Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage (of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and his co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, NS) will return to competition this weekend, after an eight-week pause in the North American rally calendar. Contesting the Rallye Defi, the fourth of six rounds in the 2011 Canadian Rally Championship, L’Estage and Richard will be attempting to win their seventh consecutive event in the series. They have been unbeatable in Canada since August 2010 and a victory this weekend will clinch yet another North American title for the duo.

Victors of the Perce-Neige, Rocky Mountain and Baie-des-Chaleurs rallies in the first half of the season, as well as the last three rounds of the 2010 championship, Antoine L’Estage, Nathalie Richard and the entire Rockstar Royal Group team are now returning to the event that kicked off their winning streak last year. “Defi is a rally that has almost always brought me good luck. I like the event and I’m arriving ready and confident after a great test session last week,” shares Antoine L’Estage.

The Rockstar Royal Group team made good use of the summer break to do a complete re-prep of Antoine’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X in order to be ready for Defi. “We contested many events on both sides of the border in the spring and early summer and even though we’ve had very little issues with the Evo during that time, it was best to ensure that the car is top shape,” confides the Quebec driver.

Antoine and Nathalie head into this event with the same goal as the other events – to win and continue their streak of victories – earning high points to maintain or increase their lead in the championship is crucial, as co-driver Nathalie Richard explains: “We’re attacking this round like any other, without added pressure but without backing off either because even though we have a good lead in the series, it would be pointless to take unnecessary risks to try to win. We’ll see how things are going and adjust our strategy accordingly but if everything goes as planned, we’ll be going for the victory and the North American Rally Championship title.”

The Rallye Defi takes place over twenty-three competitive stages near Ste-Agathe on Friday, September 9th and then in the Outaouais region the following day. The often tricky and challenging roads do not phase Antoine L’Estage, record holder for the total number of wins at this event: “It’s no longer as rough as it has been in the past and lately, the Defi roads are fairly smooth and pretty fast. And with our full line of Yokohama tires, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Winning this event guarantees the North American Rally Cup title for the team, marking Antoine’s fourth and Nathalie’s record-breaking seventh time.

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 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 attacking on their way to victory at the New England Forest Rally in July.
Photo Mat Janiak / WorldRallySport

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