Pat Richard Squeezes Out Victory At Tall Pines

Pat Richard claimed his first victory in more than a year at the Canadian Rally Championship's season finale, the 42nd Rally of the Tall Pines.

Antoine L'Estage had looked poised to claim yet another rally win, winning nearly every stage until a broken control arm capped off a series of issues that allowed Richard to close.

The broken control arm forced L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard to nurse their Rockstar Evo X through the entire two-kilometer Super Special stage with their right rear tire bent nearly ninety degrees to the side.

After getting the car back to service and getting the damage repaired, the Quebec driver suffered a flat on the final stages of the day. L'Estage and Richard were forced to stop and change it, handing the lead and ultimately the win to Richard and co-driver Alan Ockwell.

But Richard's triumph did not come without some drama of its own. After showing outstanding pace throughout the day, until the final round of stages when he blew both front tires. The flying rubber caused both body and front brake damage, leaving his Subaru with only rear brakes.

Richard rode those rear brakes so hard that they caught fire, leaving he and Ockwell to borrow a second fire extinguisher from a police officer in order to get the fire out. The pair then had to convince that same officer that their car was in good enough condition to drive on public roads.

However, after some negotiations, Richard was allowed to continue, earning his first victory and only his third finish since the 2011 Pacific Forest Rally.

Ugo Desgreniers drove an outstanding rally to lock up third place overall, despite suffering brake issues and the loss of fourth gear towards the end of the event.

Ryan Huber and John Vanos finished fourth overall and second in the shorter Ontario Performance Rally Championship round, securing the OPRC title in the process. The 2 Brits Racing team of Nick and Kelly Mathew were ahead until they suffered double punctures on the final loop. Luckily, that loop was only part of the national event, and so the pair had already locked up the regional victory.

3rd place in the regional category went to Jeremy Norris and Frank Sprongl. They had a relatively trouble-free event, escaping with minor body damage after striking a guardrail on a bridge.

Alex and Nick Ouellette claimed the Production GT win and their second consecutive championship in the process after Warren Haywood and Jennifer Daly hit a tree, destroying the left rear of the car. The Tonik Motorsports crew was forced to retire after discovering damage to their Subaru's roll cage, ending their championship bid as a consequence.

Martin Walter earned the win in 2WD after Ed McNelly ran into mechanical issues late in the day. However, the Fiesta driver still earned the North American 2WD title despite failing to finish.

The Canadian 2WD title, however, went to Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila, who took things very easy through the entire rally, simply trying to make it to the finish.

Yet even they couldn't escape the inevitable issues that plague Tall Pines competitors year after year. They rain into problems with the engine mount on the last group of stages, and unbelievably, Eric was hit in the eye with his intercom cable before the start of the second last stage, leaving him to navigate the final pair of stages with one eye.

Notably absent from this year's event was defending winner Crazy Leo Urlichich, who retired prior to the start of the rally. This, after he came to the realization that his 2007 Subaru WRX STi was not in perfect condition after his fairly recent crash at the Pacific Forest Rally.

The CRC now moves into its winter break, which will see teams out of competition for more than two months. Crews now have an opportunity to recharge and get a head start on their preparation for 2013. That 2013 Canadian season gets underway in early February at Rallye Perce Neige in Maniwaki, Quebec, so expect plenty of updates during the relatively short off-season.