Antoine L’Estage (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and Nathalie Richard (Halifax) knew that the 2011 Rallye Defi would be won on the first two stages of the event.

“That’s what happened last year,” said L’Estage. “We took maybe 45 seconds lead there last year and managed that to the end.”

This year, the team opened up a lead over the first two stages, though only 3.9 seconds over Pat Richard (Squamish, BC) and Leanne Junnila (Calgary). However an error forced Richard and Junnila to cover extra distance prior to the first stage, and the team ran out of fuel after the first stage. They were towed to the refueling location – against the rules – and continued in the rally.

“We broke the suspension on the second stage, and fixed it in service,” said Richard, who was able to get back on pace over the afternoon stages. However, at the end of Friday’s action, L’Estage had opened up a 10 second lead on Richard, but that would become moot, as Richard and Junnila were excluded from the event for getting the tow.

“Everyone on the team worked really hard to get here, and to be excluded is really frustrating,” said Richard after the event. The DNF puts Richard at a huge disadvantage in the Canadian Rally Championship points.

Richard’s exclusion meant L’Estage’s lead opened up to two minutes, 20 seconds over “Crazy” Leo Urlichich (Toronto), who had problems of his own.

“I broke an axle on the first stage, as is becoming tradition,” joked Urlichich. “Then we had problems with the differentials and so I was going pretty slowly.”

Urlichich and co-driver Martin Brady (Meath, Ireland) regained their pace on Saturday’s stages winning multiple stages, but still struggling with pacenote issues and a bad flat tire on the fourth stage of the day.

“We have been trying a new system, and initially it was good, but now that I’m getting faster, it doesn’t seem as consistent.”

Leo and Brady eventually finished second, matching his career best finish.

L’Estage and Nathalie Richard spent most of the second day managing their lead to a winning margin of 3:39.2 minutes, marking L’Estage’s sixth career win at Defi, and the team’s seventh consecutive win in Canada.

“We’ve clinched the North American Rally Cup here as well,” said L’Estage. “That makes it my fourth, and for Nathalie, her seventh.”

Steeven Hobbs, who finished on the podium at Defi in 2009, after starting 29th, appeared to be on a similar run, moving up to third by midday Saturday, party through his own speed and attrition in the field. Hobbs crashed out on the Montepellier stage, retiring from the rally.

Rounding out the podium were Craig Henderson and Lyne Murphy, both of New Richmond, QC. The pair had struggled early in the event, with the car being down on power, but once they had it fixed, they worked up through the order to finish a comfortable third place.

“We had problems on the first two stages, the car was only on three cylinders,” said Henderson. “Once that was solved, then we were able to drive much better.”

The 2010 edition of Rallye Defi saw an incredible two wheel drive battle that finished with just 2 seconds separating the first and second place teams. This year, no such battle emerged. Jan and Jody Zedril of Winnipeg, MB, won the two wheel drive class after their strongest competitors had problems.

“We really were looking forward to a great battle,” said Jan Zedril. “When we knew that Eric Grochowski (Calgary) was out and Simon Dube (Jonquiere, QC) was so far back after damaging his car, it took some of the fun out of it. Instead, we just have to see how we can do against the all wheel drive cars.”

The Zedrils suffered a flat tire on the second stage, and intermittent intercom problems, but with no threat to their position, stayed smooth and calm to finish 14th overall, nearly nine minutes ahead of Simon Dube and co-driver Pat Lavigne.

“After we knew Dube was off the pace, it was ok,” said Jan Zedril. “We had a few problems, but didn’t have to push, and just tried to match last year’s times, which we did.”

The 2011 season continues with the Pacific Forest Rally, in Merritt, B.C., September 30 – August 1, 2011. This event can be considered Richard’s home rally, but L’Estage won the event in 2010.

The Canadian Rally Championship is comprised of six events held nationwide in a season that extends from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, supported by Yokohama Tire Canada and features contingency programs from Subaru Canada and Mitsubishi Canada. The Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) is the official sanctioning body for rallying in Canada.

Rally is often described simply as “real cars, real roads, real fast.” The all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over closed-road courses that typically cover more than 150 kilometers of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Fans can get up close to the cars in the service areas and catch all the action from specially designated spectator points located at the best spots on the route.

Full coverage of the championship will air on RDS and TSN. Check local listings.

For more information: www.carsrally.ca or www.rallyedefi.com

You can also follow the series on Twitter @CRCRally or at facebook.com/CRCRally

Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs Final Results

1. Antoine L’Estage – Nathalie Richard – One hour, 17 minutes, 28.0 seconds
2. Leo Urlichich – Martin Brady – 1:21:07.2
3. Craig Henderson – Lyne Murphy – 1:23:30.9
4. Maxime Losier – Philippe Poirier – 1:23:51.2
5. Marc Bourassa – Daniel Paquette – 1:24:25.8
6. Ugo Desgreniers – Erik Kirby – 1:24:34.9
7. Maxime Labrie – Robert Labrie – 1:25:01.4
8. Nick Mathew – Kelly Mathew – 1:25:19.6
9. Simon Losier – Anick Madon – 1:26:09.9
10. Sylvain Vincent – Simon Vincent – 1:26:42.6

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments

Tags