Monday, February 10, 2014

Antoine L'Estage Takes Victory at The 2014 Rallye Perce Neige

Maniwaki, QUEBEC, February 10, 2014 – Antoine L'Estage (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and John Hall (Calgary) of the Yokohama rally team won the 2014 Rallye Perce Neige Maniwaki, the opening round of the Canadian Rally Championship. The pair led the rally from the very first stage, steadily increasing their lead through the event. “It was a very good rally for us,” said L'Estage. “We led from the very first stage and took a bunch of time on all the town stages in the morning, and pushed on the first loop of long stages. We were fastest from the start, fair and square.”

L'Estage and Hall had not competed together prior to Rallye Perce Neige, but were able to hold the pace needed to win without having had any time together in the car before the rally. This is L'Estage's sixth victory at Rallye Perce Neige, and Hall's first win at a national event. “John Hall did really well, and the Yokohama tires were perfect. It's a perfect start to the year, and defence of my championship.”

Chief rivals Pat Richard (Squamish, BC) and Nathalie Richard (Halifax), of Subaru Rally Team Canada finished second in the rally. The pair had minor problems early in the day which hampered their efforts. The team won four of the 17 stages, but were unable to match the overall pace of L'Estage and Hall. “We had a good start to the rally, and second place is a good start to the year,” said Richard. “We had some small boost problems, and while we didn't lose a lot of time, we just lost a little bit here and there.

“We had to take a gamble in the afternoon to catch Antoine. We're pretty evenly matched, so I went out on different tires. That kind of choice is the only way to be able to take big time back, and unfortunately, it was the wrong choice. We had enough of a lead over third that we held our position.”

The Richard siblings have reunited in the car after eight years of competing as rivals. The pairing is exciting to many rally fans who love to see the brother and sister compete together.

“It was great to be back in the car with my sister, and to have her back for the whole season.”

A battle ran through most of the rally for the final podium spot. Eventually, and despite transmission problems just past the midpoint of the rally, Alexandre Beland (Val d'Or, QC) and Lyne Murphy (St Constant, QC) clawed up the order to finish third overall. The pair have spent the last season preparing to take on the entire championship series, and the third place was an ideal finish to earn points towards a title bid.

“When we started, we didn't know what kind of pace the other competitors were running. We were 13th on the road to start, so we had to manage our pace to move up in the running order,” said Beland. “We pushed hard and were reseeded in fifth place after the first six stages. From there, we just had to maintain that pace.

“Tire choice was very hard on that last loop. What we chose worked for us, and we got third place. It's a perfect way for us to start the season.”

Two Wheel Drive action was thrilling, with every team struggling with the icy conditions, and soft snowbanks on the forest stages. Simon Dube (Jonquiere, QC) and Pat Lavigne (Mirabel, QC) were leading for most of the event, when on the penultimate forest stage the pair got stuck on a snowbank. A similar mistake last year forced the team to retire, but competitor Chris Greenhouse stopped to pull Dube and Lavigne back onto the road.

“We had a really good start, and with maybe 80 percent of the rally finished, we went off the road a little bit. It wasn't a lot but we got stuck.,” said Dube, who had a similar problem last year, ending his rally. “Our competitor Chris Greenhouse pulled us out of the snowbank.”

Despite losing eight minutes, Dube had a sufficient advantage over his rivals to retain the lead all the way to the finish.

“It's a winter rally, and anything can happen,” said Dube. “I wanted to finish in the top ten, to earn my seed four, which we did. I'm very happy to win two wheel drive. I haven't won a national since 2011 or 2010, so this is great.”

Second in class went to Martin Walter (North Gower, ON) and Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff (Nepean, ON), one of the few cars with minimal problems during the event. The Ontarian team showed good judgement in setting their pace all rally.

Greenhouse (Cincinnati, USA) and co-driver Billy Irvin (Puyallup, USA) thought they were out of the rally after three stages, getting stuck in a snowbank for over 20 minutes. After reviewing the situation, organizers allowed Greenhouse to continue. The pair finished third in two wheel drive, Perce Neige serving as their first Canadian event together. 

“It's especially cold when you're covered in champagne,” said Greenhouse, after the podium celebrations. “The experience in Canada is great, and the stage roads here are incredible. We'll be back for Rallye Baie des Chaleurs.”

In Production all-wheel drive, the team of Alexandre and Nicholas Ouellette showed the value of local knowledge. Hailing from nearby Messines, QC., the two won their class and finished ninth overall in their Subaru Impreza STI.

Second in class was claimed by Warren Haywood (Chelsea, QC) and John Merry (Ottawa), ahead of third place Bruno Laverdiere (Laval, QC) with Hubert Gaureau (Quebec). 

The Rallye Perce Neige is the only true winter rally in the Canadian Rally Championship. Heavy snowfalls all winter leading up to the event have created some of the best conditions in the last ten years, according to Clerk of the Course, Sylvain Erickson. The first loop of stages took place in town, and are fast, icy stages. The stages making up the second stage saw varied conditions, and a taste of what was to come. Both the third and fourth legs were made up of three forest stages totalling 87km of stage distance. Characterized by challenging technical roads, the forest stages were lined by tall snowbanks and ran deep into the night. To add to the challenge, teams are not allowed to use studded tires. The rally was contested over 209km of special stage.

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 a contingency program from Subaru Canada. The Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) is the official sanctioning body for rallying in Canada.

Rally car racing is often described simply as “real cars, real roads, real fast.” The all-season
motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over closed-road courses that typically cover more than 150 kilometers of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Fans can get up close to the cars in the service areas and catch all the action from specially designated spectator points located at the best spots on the route.

Full coverage of the championship will air on RDS and TSN. Check local listings.

For more information: or

Rallye Perce Neige Final Results
1. Antoine L'Estage – John Hall – two hours, 28 minutes, 45.4 seconds
2. Pat Richard – Nathalie Richard – 2:30:58.7
3. Alexandre Beland – Lyne Murphy – 2:40:32.4
4. Bruno Carre – Karel Carre – 2:44:39.1
Sylvain Vincent – Simon Vincent – 2:48:59.1
6. Andre Leblanc – Rene Leblanc – 2:52:34.8
7. Philippe Dube – Samuel Joyal – 2:53:15.1
8. Nicola Narini – Massimo Narini – 2:56:35.6
9. Alexandre R Ouellette – Nicholas R Ouellette – 2:56:47.2
Maxime Labrie – Robert Labrie – 3:00:48.3

FOR MORE INFORMATION - Canadian Association of Rally Sport offices : (855) 640-6444

Photo Credit: Mat Janiak