2012 Canadian Rally Championship Season Preview

With mere hours to go until the 2012 CRC season opens at Rallye Perce Neige in Maniwaki, Quebec, Canadian rally fans do not have long to wait before the cars hit the stages for the first time in the new year.

Perce Neige might mark the first round of the Canadian season, but it is also round two of the North American Rally Cup. And last weekend's Sno*Drift rally, held in northern Michigan, gave us a great indication of the kind of speed to expect from a few key competitors in this year's CRC.

Antoine L'Estage enters this season in a new Mitsubishi Evo X as the undisputed 'man to beat'. The reigning Canadian and North American champion dominated the Canadian championship last season, winning four out of six events. He and co-driver Nathalie Richard will no doubt be looking to improve on their already impressive career record in North American competition.

Crazy Leo Urlichich was a surprise podium finisher at Sno*Drift last weekend, filing in behind L'Estage and winner David Higgins. His excitement was short lived, however, as the vehicle crewed by he and new co-driver Carl Williamson failed inspection after the race, a decision which is currently under protest.

While he didn't participate in last weekend's Rally America series opener, Pat Richard remains a constant podium threat in any rally he contests. After a disappointing 2011, Richard will be eager to return to the kind of form that saw him win the Canadian championship in 2008 and 2009.

Richard's Rocket Rally team will also be supporting rising star Max Riddle, who has shown incredible potential in the limited number of events he has contested to date. Riddle burst onto the Canadian scene in 2010, and contested a full CRC season in 2011, capturing the novice crown. He looks to be set to complete a full season once again in 2012.

In the Production GT category, CRC mainstay Warren Haywood will be looking to reclaim the championship in that category, which he won in 2010, after finishing a close second last year. A transmission failure at the season-ending Rally of the Tall Pines cost Haywood a repeat championship, but 2012 should see he and Tonik Motorsports posting some good results in the category.

Canadian rally fans should expect an exciting and action packed season ahead, and this weekend's Rallye Perce Neige will, without a doubt, provide an entertaining introduction to 2012.