L’Estage nails tire choice, leads rally

Posted on 28. May, 2010 by in Canadian Rally Champs, CRC 2010, Event Coverage, Rally News, Rocky Mountain Rally 2010

Antoine L’Estage gambled on tire choice at the start of the Rocky Mountain Rally, and his decision paid off. L’Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard opened up a lead of one minute, 36 seconds after the first three stages of the rally, including Powderface Trail.

“We talked about tire choice for a long time this morning, and then with just five minutes of service left, I picked mud tires,” said L’Estage. The choice paid off in the soft and slushy conditions.

Rival team of Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell, who have won the Canadian Rally Championship title the last two years, went out on snow tires.

“We thought there would be more snow,” said Richard. “Instead there were two tracks of gravel and mud, with deep snow on the sides and in the middle.”

The snow proved too deep for Richard’s snow tires, and the mud too slick.

“We had about half a dozen big moments on the second stage,” said Ockwell.

Any notions of attacking tomorrow to try to get the lead have been severely tempered by the need to secure championship points. The team DNF’d at the season opener and have only one point coming into the Rocky Mountain Rally.

The team currently leading the championship race is Bruno Carre and Yvan Joyal. The pair first came to the Rocky Mountain Rally last year, but crashed heavily after trouble with the notes. This year so far has been extremely positive, with Carre in third place, just over 45 seconds back from Richard and Ockwell. Carre’s secret over the first three stages was a unique choice in tires.

“We chose the Michelin C5,” said Carre, a thin tire typically used in deep snow. Carre was able to cut through the snow and soft mud to a grippier surface underneath, catching one car during the first three stages.

Carre now leads Leo Urlichich and Chrissie Beavis by a scant six seconds heading into tomorrows stages.

A three way battle is also shaping up for fifth place, between Marc Bourassa, Hardy Schmidtke and Simon Losier. The three are separated by just over six seconds, and Craig Henderson and Lyne Murphy are another 22 seconds back.

Henderson said he was lacking confidence in the mud and snow of the morning stages, a situation compounded when his intercom cut out.

Jan and Jody Zedril are leading the two wheel drive cars, and at 12th overall are also the top ranked non-open class car, beating out some Production GT and Open class cars.

“The break since Perce Neige was really tough for us,” said Jan. “Normally we’ve done more events before Rocky, but we’re starting to find our rhythm again.”

Back from a much longer break – nearly a year and a half – are Kris and Jaclyn Schofield, currently second in Group 2 in their rear wheel drive Toyota Corolla.

“We’re learning all over again,” said Kris. “Powderface was good but we had one opposite lock moment.”

Zebe Szewczyk and Tomasz Karzynski retired after suffering clutch problems. Nick and Kelly Mathew, who finished third here last year, retired from the national event after all of their suspension seized. The team were declared max late leaving service, the crew having been able to repair only two shocks. The pair are continuing in the regional event, where they are ranked fourth, but the service crew will be up late trying to solve the suspension problems to keep them in the event tomorrow.

Mike Goodwin and Martin Burnley are leading Production GT ahead of Mark Lea-Wilson and Matt Vincent.

For the final three stages of the day, teams ran the new Forest Loop spectator stage, located nearby Powderface trail. A sinewy track through trees, the road has quickly become a new favourite for drivers. Simon Losier voiced what a lot of Eastern crews were feeling by saying “I’d like to have this road closer to my home.”

The Forest Loop stage was run three times and got progressively more slippery with each pass.

“We’re just (ditch) hooking and hoping,” said Richard Burton, who has moved from a start position of 20th, to ending the day in 9th.

Tomorrow, teams will contest eight stages in the Porcupine Hills, southwest of Calgary. The forecast calls for a mix of snow and rain, combining with the mud and snow already on the stages. Teams run four stages before the first chance to change tires, making that choice paramount.

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3 Responses to “L’Estage nails tire choice, leads rally”

  1. Ross

    29. May, 2010

    Thanks, guys. Excellent reporting!! Makes it a little less frustrating to follow the event from far away.

  2. Neil McDaid

    29. May, 2010

    Still the best rally reports, thanks guys keep it up…

  3. Gethin

    29. May, 2010

    Great reporting! Looks like an exiting rally. Wish I was there.

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