L'Estage Wins Again at Treacherous Rocky Mountain Rally

Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard cruised to another clean and unproblematic victory at a Rocky Mountain Rally that featured changing conditions throughout the weekend.

Friday’s variable weather saw rain, snow and sunshine, often within a few minutes of one another. The roads were messy, with most, if not all teams running mud tires due to the fact there were several inches of thick mud on every stage.

While L’Estage cruised up front, Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell were having a drama-free run of their own on Friday, ahead of ‘Crazy Leo’ Urlichich and Carl Williamson. That is, until a drivetrain issue - which turned out to be a broken rear differential, brought their charge to a screeching halt.

“Everything just came apart on the last stage.” Said Ockwell. “We barely made it back to service.”

The Rocket Rally team were assessed a total of 45 seconds in chicane penalties after they limped back to service, dropping them back to third position, behind Crazy Leo, to start Saturday.

Saturday’s weather was much more favourable to the competitors, with the single gravel stage (run back and forth twice) getting faster throughout the day as it dried.

After his difficulties on Friday, Pat Richard went on the attack Saturday, winning 3 out of 3 stages on his way to re-claiming second position from Urlichich. He also claimed victory on a 4th stage, but it was scrubbed after he broke the 132 km/h maximum average speed.

Crazy Leo, sticking to his plan of simply trying to match the speed of both L’Estage and Richard, was extremely happy to round out the podium – just 26 seconds back from Richard. And he was especially proud of the fact that he beat the Rocket Rally crew on even ground on Friday.

Max Riddle was challenging for fourth overall, but he went well off the road on the last stage, handing the position to regional winners Hardy Schmidtke and John Hall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX that they recently debuted at the Cochrane Rally.

Second position went to Alexandre Kozlov and Martin Matas, who appeared to have a clean run from start to finish.

Rounding out the regional podium were Eric Pehota and co-driver Richard Doucet, who also claimed top honours in the Production GT category. Tibor Kertes was leading PGT in his Evo X and was headed for a sure victory, but was hit with a penalty for checking into the finish five minutes early.

In 2wd, Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junilla won both the national and regional categories. They suffered from overheating issues on Friday, but worked through them and were on maximum attack by the end of Saturday.

Despite a brake failure during a stage on Friday, Kris Schofield and Jennifer Daly finished second in both regional and national, showing very impressive pace throughout the rally.

Making his return to the Canadian Rally Championship, Andrew Comrie-Picard, along with co-driver Brian O’Kane, finished third in the 2wd national group in a borrowed Nissan Sentra.

Rounding out the 2wd regional podium, however, were Matt and Dan Bobyn, claiming their first ever podium in their VW Golf, while also winning the Production Sport regional class in the process.

The next round of the Canadian Rally Championship is the season highlight Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs, running from June 28th to the 30th in New Richmond, Quebec.