L'Estage Extends CRC Win Streak To 5 At Rocky

Antoine L'Estage could have taken it easy at last weekend's Rocky Mountain Rally in Invermere, BC. But with the season winding down, the recently crowned Canadian Champion was still in maximum attack mode. However, after a great first day in which he pushed hard to create a gap to the opposition, gremlins appeared for L'Estage on day 2.

In addition to suffering through power steering problems throughout the weekend, which appeared intermittently throughout the rally, L'Estage and Alan Ockwell suffered a puncture early in the rally's second day. Rather than stopping on stage to change it, the Quebec driver drove out, losing a lot of time in the process, and damaging the bodywork of his Evo X. Between pushing hard to maintain his lead, but not driving beyond the limit, L'Estage noted that it was his toughest test of the season to date.

L'Estage's troubles put the ever-improving Martin Rowe back in the fight. After sticking close to the leader on day 1, Rowe and codriver Nathalie Richard were nearly neck in neck with L'Estage as day 2 progressed. But in the end, it was another rally of improvement for Rowe, who said that it was the first event that he had the 2015 Subaru set up in exactly the way he likes.

Hardy Schmitke and John Hall rounded out the podium in third. They did have a bit of drama on the rally's second stage, when an oil leak sprayed onto the engine manifold, sending smoke billowing from their Mitsubishi Evo IX. But with no real damage done, the pair continued on in third for the duration of the rally. Ramana Lagemann was nipping at their heels for most of the rally, but failed to pass the Canadian veterans before an off on stage 8 put him completely out of contention.

California driver Will Hudson looked set to dominate the 2WD category. With his consistency having improved dramatically over his past few Canadian events, he jumped out to an early lead at Rocky. Unfortunately a big crash early in the first day brought an end to his hopes of contending. He and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were able to restart on the second day, but eventually had to withdraw once again due to mechanical failure.

After Hudson's exit, Ramana Lagemann looked poised to take the class victory. But his crash cost him both a shot at the overall podium, and the 2WD podium as well.

With Hudson and Lagemann out of the picture, the three podium spots were claimed by cars with a combined age of 112 years. Winning the class were Graham Bruce and Martin Burnley in their 1968 Porsche 911. John Munroe and Spencer Armstrong finished a close second in a 1973 Toyota Corolla, a little under three minutes behind the class leaders. Rounding out the category podium in third were Dave Clark and Billy Irvin in their 1989 Merkur XR4Ti.

With the western swing now complete, the CRC heads back to Ontario for the final rally of the season, The Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft, Ontario. Regarded as both a competitor favourite and one of the toughest events on the calendar, Tall Pines could be a wild card in a season that has already been decided.