kris Schofield.

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