Antoine L’Estage (of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, Nova Scotia) contested this weekend’s Rally of the Tall Pines, the final round of the 2011 Canadian and North American rally championships. After dominating the first four competitive stages and building up an impressive lead at the top of the leaderboard, the 2011 Canadian and North American champions retired from the event with mechanical issues for the first time in a year and a half.

“We started the Tall Pines without any real pressure on our shoulders because we had already accumulated enough points to clinch both the North American and the Canadian Rally Championship titles earlier this year. Regardless, we were still motivated to have a great battle with our primary rival in the Canadian Rally Championship, as well as our primary rival in the Rally America series,” explains Antoine L’Estage. He adds, “We pushed hard and had fun and won all the stages of the rally before our mechanical problem. The roads were fast with a bit of mud but no ice – we chose the right Yokohama tires for these conditions, which allowed us to increase our lead after each stage.”

This mechanical DNF (Did Not Finish) is the only one in 2011 for Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, which is a testament to how solidly the Mitsubishi Evo X is prepared by John Buffum’s Libra Racing shop. The Rockstar Royal Group team has contested thirteen rallies this year, comprising of the entire Canadian Rally Championship and Rally America series, as well as the Rallye de Charlevoix (Quebec Championship) won by Antoine L’Estage and John Buffum last month. In total, they climbed onto the podium eleven times with 7 victories and 4 second places.

In addition to their overall 2011 Canadian and North American driver’s titles for L’Estage and Richard, they almost single-handedly won the Manufacturers’ title for Mitsubishi. “Leading up to Tall Pines, we had earned all of the Manufacturers’ championship points for Mitsubishi with four wins and a second place. In order to secure the title, the highest finishing Mitsubishi needed to be in the top 6. Thanks to Simon Losier and Brian Maxwell’s sixth place finish, we are thrilled to announce Mitsubishi’s very first overall Manufacturers’ title in Canada. It’s definitely the icing on the cake in a year that has brought so much success to our sponsors,” conclude Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard.

At the end of the 2011 season, Antoine L’Estage holds four North American championship titles (2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011), four Canadian titles (2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011), one American title (2010), and thirty-one overall victories in Canada and the US. Nathalie Richard holds seven overall national championship titles (4 in Canada and 3 in the USA), as well as thirty-seven overall rally wins on both sides of the border. She is also a seven-time North American Champion (2004 – 2011, excluding 2006).

Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard participated 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, 2011 Canadian Rally Champions, in action while leading the Rally of the Tall Pines. Photo by Antoine Belanger-Leclerc

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