Pat Richard Overcomes Treacherous Conditions To Win Rallye Perce-Neige

Former Canadian champion Pat Richard claimed victory in round one of the 2013 Canadian Championship, Rallye Perce-Neige. Richard and new co-driver Rob Fagg claimed the top spot on the national podium after driving a flawless rally - and a bit of bad luck in icy conditions from traditional challengers.

Richard began the day with an uncharacteristically conservative approach, owing largely to his lack of seat time with Fagg; the two having only met for the first time two days prior. As the stages progressed, the pair began posting consistently faster times allowing them to capitalize on the misfortunes and mistakes of their competition.

Just one week after winning the Rally America season opener Sno*Drift Rally in Michigan, Antoine L'Estage and navigator Nathalie Richard came to a stop on stage three, after suffering a suspected broken crankshaft. The reigning series champion said he had no indication that there was any problem up until it completely let go.

"There was no warning" L'Estage conceded "(we were) just in a long straight and it gave up."

L'Estage's misery left Richard in a two-way battle with Crazy Leo Urlichich for the win. Richard led with Crazy Leo a close second, until a puncture on the eleventh stage pushed the Russian back to fourth. A win on the very next stage was all for naught, as a suspension failure on stage 14 ended the rally for the Can-Jam driver and co-driver Carl Williamson.

"I should have known better because the grip started decreasing" Urlichich said "but I was just a bit too fast into a corner."

Urlichich's misfortune on roads that could double as a skating rink gave Steve Hobbs an opportunity to move into second position - a place he and Jean Mathieu Tremblay never relinquished. Hobbs drove a clean and consistent rally, landing his first Canadian Rally Championship podium in the process.

Ugo Desgreniers and Erik Kirby rounded out the national podium, driving a solid rally in their 2005 Subaru WRX Sti, finishing just under 2 minutes behind Hobbs.

Alexandre and Nicholas Ouellette captured the Ontario Performance Rally Championship victory, with Jeremy Norris and David Coles taking second. Martin Donnelly and Angela Cosner rounded out the top three in a second Can-Jam Motorsports Subaru, running a solid rally and finishing just outside the overall top 10 in 11th.

Rallye Perce-Neige also marked round one of the Quebec Rally Championship. Pierre Dube and David Legault took the category win in their 1997 Honda Civic. They were followed closely by Mathieu Dupelle and Francis Paquet in second, with a gap of just 14.5 seconds separating the two crews. Maxime Meconse and Vincent Hubert finished in the third spot, just over a minute back from Dube.

Paul Hartl and Chuck Storry secured their first 2 wheel drive win handily, beating out problem-stricken Martin Walter and Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff by more than 13 minutes. Eric Deschenes and Catherine Asselin finalized the podium in their 2004 Toyota Echo.

By virtue of his victory in the opening round of the championship, Pat Richard will now lead the Canadian Rally Championship for nearly five months. With the Rocky Mountain Rally moved to a new fall date, Rallye Baie des Chaleurs in late June becomes round two of the series.

Still uncertain for Richard is the status of Subaru Canada's support of the Rocket Rally team. The perenial factory sponsor has so far not extended it's commitment beyond Perce Neige, though Richard notes that this win certainly helps his case towards continuing their long running partnership.