Maxime Labrie Wins Rallye Perce Neige

Maxime Labrie pulled off a surprising victory at Rallye Perce Neige, after an uncharacteristically crowded battle at the top of the order. As usual, Perce Neige's challenging stages and varying conditions played a key role in the final result, with the rally lead changing hands several times throughout.

Antoine L'Estage and Darren Garrod started their day with an early lead through the morning loop, despite choosing to run on tractionized ice tires instead of studded. L'Estage suffered an off after the finish of the first pass through the Blue Sea stage, but was fortunately able to continue. But both Karel Carré and Jean-Sébastien Besner pushed hard to keep L'Estage honest, keeping him within striking distance. In fact, Carré beat L'Estage on the second passes of the Blue Sea and Farley stages.

However, L'Estage would run into more serious trouble just minutes later, when severe engine problems forced him to pull onto a side road on the Kitigan Zibi stage - smoke billowing from the engine bay. With it being very apparent that the problem was not repairable at the service park, L'Estage was forced to retire.

The Canadian champion's exit broke the podium race wide open, with several competitors pressing hard for the top spot.

Maxime and Robert Labrie used the 33KM Kitigan Zibi stage to jump from fifth to first overall. Carré, on the other hand, ran into issues on the long stage, dropping well down the standings and out of first place.

As the evening stages progressed, Maxime pushed hard to expand his lead over Jean-Sébastien Besner. But Besner and codriver Yvan Joyal were up to the task, holding the Labries lead to just over a minute.

Meanwhile, Simon and Eric Losier battled with André and René Leblanc for third. The Leblancs held the final podium spot until the rally's 10th stage, when troubles of their own allowed Simon to move ahead.

The battle continued until three stages later, when more trouble for Leblanc on the second pass of Kitigan Zibi solidified the Losiers' hold on third place.

When the dust finally settled, the Labries managed to expand their lead over Besner and Joyal, taking the top spot by just under two minutes. And for codriver Robert Labrie, the victory came on what could be his final rally.

"It's been a very nice day, we've had a lot of fun today" Maxime admitted, "Real happy to be first overall. I'm especially happy for my father - he's been rallying since '98. I don't know if it's his last rally or not... so I'm very happy for that".

Graham Bruce and Martin Burnley finished first in the 2WD category, after simply concentrating on being consistent, rather than worrying about the standings. The win marked Bruce's first 2WD victory since the 2014 Rocky Mountain Rally.

Simon Dubé and Eric Lachance finished second in the category after an unbelievable comeback. On just the fourth stage of the day, while leading the class, Dubé ran wide and clipped a snowbank. The impact broke a universal joint, and the VW Golf needed to be towed out of the stage.

Restarting under the CRC's 'SuperRally' rules, last year's 2WD champion marched up the order, setting the top time in category from stage 7 through to the end of the rally. Dubé finished less than a minute behind eventual winner Bruce.

Nicolas Laverdière and Vincent Trudel finished third in class after leading the category for the majority of the rally. Unfortunately, the pair went off the road on the penultimate stage of the day, losing several valuable minutes in the process. Despite dropping down the order, Laverdière and Trudel still retained valuable points for their championship effort.

The Canadian Rally Championship now enters its unofficial offseason, with competitors returning to the stages in early June for the Rocky Mountain Rally. 2016 marks a return to a late spring/early summer slot for Rocky, which had been held in late October over the past few seasons.