Quebec rally team cements US series lead, eyes Canadian championship
CALGARY (May 25, 2010) – Quebec’s most successful rally team turns its focus back to Canada this week and the second round of the Canadian Rally Championship after a swing through the western US that has secured them the top spot in the Rally America championship with four podium finishes in the first four American championship events.
Driver Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard lead the American series by eight points after a hectic tour through the western states highlighted by a second place finish at the Olympus Rally in Washington in April and a hard-fought third place in May’s Oregon Trail Rally. Combined with the team’s second-place finishes in the first two events of the premier US series earlier in the season, they have amassed 65 series points to the 57 of second place Bill Bacon and Peter Watt.
But L’Estage and Richard and the Yokohama-sponsored team have no time to savour their success, as the Canadian championship enters its summer season with the Rocky Mountain Rally here on May 28-29. The pair, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, scored only minimal points in the Canadian season-opener and look to Rocky to re-start their assault on the Canadian title.
Richard, a five-time North American champion co-driver, looks at Rocky as a level playing field. “The first round of the Canadian championship was a bit of a flop for the usual championship contenders, none of whom scored major points,” says Richard.
“All we need to do is start the event to be leading the North American Rally Cup standings,” she adds. “But we know we can do much better than that.”
Driver L’Estage, a former two-time Canadian rally champ and North American Rally Cup winner, has won at Rocky twice before, and comes to the event riding the wave of top finishes in the US.
The L’Estage/Richard Mitsubishi Evo X set the fastest times on the majority of Oregon Trails stages, but their rally was nearly ended by a broken wheel that dropped them to as low as 17th in the standings. The pair attacked the roads on the remaining nine stages of the competition to claw their way back up to the podium, winning every stage to finish third behind eventual winners Andrew Comrie-Picard/Jeremy Wimpey and second place Bacon and Watt. The top three cars were Mitsubishis.
L’Estage and Richard will need that momentum and their experience at Rocky when they face their Yokohama team mates and rally rivals Pat Richard and Allan Ockwell in Alberta’s foothills, where Pat Richard and Ockwell drove their Subaru to a convincing win in last year’s Rocky Mountain Rally.
Even after Rocky there will be no time to rest, as the team has to rush back across the continent to contest the fifth round of the US series, the Susquehannock Trail Rally in Pennsylvania on June 4, 2010 – an event L’Estage won in 2008.
The North American Rally Cup is open to teams that contest both the Canadian Rally Championship and the Rally America series. Teams count their top six finishes in both series, but must contest at least two in each country.
In addition to its sponsorship of both L’Estage/ Nathalie Richard and Pat Richard/Ockwell, Yokohama Canada is a supporting sponsor of the Canadian Rally Championship. The Canadian championship has been televised nationally on TSN and RDS since 1993, and is made available on multiple media platforms, including TSN 2, as downloads from iTunes, on-line on Flat Over Crest (www.flatovercrest.com) and to 80 million homes in Europe on MotorsTV.