The second round of the Canadian Rally Championship turned out to be a thriller this year. The 38th running of the Rocky Mountain Rally was held for the first time around the Kananaskis Country, west of Calgary, and competitors were faced with roads covered with heavy snow. Antoine L’Estage from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and codriver Nathalie Richard from Halifax took to the rally stages ahead of the 28-car field and had to drive their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution in difficult conditions, literally ploughing the forest roads. At the halfway mark, the North American Triple Crown champions were only 9 seconds behind first place and really focused on charging to the finish. With snow melting away, they finally leapfrogged in first place on the penultimate stage and won their second Rocky in a row by a mere 5.3 seconds! They now hold a commanding lead in the standings after two events.

The shootout between two Mitsubishi teams in class 5 did not happen and Zbigniew Szewczyk and Shabir Haji easily won the category while finishing 11th overall in a Ralliart model. Returning 2WD champions, Jan and Jody Zedril of Winnipeg in a Lancer ES encountered a string of unusual problems and had to retire for the first time in two years.

The Clear Water Design teams had very different endings. Ontarians Ian Crerar and Doug Draper in their EVO VI kept a steady pace in the gruelling conditions and finished in 9th overall. On the other hand, the lady crew of Michelle Labramboise and Elise Racette was sidelined with their EVO IV when codriver Racette became sick in the first leg of the rally. Finally, Albertan rookies Jeff and Emma Tooth in a production Lancer completed their first RMR with a rewarding 15th place in the regional standings.

“Difficult weather conditions are no surprise in Alberta and we acknowledge yet another victory from our deserving leaders L’Estage and Richard,” said Koji Soga, President and CEO of Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada Inc.(MMSCAN). “The Mitsubishi cars did well again and we expect to see all of them at the next round in Quebec.”

Next event: Rallye Baie des Chaleurs

The third event of the season, Baie des Chaleurs, will host the next round in the Gaspe Peninsula on the first weekend of July. This event always draws large crowds and the famous jump at the end of the last stage always makes for great pictures when the cars get airborne.

On the other hand, winners L’Estage and Richard are headed for Pennsylvania where the 5th round of Rally America will be disputed next week. The Susquehannock Trail Pro Rally is staged around Wellsboro; L’Estage and Richard won the event last year in their Mitsubishi Evolution.

More information is available at www.rallyebdc.com

Repeat Rocky winners, Antoine L’Estage and codriver Nathalie Richard in their 2009 Evolution stretch their lead in the Canadian Championship. Calgarians Zbigniew Zebe Szewczyk and Shabir Haji took a Group 5 class win in their Lancer Ralliart. Photos by Barry Giles

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