Besner Wins LHFR in First Attempt

After a long winter break, competitors in the OPRC returned to the fast, flowing roads of the Lanark Highlands in Eastern Ontario. The Lanark Highlands Forest Rally marked the second event on the calendar for the OPRC for 2016. And with the rally counting towards to Eastern Canadian Rally Championship as well, many competitors from Quebec made the trip to Lanark.

And it was those competitors from La Belle Province who set the pace early on. JS Besner and Yvan Joyal jumped out to an early lead, followed closely by fellow Quebec competitors Martin Bruneau and Ontario Championship leader Simon Vincent.

The order remained unchanged as the morning loop came to a close, with Bruno Laverdiere and Eric Vlasic rounding out the top 5. The afternoon stages, however, yielded a much different result.

Vincent, already well within striking distance of Bruneau, picked up the pace in the latter half of the event. After the second stage of the afternoon, he reduced the gap to second from 19 seconds down to just 4.

It only took two more stages to Vincent to move into second, a position he would never relinquish. With Besner nearly untouchable in the lead, Vincent and Domique Cyr worked to expand their lead over Martin and Anthony Bruneau. They would eventually finish just over 22 seconds ahead of third place.

"Today my plan was to attack right at the beginning." Vincent recalled, "Unfortunately I gave a gap right at the beginning to Besner and to Bruneau, and then I had to work very hard to get some time on them. And in the end it worked perfectly for me!"

For Besner, the day could not have gone any better. The Canadian and Quebec rally veteran dominated the smooth stages in his first attempt at Lanark, but had to work hard on some of the fastest stages in the country.

"What looked (to be) a relaxed day was not relaxed at all." Besner admitted, "(But) the roads were perfect and I was really happy to be here and enjoy this event."

In 2WD, Zoltan Kovacs and Guy Boudreau came home in first, after Nicholas Laverdière and Vincent Trudel suffered an off early on in the event. Kovacs then battled with Gary Sutherland and Kylee Davis for most of the rally, until the Juggernaut Motorsports crew lost their alternator right before the start of the day's final stage.

But Kovacs' day wasn't without drama of its own:

"(Our day) stared good until the third stage. We landed rough on a jump and damaged the rear suspension." Kovacs lamented, "We ran the entire rally without back control arms. Other than that we had a big off and survived that. But I'm very happy with the pace."

Philippe Benoit and Veronique Bernard finished second in class, while third in the category went to Patrick Marcoux and Chantal Villeneuve.

After two rounds, Simon Vincent and Dominique Cyr maintain their lead in the overall standings. The next round of the OPRC comes in the first week of July, when the Galway Cavendish Forest Rally makes its return to the championship after being cancelled last year.