Success at the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs…

Driver Antoine L’Estage (of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and his co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, NS) won this past weekend’s Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs in New Richmond, Quebec. At the wheel of their Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi Evo X, the duo overcame multiple obstacles at this event to eventually walk away with their sixth consecutive victory in the Canadian Rally Championship, increasing their lead in the series, as well as in the North American Rally Cup. This win is extra special for Antoine L’Estage as this past weekend’s event marked the 100th rally of his career.

Already winners at the Rallye Perce-Neige and the Rocky Mountain Rally earlier in the season, Antoine L’Estage, Nathalie Richard and the entire Rockstar Concerto team worked extremely hard to claim this victory. “We just experienced a crazy rally. Friday night we built up a significant lead right from the first stage before losing two and a half minutes with our rear differential problems, which dropped us into second place by nine seconds,”explains Antoine. “We took back the lead on Saturday morning but just before the final stage of the rally, we were forced to change the gearbox, causing us to check out of service later than the allotted time, and therefore incurring a penalty. Luckily, we had a big enough gap ahead of second place that the penalty and another frustrating problem on the last stage were not enough to knock us off of the top spot. This was a roller coaster ride of emotions, one I’d rather not repeat!” adds the reigning champion.

This success goes to a driver celebrating his 100th rally, a co-driver who did another perfect job, and especially to the Rockstar Royal Group team of mechanics who can be extremely proud of their accomplishments this weekend, as explained by Nathalie Richard. “This is a really big team victory because without the fast and efficient work of John Buffum and our mechanics Paul and Mathieu, we are fairly certain that we would not have just won our sixth Canadian rally in a row.”

The road conditions were equally difficult for this edition of the event thanks to hard rainfall on the days leading up to the rally, leaving the surface extremely slick and muddy. Antoine L’Estage emphasizes that this was not a concern of his. “My mechanics prepared a very reliable car for me, we were the fastest team, and with my Yokohama tires, we had a great selection of possibilities. For these conditions, we opted to start the rally on a soft compound tire, which was the right choice for Friday night’s stages.”

This 2011 edition of the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs was a challenge for all the top teams, each of which suffered their fair share of major mechanical problems. This win marks Antoine and Nathalie’s third victory in New Richmond, and makes it almost impossible for any other team on the continent to claim the North American Rally Cup. The team is now preparing to head to the New England Forest Rally in less than two weeks for the final round of the Rally America Championship. Antoine and Nathalie currently sit in second place in that series.

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-nine 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-five 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.

Team Photo: Antoine L’Estage, Nathalie Richard and their indispensable team of mechanics.
Photo: Mat Janiak, World Rally Sport.

Action Shot: Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, taking the final jump as winners of the 2011 Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs.
Photo: Mike Proulx, World Rally Sport

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