L'Estage Dominates CRC Season Opener

Antoine L'Estage began his 2014 Canadian Rally Championship in the same way he ended his previous one, with a victory. Driving with CRC legend John Hall in the navigator's seat, L'Estage won all but two of the 17 snow-covered stages of Rallye Perce Neige. The other two stages were won by the multiple champion's closest challengers, Pat Richard and his sister Nathalie.

However, Pat had to celebrate his runner-up spot on the podium by himself, as Nathalie suffered a neck injury late in the rally, and was not medically cleared to attend. It is a testament to her toughness and dedication to the sport that despite her injury (and the urging of her brother), she opted to remain in the rally.

The final spot on the national podium was occupied by Alex Beland, who achieved his first ever CRC top three finish with an impressive run in the 2007 Subaru Impreza normally driven by 'Crazy Leo' Urlichich.

Driving with Lyne Murphy calling his notes, Beland spent most of the rally battling with Jean-Sebastien Besner and Steeve Hobbs. That is until mechanical problems for both Besner and Hobbs allowed Beland to leapfrog his fellow Quebec drivers and secure third place.

"We had a good start" Beland remarked, "that's a great car and (Can-Jam is) a great team too."

Topping the 2wd podium with a great performance were Simon Dubé and Patrick Lavigne in their 1990 VW Golf. The pair was visibly the fastest 2wd crew by far over the course of the rally, with the Golf catching some impressive air over all of Perce Neige's many jumps.

Second place went to series stalwarts Martin Walter and Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff, who ran a solid event from start to finish, despite an excursion into a snow bank on the Kitigan Zibi stage - reportedly one of several over the course of their rally.

Rounding out the 2wd national podium were Chris Greenhouse and Billy Irvin in their 2001 Dodge Neon. The crew had an eventful rally, as early in the day they thought they would be forced to retire after stopping on a stage, before officials eventually allowed them to continue, albeit with a significant penalty.

The Canadian Rally Championship now enters its 'real' off-season, with a break until late June's Rallye Baie des Chaleurs, taking place in New Richmond, Quebec.