Joel Levac Nets First CRC Win at Defi

Joel Levac earned his first ever Canadian Rally Championship victory at Rallye Défi, as championship leader Antoine L'Estage had a weekend to forget.

Rallye Défi got off to a good start for L'Estage and Alan Ockwell. Pulling away right from the get-go, they had opened up an 11 second lead over Levac and codriver Stephanie Lewis by the end of the morning loop. This, despite the crew complaining of exhaust in the car, and returning to service with some superficial body damage.

But Levac fought back, winning the next two passes of the Lac Brunet stage, and the second pass of the Palomino stage. However, on the first and third passes of Palomino, L'Estage gained back the time he had lost. His lead remained at 11 seconds as the first day of the rally came to an end.

And L'Estage came out flying on the morning of the Rally's second day. Completely dominating the morning loop of stages, L'Estage had opened up a lead of 1 minute and 16 seconds, while Levac appeared to struggle early on.

But L'Estage suddenly began to suffer from fuel issues just after the midway point on Saturday. And unfortunately for the multiple Canadian Champion, the problem became terminal before the start of stage 17 and he was forced to retire.

"When we were forced to stop, (Alan) and I were leading by 1 min 18 seconds after a big push in the morning stages." L'Estage wrote on his Facebook page, "Only the short afternoon stages were left and we just needed to cruise to the win so it's a hard one to swallow!"

With L'Estage out, and having built a massive lead over his closest competition, Joel Levac simply needed to cruise to victory.

Levac and Lewis arrived to the podium ceremony absolutely elated with their win. But it was hard to tell who was more excited, them or the rest of their Mini crew.

"I would like to thank everyone who took the time to congratulate us on our podium at Rallye Défi." Levac wrote on Facebook, "With all the time and effort we put into this project, your encouragement and interest are more than appreciated!"

Karel Carré and Philippe Poirier came home in second after a great battle with eventual third place finishers Jean-Sébastien Besner and Yvan Joyal. Besner held Carré at bay for most of the rally, but the son of Canadian rally legend Bruno Carré began to claw back time at the beginning of day 2.

Carré continued to push as the day wore on, and had overtaken Besner by the end of stage 14. But the lead remained narrow - as low as 5 seconds at points.

With both drivers pushing hard for second place, Carré was able to steadily increase his lead on the short afternoon stages, eventually opening a sizeable gap to Besner. Finishing 47 seconds ahead of the Quebec veteran, Carré scored his best ever finish at a CRC event, and second podium of the year.

With only 2 2WD cars entered at Défi, a Simon Dubé victory looked to be a foregone conclusion. Having dominated the category at the national level this year, Dubé had only Nicolas Laverdière to challenge him in class.

From the start, it looked as though Dubé had the rally under control. He and codriver Aaron Crescenti had a solid first day, posting competitive times and avoiding trouble on the rough stages.

However, as the second day progressed, the VW crew landed heavily after a jump and broke a universal joint, forcing them to retire and restart under Super Rally conditions.

Dubé's misfortune meant that Nicolas Laverdière's persistence paid off. He and codriver Jean-Mathieu Tremblay kept the car on the road, and posted solid times on their way to wrapping up first place in the category. Dubé and Crescenti, of course, finished second.

The CRC now heads west, with the Pacific Forest Rally and Rock Mountain Rally taking place one week after each other at the end of October. With Joel Levac sitting just six points behind Antoine L'Estage for the series lead, this year's western swing could prove crucial to deciding the 2015 Canadian Rally Championship.