Subaru Rally Team Canada takes lead at Rallye Defi

Posted on 11. Sep, 2009 by in Rallye Defi 2009

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Subaru Rally Team Canada's Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell have opened a small lead Friday at the Rallye Defi. Competitors ran five short stages to set the tone for the bulk of the rally tomorrow.

“We've won every stage so far, except one, which we tied,” said Richard after four stages. The two would go on to win the final stage of the night, with a total lead of four seconds over Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard.

“Second on road is perfect for us tomorrow,” said L'Estage.

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Unlike previous versions of the Rallye Defi, the longest stages are run on Saturday morning this year, with little to no opportunity to make up time in the afternoon. Pat Richard will be forced to clean the road for the cars behind, potentially giving an advantage to L'Estage.

Both drivers agreed that the shorter stage mileage this year means that drivers will have to alter their pace.

“You cannot waste any time hoping to catch up later, there just won't be time,” said L'Estage.

“I think if you're 10 seconds down after the long stages tomorrow, it'll be nearly impossible to make that up,” said Richard.

Andrew Comrie-Picard and Robbie Durant are in third place, 17 seconds back from Richard and Ockwell, but a comfortable eight seconds up on the fourth place pairing of Craig Henderson and Lyne Murphy, who are driving Sylvain Erickson's higher-spec Subaru for added pace.

Jan and Jody Zedril sit in 21st overall, but are the fastest two wheel drive car in their Mitsubishi Lancer. Second in two wheel drive is Peter Kocandrle and Jimmy Brant, 24 second back from the Zedrils.

“We're pretty happy with where we are, given how fast the roads are,” said Kocandrle who is driving a Suzuki Swift.

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Third in two wheel drive are Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila in their Gr2 VW Golf.

“Our last event was at Rocky, and we haven't run the car since,” said Junnila. “We are having a hard time getting back into the groove. These short stages make finding a rhythm difficult.”

The pair are hoping for a strong finish here to push them back into the lead in two wheel drive, ahead of the Zedrils.

Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino entered the Rallye Defi with an unusual car - a Ford Escort MkII. The car was meticulously prepared for Block and was to get it's first rally here.

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Unfortunately, the pair ended their event early when their Escort locked a wheel, sending them into a ditch. Damage to the car initially appeared minor, but the two were unable to restart the car on the stage.

After repairs in service, the two were allowed to run the final three stages before being excluded from the event. Unfortunately, damage was more severe than originally expected, and the team returned from the transit, unable to continue.

“When the car loaded up heading around a tarmac corner on the first stage, one of the wheels locked up after compressing up against the body,” said Block. “The car darted off to the left and into the ditch. We got it back out, but we'd broken a ground to the fuel pump, so we couldn't get it restarted.”

“The crew got the ground fixed in service, but we'd also shifted the transmission crossmember, which pulled the tranny back about an eighth of an inch, and we'd broken a bolt in the suspension. When we left to transit out to the next stages, the handling was all over the place, and the shifting wasn't good, so we decided to park it.”

For Block, this is his third consecutive DNF at a Canadian rally.

Tomorrow morning, the rally relocates to Montpellier, with teams taking on the longest stages in the morning. Standings after the long stages could very well stay the same through the short stages, with so little distance to make up any time on rivals.

5 Responses to “Subaru Rally Team Canada takes lead at Rallye Defi”

  1. jeffy

    11. Sep, 2009

    Great coverage guys – THANKS
    – Jeffy

  2. Shawn Bishop

    11. Sep, 2009

    Well done! Great to see the 2wd standings as well!

  3. Marc-André Leblanc

    12. Sep, 2009

    Have a nice rally ! The “real” competition start in the next minutes for a long day… Best of luck to everyone !

  4. Lawrence Partington

    12. Sep, 2009

    I’m in St.John’s for Targa Newfoundland. After reading your report about Ken Block, I went outside and there’s another Mark II Escort rally car! This one’s right-hand drive, entered from the Turks & Caicos. Looks and sounds great. Let’s hope they have better luck than Ken.
    P.S. Great coverage from Défi. Warwick, don’t miss your flight.

  5. Terra Firma

    12. Sep, 2009

    I concur, great to see the 2wd coverage! Keep it up!

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