Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard continued their Canadian winning streak at the Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs, winning the event for the fourth time, having led from start to finish.
L’Estage and Richard enjoyed a problem free rally, building their lead during Friday’s rainy stages. From there, the two managed the lead all the way to the finish, while other competitors had problems and dropped further down the order.
“We pushed really hard last night, and made a good gap,” said L’Estage. “Today was more about trying to manage that lead. Thanks to John and Paul and Mathieu, the car was flawless. A lot of guys had problems this weekend and we did not, so it really is a big team effort. Overall I am really happy.”
Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell finished second after one of the most difficult rallies Richard was able to remember. Fogging on the windshield on the first day, led to a time deficit, and brake and boost problems over the course of Saturday saw the team fight to stay in the hunt.
“We had a bunch of little problems with things that have been on the car for years,” said Richard. “It’s just one of those bad luck rallies. Alan and I hung in there and we made it back to service every time – sometimes just barely, but we made it.”
“I’m running a three year old car, and some of the parts are pretty old. We’ve done some upgrades just to be competitive, but perhaps in doing some of those, we’ve ignored some of the things that we need to revisit.”
Crazy Leo Urlichich and Carl Williamson suffered problems of their own through the day. A leaking intake manifold caused problems for the team, who in turn took a time penalty for checking out of service late. With the problem never fully resolved, the two managed to limp through the remainder of the stages, nearly getting caught by Craig Henderson.
“I am happy, more than anything, for the pace we have been able to reach here,” said Urlichich. “This rally marks an amazing moment where I believe that we were quicker than Pat Richard on pace.”
Henderson, and co-driver Lyne Murphy appeared to be in third place at the finish, but a calculation error was discovered in the timing. The pair dropped down to fourth place overall, a frustrating finish to what had been a difficult rally.
“We started off with electrical problems, and then this morning we broke an axle and had fuel pump problems,” said Henderson. “You never know how it’s going to turn out until it’s over.”
In two wheel drive, Ed McNelly and Ole Holter walked away from the competition dodging the problems suffered by their rivals. McNelly’s first time at Baie proved fruitful, winning his class.
“You have to come to a rally pretty much prepared,” said McNelly. “You cant be working on your car late at night. Then, keep it out of the ditch, try not to hit stuff, and try to be smooth.”
Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila struggled through difficult conditions yesterday, only to blow out their suspension during Saturday’s rough stages. Nevertheless, the pair managed to edge the father son team of Sylvain and Simon Vincent. Grochowski and Junnila finished second in two wheel drive, with the Vincents getting third in class.
Max Riddle had been struggling to find his pace in a new car after crashing badly at the Rocky Mountain Rally last month. However, after a few heavy compressions, and a number of mechanical problems, Riddle and co-driver Aaron Neumann retired from the event.
Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs marks the halfway point in the Canadian Rally Championship. Teams now have a two month break in which to make repairs and improvements before the fourth round of the series, the Rallye Defi, held north of Montreal, September 7-9, 2012.
Some teams, including L’Estage and Urlichich will take on the Maine Forest Rally, part of the Rally America series, in two weeks time.