Chris Martin Snatches Incredible Tall Pines Win, L'Estage Claims Championship

Longtime regional competitor Chris Martin won the season ending Rally of the Tall Pines, riding consistency and extensive knowledge of the roads to his incredible victory.

For the majority of the event, it looked as though Crazy Leo Urlichich would claim his second victory at Tall Pines. The popular driver led right from the start, opening up a sizable gap to both Antoine L'Estage and Pat Richard.

As Urlichich and new codriver Patrick Walsh maintained their lead, L'Estage was simply trying to stay in the top 6 in order to guarantee a championship victory. But the rally gods had other ideas.

During stage A3, L'Estage and navigator Craig Parry began suffering from electrical issues with the car's throttle-by-wire system that dropped them well back into 18th place. This, coupled with oil pressure problems led to a mad scramble to get the car fixed at the second service break; one which saw L'Estage taking on the role of mechanic as he helped the team get the car ready for the next leg of stages. A DNF at that point could have put the championship within reach of Richard, who had his sister and L'Estage's former codriver Nathalie Richard calling his pacenotes.

As L'Estage used the subsequent stages to claw his way back up the standings, Urlichich continued to increase his lead over both Richard and Chris Martin, who had quietly moved into third place.

But Richard was the next casualty of a rally known as a car-breaker. On stage 9, he and Nathalie Richard suffered punctures that dropped them well down the standings. Unfortunately for the Subaru driver, this effectively ended his championship bid, as he was required to win or finish second to have any hope of claiming the drivers' title.

Richard did manage to finish stages 9 and 10, but retired before the start of A11 due to drivetrain issues.

Meanwhile, Crazy Leo was still pulling ahead at the top of the time sheet. The Russian-born Canadian showed some of his most impressive form of the year on a rally he thoroughly enjoys, winning stages 1 through 11 handily. But he too, was not immune from a stroke of bad luck.

On stage 12, Urlichich and Walsh ran into some mechanical issues of their own, when a puncture forced them to come to a stop to change the tire. Coincidentally, L'Estage and Parry stopped right behind the Can-Jam crew on stage to change a puncture of their own. Urlichich got back up to speed for the following stage, but camshaft problems forced him to retire with just three stages left in the rally.

With Urlichich and Richard retiring, and L'Estage simply aiming to finish, Chris Martin and Brian Johnson inherited the rally lead. The pair went on to claim their first national win at an event they know very well, but surprisingly had never finished together.

"We just stayed clean, stayed out of trouble more or less and just went and kicked some butt." Said Martin, "I knew that if we just drove and just finished, the result would come...we almost didn't make it, we overheated on the last couple. But you know what? We got here, and we won."

L'Estage and Craig Parry came home an impressive second place, despite all the troubles they ran into. L'Estage clinched his sixth Canadian Rally Championship title in the process, once again cementing his status as the man to beat in Canadian rallying. Furthermore, this ties him with Frank Sprongl and Tom McGeer for the most championships in CRC history. L'Estage also cemented the Manufacturer's Championship for Mitsubishi - their third consecutive title.

"Our goal when we came here was to win the championship so that's what we did, I'm really proud of that." L'Estage remarked, "During the next few days it will probably sink in a little more."

The final podium position went to the Quebec crew of Maxime Rochefort-Laframboise and Jérôme Milette, an incredible result for a crew that had not competed in the Canadian Rally Championship for more than a year.

With Chris Martin also clinching first overall in the Ontario Performance Rally Championship category, second place went to Alexandre Ouellette and David Lamarre in their production class Subaru STI. Third went to Martin Walter and Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff, who ran a great rally in their rear wheel drive Nissan 240SX.

Walter and Trauttmansdorff also claimed the overall victory in the 2wd category, with the New England-based crew of Danny Grant and Steven Harrell coming home in second. 2wd national champions Paul Hartl and Chuck Storry rounded out the podium in third place. Hartl, a longtime competitor in 2wd at the national level, was running his last ever event before retiring from the sport, and fans were ecstatic to see him sent off with a podium finish.

With the Canadian Rally Championship headed into its offseason, the next event comes in February, when the CRC opens the 2014 season at Rallye Perce Neige in Maniwaki, Quebec.