Pat takes title, L’Estage takes win

Posted on 18. Oct, 2008 by in Pacific Forest Rally 2008

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Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell have finished the 2008 Pacific Forest Rally in third place after starting from last place this morning. The finish has secured the 2008 Canadian Rally Championship for Subaru Rally Team Canada in their first season back to rallying in Canada. Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard have won the event, putting them in a strong position for the North American Rally Cup.

This morning, teams headed up to the Thynne Mountain and Brook Creek stages. On recce just days prior, there had been three to four kilometres of ice-covered roads at the highest point of the stage.

Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell had suffered problems the night before after a flat that caused cascading problems to the car. The first run of Tynne Mountain saw the pair dead last in the standings, with a lot of ground to make up.

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The sun had come out on the Thynne Mountain stage, and while the ice was gone, the stage proved to be muddy with traction that was intermittent.

“It’s really slippery, and while we’re not taking risks, we are making up some time,” said Pat Richard.

Antoine L’Estage, who was leading the event into today’s action looked to be in trouble when a trail of gear oil was seen leading to his car. Both he and co-driver Nathalie Richard looked very serious as they explained the circumstances.

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“The centre diff broke on the first stage,” said Antoine, “so we only have rear wheel drive, and two more stages to service.”

The pair were right to be concerned, with a hard charging Norm LeBlanc in second place. However, unbeknownst to L’Estage, LeBlanc was also having trouble, having bent a control arm on the first pass through Brook Creek.

“The car really doesn’t like left hand corners,” said LeBlanc.

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Rejean Losier started the day in seventh, the position that Richard and Ockwell needed to secure their championship. Losier was certain on one thing – “Pat will catch me very soon.” The veteran driver went on to explain that “when I have grip, I am ok, but when it is slippery, I am too old for that.” On the very next stage, Rejean lost control of the car and slid off the road in a muddy section, ending his rally there.

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Simon Losier never made it to the start of today’s action. A failing clutch could not be repaired and Simon traded his racing suit for a pair of jeans and got out to spectate instead.

Two stages later – second runs through Thynne Mountain and Brook Creek – and teams began to arrive at the service park in Merritt. Relief was written across the face of Antoine L’Estage.

“We worked really hard on those last stages, and I am really happy we made it to service. We lost time, but the crew have the parts and are ready to repair the diff, so it’s ok,” said Antoine.

Pat Richard was busy gaining time and positions, working his way back up the order. “It’s gonna be a squeaker still, and will come down to the last two stages.” Co-Driver Alan Ockwell was busy comparing times with other teams to try to determine Richards progress.

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Norm LeBlanc had by now moved into second place, and only needed to stay conservative to make it to the finish. Scott Trinder had been sitting in third, when on the second pass through the Active Mountain Spectator stage, Trinder damaged the rear strut tower on the car, and opted to retire, rather than risk a more catastrophic failure.

Gord Olsen and Zebe Szewczyk had been running consistently all day, and had moved into second and third respectively. For both teams, these positions, if they could be held, would repeat the finish at the Rocky Mountain Rally in May of this year. Szewczyk was busy trying to adapt to a new dogbox he had purchased for the car, and felt he was still trying to learn to drive.

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Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila were pushing hard in their Group 2 VW Golf. The pair were hoping to make up time on Kris Schofield, their main rivals in the regional Group 2 championship. Both teams had been fast yesterday, and started today only two seconds apart.

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“We got a flat on the last stage, maybe two kilometres from the finish and drove it out. I know we lost a lot of time, so we’ll have to see how Kris drove.” said Grochowski.

Schofield took some time to arrive at the time control, and on arriving, his car had mud all over it, as did Kris’ driving suit.

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“My co-driver got lost in the notes, and what should have been a right two was called as a right six. We were in third gear at seven grand. It didn’t work.” The pair got high centred off the road and lost over ten minutes before getting back out. “At least the car drives straight.”

Heading into the Active Mountain spectator stage, it became immediately apparent that there were problems for the lead car of Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard. The pair arrived to the stage start well behind their check in time, running the spectator stage once before being able to offer an explanation.

“We were nineteen minutes late checking out of service, and took 190 seconds in penalties, so now we’re almost fifty seconds behind Norm LeBlanc,” started Nathalie. Antoine continued, “We had to replace a shaft in the transfer case, so we put it in the spare case, but for some reason the spare case didn’t fit in the car, so we had to rebuild the broken one. It should have been simple, but it just didn’t go well.”

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A rally the pair had lead from the first day was suddenly in jeopardy, but the car seemed to be functioning fine again, so the pair would just have to carve back time over the remaining four stages.

Following the Active Mountain stages, things took a turn for the better for Antoine and Nathalie, when Norm LeBlanc suffered a transmission failure. That put the Hyundai crew back at the top of the order with a one minute lead over Gord Olsen and Todd Patola.

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Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell had worked their way back up the order, and were sitting a little under two minutes behind the third place Zebe Szewczyk. Though they had by that point moved up high enough to secure the championship, Pat was blunt about what came next.

“We’re here, so we might as well give’r”

From this last service, teams left for two passes of the legendary Helmer Lake stage. Earlier in the day, Helmer is where Pat Richard had said he would make up time on the competition.

For L’Estage, who was still in a healthy lead, the goal was to drive safe to ensure the win. He kept it textbook, showing why he is the two time defending champion, and said there was absolutely no drama – a welcome change for the crew.

Next on the road was the Subaru Rally Team Canada pairing of Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell.

“I had a rough time on this stage,” said Pat, creeping the car forward to keep the red hot brakes from seizing up.

Craig Henderson, who had retired last night after ripping most of the wiring harness out of his car, had rejoined the action in the regional rally after his crew spent most of the night rewiring the Subaru.

“We’ve had some dust here, but not too bad, and we’ve been having a great day so far, it’s good to be running,” said Henderson.

Zebe, who was in third overall came through the finish control, happy with his time, but certain it wouldn’t be enough to keep Richard at bay. In comparing the times, Richard had taken approximately a minute and a half out of Zebe on the first pass at Helmer, making a podium finish for the Subaru factory driver almost a given.

After the second pass of Helmer, teams only had to return to Merritt for Parc Ferme and the podium.

At the end, Craig Henderson took top honours in the regional event, followed by Gord Olsen and Zebe Szewczyk.

Nationally, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard won the event.

“We’re very happy. Pat has the championship, but this is very good for us for the North American Rally Cup. Also now it will be great to have a full on fight with Pat at Tall Pines.” said Antoine.

Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell finished third, behind Gord Olsen in second. The finish was more than enough to secure the 2008 Canadian Rally Championship for Richard and Ockwell.

“We made up huge time on Helmer, but it was really hard. There was a lot of dust on the second pass, and it would have been nice to have two minute windows, but we did what we needed to get to the podium. It’s great to have the championship, we’re really thrilled, and it’s awesome for Subaru.”

For Gord Olsen, this is a tie of his career best finish, and also pushes him into third place in the Canadian Rally Championship. “We’ve never been that high up in the standings, so that’s new for us.”

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Warren Currie finished fourth overall, and took the top spot in Production 4, beating out Hardy Schmidtke. Eric Growchowski and Leanne Junnila won Group 2 and will head to the Kananaskis Rally to try to secure the Group 2 regional championship.

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The Pacific Forest Rally also plays host to the PIAA Eco Challenge. A voluntary contest where top honours are given to the team that goes the fastest with the least fuel, this year, the award went to Jan and Jody Zedril in their Production 3 Mitsubishi Lancer.

The next event on the Canadian Rally Championship will also be the last for 2008. The Rally of the Tall Pines, held in Bancroft, Ontario takes place in late November, and this year both Ken Block and Travis Pastrana will be making the trip up. Block represents a strong challenge in the North American Rally Cup against Antoine L’Estage, so there is sure to be plenty of excitement. Be sure to check back to Flatovercrest.com in the coming weeks to see new coverage leading up to the Rally of the Tall Pines.

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3 Responses to “Pat takes title, L’Estage takes win”

  1. A.L'Estage

    19. Oct, 2008

    Great recap and photos guys! Good job!
    -A

  2. Martin Walter

    19. Oct, 2008

    Thanks for keeping those of us that couldn’t be there up to date with eteh cation all weekend.
    Great coverage and photos as usual!
    -Martin.

  3. Dee

    20. Oct, 2008

    Thanks FOC for all the AWESOME Up-To-Date info! Congrats Pat and Alan on championship!

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