Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage (of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu) and his co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, NS) claimed yet another victory this past weekend on the rough roads of the New England Forest Rally, the sixth and final round of the Rally American Championship. This win is the team’s fifth since the start of the season in January, including all three of the Canadian events held to date as well as two of this season’s Rally America rounds.

Hot off of a Canadian Rally Championship victory just two weeks prior, Antoine and Nathalie set their sights on another victory with an ultimate goal of capturing the series title for a second year in a row. The duo immediately started the rally by winning stages but knew the odds were against them in terms of the championship. With nothing to gain and everything to lose, the Subaru USA factory team of David Higgins and Craig Drew were less likely to put up a battle for the event win, as explained by co-driver Richard: “When we lost the last US rally by only 1.3 seconds, it meant that we’d be coming to Maine with a ten point deficit instead of being tied for the series’ lead. Winning the New England Forest Rally wasn’t going to be enough for us to claim the title unless David and Craig finished lower than fourth.” Higgins and Drew eventually finished the event in second place, 48 seconds behind L’Estage and Richard.

The Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi Evo X was again flawlessly prepared by John Buffum’s Libra Racing shop and the Yokohama tires worked perfectly on the roughest rally surface in North America. Minor problems slowed L’Estage/Richard down a little but notwithstanding, the duo maintained a generally conservative pace throughout the entire weekend. “I’m very happy we won but I can’t say that I’m not disappointed about the championship. We are a private team and every member does way more than their fair share so that we can battle with the big manufacturers’ teams. Nathalie and I are grateful to John, Paul and Mathieu for everything they do,” confessed Antoine. “Having David and Craig in the series this year gave us some solid battles and it’s nice to compare myself with David, who has already accomplished so much internationally,” he added.

In 2010, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard won the Rally America series, the Canadian Rally Championship, and the North American Rally Cup, collectively known as the Triple Crown. This year the team finished second in the Rally America championship and are currently leading the Canadian championship midway through its season. The duo also has a commanding lead of the North American Rally Cup, which could be locked up as early as the next Canadian Rally Championship event, Rallye Defi, September 9th & 10th.

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 thirty 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-six 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, Seibon Carbon 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 jumping to victory at last weekend’s New England Forest Rally. Photo: Mat Janiak, World Rally Sport

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments

Tags