Antoine L’Estage won his fifth career Rocky Mountain Rally, finishing with a winning margin of more than one minute, 30 seconds. With co-driver Nathalie Richard, the Rockstar Mitsubishi team opened up a significant lead on the first day, and managed that through the four stages held on day two.
“It feels great, it was a perfect rally for us. We led right from the first stage,” said L’Estage. “We pushed right from the start and got a big lead, so today was just a matter of trying to pace ourselves.”
L’Estage had a minor issue on day one, with a computer management issue in the car, but a new unit was fitted, and the team enjoyed a trouble free run to the finish.
“We have a good package, we have a good car, and we work well together. I think we’re getting faster and faster.”
Second place was one of the most tightly contested battles of the rally, between Pat Richard, co-driven by Alan Ockwell, and Leo Urlichich and Carl Williamson.
Leo arrived at the event with the goal of trying to push his pace to catch Richard on stage times, and with the problems Richard encountered, Leo finished the first day just over 15 seconds back from Richard.
However, Richard was assessed chicane penalties totalling 45 seconds, and dropped behind Leo to third place. With only four stages to run today, the pressure was on for Richard to make up the time – and the position – to catch Urlichich.
“We had a good day today, we won all the stages,” said Richard. “We were obviously pushing harder at the end because you want to make sure you actually make it to the end,” said Richard.
Richard pressed so hard he exceeded the maximum allowable average speed on the first stage of the day, clocking an average of 133km/h, and the stage results were scrubbed.
“It was quite frustrating. We started the day thinking we were ahead of [Leo] anyway, but it turns out that we were going to get assessed a penalty from yesterday, so we won the first stage, and we were happy about that. But then the stage got thrown because we went too fast. That meant we just had to dig a bit deeper,” said Richard.
Organisers added a fourth chicane to the stage, and Richard continued to push, making up more time on the three remaining stages, enough to pass Urlichich to finish second, by a margin of 25 seconds.
Though Urlichich was disappointed not to hang on to second place, he was also pleased to have stepped up his pace yet again, to get closer to Richard and L’Estage.
“I have a massive smile on my face now,” said Urlichich. “Yesterday I went on Twitter and said I wanted a battle royal this rally, and yes, with a bit of luck, and different conditions, we had a battle royal. We were on it ten tenths everywhere. We made mistakes and could have been a lot faster in certain spots, but we tried everything.”
Hardy Schmidtke and Max Riddle had been battling for fourth place all rally, and each continued to push harder through the final stages. Riddle eventually pushed too hard and rolled off the road. Both Riddle and co-driver Aaron Neumann escaped from the crash unhurt, and Schmidtke and John Hall went on to take fourth place.
In two wheel drive, Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila were able to solve the overheating problem from yesterday, and the car ran flawlessly today. The new motor offers the team more power than ever before, and as a consequence, they were able to open up a big lead after the first two stages, despite starting the day four seconds back from rivals Kris Schofield and Jennifer Daly.
“The car ran flawlessly today, and we pushed really hard today. I know how fast Kris is, he’s fully committed all the time so we weren’t sure how it was going to play out. We put time on Kris every stage,” said Grochowski. “We didn’t leave anything in reserve today. Concept 1 built the motor, and it’s been flawless.”
Schofield and Daly worked to maintain their second place in two wheel drive, and ultimately succeeded despite both a blown rear shock and one non-functioning brake caliper. On the fast stage, where the car is also relatively low on power, all those issues prevented the team from challenging Grochowski and Junnila.
“It was frustrating because of the current setup of the car, I can’t make it go any faster,” said Schofield. “I’m not complaining, I am getting the most out of the car. With the brake failure, and pretty much the whole rear passenger corner of the car – no suspension and no brakes – that probably slowed us down a little.”
Third place in two wheel drive went to Andrew Comrie-Picard and Brian O’Kane, in a Nissan Sentra. The car has significantly less power than their competitors, however, the duo still beat multiple all wheel drive cars.
In Production GT, Eric Pehota and Richard Doucet took top honours while a strong drive by Tibor Kertes in his new Mitsubishi Evo X was undone when his co-driver checked in early at the final time control, costing the team a regional podium spot.
L’Estage and Nathalie Richard have opened up their lead in the Canadian Rally Championship, having previously won the opening round, the Rallye Perce Neige.
The Canadian Rally Championship continues at the Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs, in New Richmond Quebec. Known to draw some of the largest crowds in the championship, Baie is also on of the longest events, and includes the infamous Rang 5 jump.