Ken Block Triumphs in Return to Canada

Ken Block made a convincing return to the Canadian Rally Championship, completely dominating the 2012 edition of Rallye Defi. After the first four stages of day 1 - easily the toughest of the rally - Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino had opened up a 58 second lead from their closest competitors, Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard.

It was a gap that continued to widen throughout the event, eventually growing to more than three minutes by the end of the final stage. While most of the damage was done in the early part of the event during the rougher stages, the Monster World Rally Team driver demonstrated a remarkable consistency that he hadn't yet found in his previous visits to Canada.

Block also showed that he can finish tough events in a rally that saw just 13 of the 30 entrants make it to the end, with most dropping out after the first four stages. Among those who dropped out was former Canadian champion Pat Richard, who came to a stop on the second stage with serious drivetrain issues.

Antoine L'Estage finished second in a rally that saw him largely stay out of trouble until the midway point of day 2, when he struck a rock and punctured both tires on the left side of the car. The Rockstar crew then dropped valuable time, as they had to drive almost 8 km on two flats to the end of the stage.

"I cut too close, and heard 'bang bang'...I knew exactly what the problem was" said L'Estage about his unexpected encounter.

In the end, Block's pace was simply too much for the reigning Canadian champion. When asked what they could do to catch the leaders, Nathalie Richard simply replied "I don't know, swap cars maybe?"

Rounding out the national podium were Crazy Leo Urlichich and Carl Williamson, after a valiant effort in which they were battling the car right from the get go - running in three wheel drive for the first group of stages. A blown head gasket early in the event led to a late night for the Can-Jam Motorsports crew, as they were forced to replace their freshly installed engine with a previously used one.

The issues continued on the second day of the rally, reportedly with the transmission of their 2007 WRX Sti. But despite the difficulties they encountered, Urlichich and Williamson secured solid points in their national championship bid with their third place finish.

Maxime Rochefort and Jerome Milette climbed to the top step of the Ontario Performance Rally Championship podium after a solid run that also saw them finish sixth overall.

They were trailed closely by second placed Warren Haywood and Jennifer Daly, who additionally finished first in the Production GT category.

Finishing third at the regional level, and scoring their debut podium in the process, were the Tonik Motorsports crew of Jeremy Carle and Logan McAlear. In their very first year of competition, they have improved dramatically as a team and should only get better as they gain event experience. They also quickly became fan favourites at Defi as they flew through every spectator area completely sideways - evoking massive cheers from the crowd each time.

The only National 2wd car to finish the rally belonged to Ed McNelly and Ole Holter, who claimed the category as a result. The team had a scare late in the final day, as they rolled their Ford Fiesta on the penultimate stage. But thanks to some helpful fans, they got back onto four wheels and finished the event. Their finish moves them into first in the 2wd class, ahead of Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila, who retired early on with damage to the oil pump of their VW Golf.

The next event on the CRC calendar comes in a little more than a month's time at the Pacific Forest Rally, running on October 12th - 13th in Merritt, British Columbia.