Ken Block Leads at Rallye Defi

Posted on 07. Sep, 2012 by in Canadian Rally Champs, CRC 2012, Event Coverage, Rallye Defi 2012

(Photo: Matt Janiak)

At the end of the first day of the 2012 Rallye Defi, Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino lead the field by nearly a minute after nine stages. The Rallye Defi, starting in Ste Agathe Des Monts, Que., is the fourth round of the Canadian Rally Championship.

“It feels really good,” said Block of his return to Canadian rally. “I have a little beef with this event, I had a tough time coming here with my Mark II Escort a few years ago.

“I’ve come back to try and win it. I really enjoy the roads up here, and competing with Pat and Antoine and everyone.”

Block has a lead of 58.6 seconds over second place Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard after the first day.

(Photo: Matt Janiak)

Sitting in second place is an unusual position for L’Estage, who has dominated Canadian rallying for a few years, and has yet to lose an event in the 2012 Canadian Rally Championship.

“I don’t like to be in second,” said L’Estage, who has won Defi six times over the course of his career. “Today, Ken was the fastest, no excuses. He was really quick. In tonight’s stages, the times were really close, but they’re such short stages so it’s hard to make a big difference in the overall classification.

“Tomorrow, we’ll try to push in the first stages. I know those stages really well.”

After a trouble filled day, Leo Urlichich and Carl Williamson are sitting in third place. The pair broke the rear differential on the first stage and had to struggle through three more stages before arriving at service. That damaged the centre differential, and the car has also suffered head gasket failure. The crew will have to work very hard overnight to make all the needed repairs in time for tomorrow’s stages.

(Photo: Matt Janiak)

“It feels good, but it feels a little bit bad we weren’t able to push hard on every single stage,” said Urlichich. “I know the pace is there, and we worked so hard on the notes and the driving techniques to do well here. Hopefully the guys can get the repairs done and we can go ten tenths tomorrow.”

The four morning stages were new to the rally, and especially tough, with deep troughs forming and large rocks collecting in the middle of the road, pinballing along the undersides of every rally car as they drove the stage.

Ten cars retired over the first four stages, with another pulling out later in the day, leaving just 18 cars to start Saturday’s stages.

One such retirement was that of Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell of Subaru Rally Team Canada. The pair took to the start line with new developments to their Impreza STI, including a sequential gearbox. But a mechanical failure ended their rally less than one kilometre from the finish of the third stage.

(Photo: Matt Janiak)

Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila experienced problems in their VW Golf. The sub frame supporting the engine failed, with the engine dropping down onto the road surface, causing the oil pump to fail.

Leading 2wd at the end of day one is the team of Ed McNelly and Ole Holter, in their Ford Fiesta R2.

On Saturday, teams will contest the remaining 14 stages, located in the Montpellier, Que., area, east of Ottawa.

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