Antoine L'Estage (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and Alan Ockwell (Toronto) of the Yokohama Canada Rally Team led from start to finish to win the Pacific Forest Rally, round four of the 2014 Canadian Rally Championship. The team started strongly, and built a lead they maintained through the second day.
“Thanks to Yokohama Canada, my main sponsor,” said L'Estage. “The victory here was my seventh, and I've been able to do so well thanks to the support of my sponsors.”
The victory at the rally means L'Estage has mathematically clinched the 2014 driver's championship. However, Ockwell still needs strong results at the final two rallies of the year to join his teammate as the Canadian champion co-driver.
“I'm feeling lots of emotion right now,” said L'Estage. “I've been trying to beat the record for the most Canadian championships, and now we've done it with seven titles. To hold that record is very special to me and something I have dreamed of for a long time.”
Martin Rowe (Whistler, B.C.) and Nathalie Richard (Halifax) hoped to challenge for overall victory in the rally that is closest to home for the Squamish, B.C. based team. The Pacific Forest Rally is the second event for the new 2015 WRX STI, and the team continued to improve their pace in the new car.
“We've taken away a lot of positives from this weekend,” said Rowe. “We've shown the reliability of the new engine and gearbox which has run really well. Finishing second is not as good as we'd like to have done, but the car is continuing to get faster.”
By the midpoint of the rally, a three-way battle had taken shape for third place. Derik Nelson (Seattle, USA) and Adam Newell (Redmond, USA) flew up the order after starting the rally 36th. Heading into the final loop of stages, the pair was leading the battle for third in their BMW M3.
Just behind the Americans, Boris Djordjevic (Edmonton) and Leanne Junnila (Calgary) were the top ranked Production All Wheel Drive entry. In a close fifth place, Kenny Wahl (Squamish, B.C.) and Aaron Neumann (Vancouver) hoped the final section of stages would offer enough distance to make up ground on their rivals.
All three teams ran virtually the same pace on the last stage, with Nelson and Newell holding onto third place overall, easily winning the two wheel drive class.
“It felt really good to put a two wheel drive car on the podium at a national event,” said Nelson, who teaches at the Dirtfish Rally School in Washington state. “We also had some redemption to get because we made a dumb mistake at this event last year and ended the rally almost right away.”
Djordjevic and Junnila won the Production 4WD class. The team's focus remained on the class championship in which they earned maximum points.
“This was a very exciting event for us,” said Djordjevic. “We worked to create a lead and then managed to climb up to finish well overall.”
The Pacific Forest Rally is the fourth round of the Canadian Rally Championship. Headquartered in Merritt, B.C., the event featured over 165km of competitive special stages split over two days of racing. Warm and dry weather made for perfect racing conditions as teams raced along the narrow ridge-line roads in the Nicola valley.
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.