Sunday, February 6, 2011


February 5, 2011; Maniwaki, QC, Canada; Driver Antoine L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard win the Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki, Round 1 of the Canadian Rally Championship in their 2009 Mitsubishi Evo X. : Photo ©Andrew Harvey

MANIWAKI, QUEBEC, FEBRUARY 5, 2011 – Antoine L'Estage (Ste-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC)
and Nathalie Richard (Halifax) of the Rockstar Mitsubishi team opened the 2011 Canadian Rally
Championship with a definitive win at the Rallye Perce Neige. Canada's only true winter rally, the
Rallye Perce Neige is also one of the longest, with more than 200kms of competitive stages covered
in just one day of racing.
Teams started from downtown Maniwaki in the morning, running two in-town stages before heading
into the forest roads west of town. Short and fast, the in-town stages rarely present an opportunity to
win an event, but ample chance to lose.
Subaru Rally Team Canada driver Pat Richard (Squamish, BC) and stand in co-driver Leanne Junnila
(Calgary) were the first team to tackle the stages in their Subaru Impreza STI. Attacking right from the
start, they set the pace to beat for rivals L'Estage and Nathalie Richard in the Rockstar Mitsubishi.
Both drivers hold multiple national titles, and after eight stages, the two teams were separated by less
than one second.

“Running first on the road can be really hard, but maybe Pat had the right tire choice” said L'Estage,
referring to the Subaru driver's choice of his Yokohama snow tires heading into a midday stage.
Conditions were a difficult mix of snow and ice, and start order played heavily into what tires would
work best.

A timing error arriving at the first service resulted in a one minute penalty for the Subaru team, who
broke a wheel a few stages later, losing a massive seven minutes while replacing the wheel. Taking a
gamble on tire choice, Richard hoped to make up some time to get back into a points scoring position,
vital in his hunt for the 2011 Canadian Rally Championship title.
“I can't make the same choice as Antoine because we're so closely matched, we'll get similar times.
To make up any time I need to gamble on tire choice and try something different,” said Richard.
With the pressure off, 2010 Canadian, North American and Rally America champion L'Estage was
finding it challenging to drive at the correct pace to keep his first place position secure.
“I have to find the right rhythm. I can't go too fast and make mistakes, but it can be harder to keep
focus when you slow down.”

Further down the order, a battle was shaping up for the other podium positions. Bruno Carre and Yvan
Joyal (Laval, QC) drove cleanly and smoothly all day, a style that earned the team their first National
win at this event in 2010. The team finished second, nearly 30 seconds ahead of third place.
“It's a great feeling, and our approach was similar to last year,” said Carre at the finish. “We tried hard
to keep out of trouble, and that paid off.”
Swap Shop teammate Craig Henderson (Saint Constant, QC) and co-driver Peter Watt (Peterborough,
ON) were struggling to find the right pace and were uncharacteristically further down the order,
making space for 2010 Canadian Novice Champion Ugo Desgreniers (Orford, QC) and Erik Kirby
(Sherbrooke, QC) to move up the leaderboard, in turn battling with “Crazy” Leo Urlichich (Toronto) and
Martin Headland (Caledon, ON).

In the final stages, Desgreniers moved into a comfortable third after Urlichich drove off the road. For Desgreniers, the result is a career best, and one year anniversary of
the his first rally finish.“It wasn't a perfect rally,” said Desgreniers. “The shifter broke and we had to drive with just a short piece sticking up from the gearbox until we could fix it. I'm so happy for the result, it's amazing to have come so far in just one year.”

Richard and Junnila finished just off the podium in fourth place.“It's not what we wanted, and was a tough event, but still, there's no excuses,” said a frustrated Richard after the rally. “I had a four minute gap to make up to get to the podium, and we made up about three minutes in two stages, but it wasn't enough.”

Road conditions were especially tough for the two wheel drive teams. Covered in slick ice, the roads
made for slow progress and rough sections also took a toll on the cars. Just one team, Jan and Jody
Zedril (Winnipeg) finished in their two wheel drive Mitsubishi.

The brothers managed their pace carefully through the entire event, showing why they are reigning champions.“This event was so much about survival, just getting to the end.” said Jan.
“Once we knew that we were the only 2WD car left, we slowed down to make sure we would finish.”
Interim rally coordinator Terry Epp was very positive about the event, where remote locations and
limited communications prove very challenging for organizers.

The event has a 46 year history and the reputation of being a marathon event, demanding of teams and volunteers alike.“We've been in a rebuilding process for this event, trying to ensure it has a long future. I'm happy tosay that the rally ran extremely well this year and is good hands moving forward.”

The 2011 season continues May 26-27, at the Rocky Mountain Rally, headquartered in Calgary.
Though the event has been changed for this season, it still features the high mountain roads and
unpredictable conditions that make the event so compelling.

The Canadian Rally Championship is comprised of six events held nationwide in a season that
extends from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, supported by
Yokohama Tire Canada and features contingency programs from Subaru Canada and Mitsubishi
Canada. The Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) is the official sanctioning body for rallying in