L'Estage Perseveres To Win Record Setting 5th Rallye Baie des Chaleurs

The words "Never Give Up" appear on the rear wing of Antoine L'Estage's Mitsubishi Evo X, and there was no shortage of resolve at this year's Rallye Baie des Chaleurs.

After spending the majority of the rally's first day building a lead on Crazy Leo Urlichich and Martin Brady, L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard hit trouble on the first pass of the evening's "Robialpass" stage. After hitting a water splash, the car stalled, eliminating their huge lead over Urlichich. That problem revealed an even more serious head gasket problem, one that the Libra Racing crew did not have the proper parts to repair.

When attempts to find a machine shop equipped to repair the car were unsuccessful, the crew made the decision to take it easy on day 2 and try to gain as many points as possible. The choice to do so yielded unexpected success - a rally win, while their closest rivals were facing issues of their own.

"It wasn't easy" said L'Estage, "but luckily the stages were all short today so we were able to make it.

"And even though the car felt slow, the times were not too bad because it was really muddy and Pat also had some issues, so we were both limping with bad cars."

Urlichich, making his return to rallying after recovering from injuries suffered in a skiing accident earlier this year, looked extremely good on day 1 of the rally. At one point, he and Martin Brady trailed L'Estage by just over one second after the problems the Quebec driver encountered. But their Can-Jam build Subaru STI - aptly named "The Beast", had other ideas. engine problems forced them to stop after stage B4 and retire as a result.

"We actually had an amazing stretch of twenty-some - believe it or not - rallies without a mechanical DNF," Urlichich reflected. "Today unfortunately was not meant to happen, but that's rally, it happens."

As in the case of the Rockstar team, Crazy Leo's Can Jam crew pulled an all-nighter to allow him to restart in the regional event the following day. However, transmission issues forced them to retire once again midway through day 2.

Pat Richard looked solid throughout the entire rally despite mechanical issues of his own. But his biggest challenge came from dealing with the lingering effects of a skiing accident of his own. Visibly limping throughout the weekend, Richard was forced to use his bad left foot to clutch after gearbox issues forced the team to switch his sequential transmission for a more standard H-pattern unit. This meant Richard had to use the clutch much more than with his normal sequential transmission. Despite being in constant pain, Richard toughed it out with co-driver Rob Fagg and the pair came home in second place, extending their lead in the championship standings.

"Our goal this weekend was to get some points" the Subaru Rally Team Canada driver explained, "we thought we were going to come third actually, coming into the event. To come second is a super bonus!"

Third place overall went to Maxime and Robert Labrie, who finished well back from L'Estage but drove extremely well throughout the weekend and finished ahead of fourth placed Steeve Hobbs and Jean-Mathieu Tremblay by almost a minute.

In the 2wd category, Marc-Andre Larose and Yves Lafreniere claimed the top step of the podium in their BMW 318TI, followed by production class regulars Jeffrey and Emily Dowell in their Mitsubishi Lancer. Rounding out the podium were another pair of longtime competitors, Martin Walter and Ferd Trauttmansdorff in their Nissan 240SX.

Rallye Baie des Chaleurs was also a round of the Quebec provincial Championship. Andre and Rene Leblanc came home in first position in that category, with Phillippe Babin and Alexis Arsenault in second, and Yves Boudreau and Jerome Dugas rounding out the podium in third.

After two rounds, Pat Richard continues to lead the Canadian Rally Championship ahead of Steeve Hobbs, with Antoine L'Estage's victory moving him into third position. In the two wheel drive category, Martin Walter moves to within a point of first placed Paul Hartl. Eric Deschenes remains in third position. The next round of the CRC once again takes place in the province of Quebec. This time it's Rallye Defi, running on September 6th and 7th with Rally HQ in St. Agathe.