|Contact: John Morris
|Date: November 22, 2004|
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Bancroft, ON - It was a come-from-behind thriller for Antoine L’Estage and his Hyundai Tiburon at the Rally of the Tall Pines this weekend. "We’ve been waiting for it for a long time," said the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.-based driver on Saturday after he and co-driver Yanick Napert drove hard to his first-ever national victory at the final sixth round of the 2004 Canadian Rally Championship presented by Subaru.
The victory put an end to an otherwise perfect season for Subaru Rally Team Canada’s Pat Richard. No Canadian has ever completed every round of the championship undefeated and the Whistler, BC driver had hoped to be the first.
Richard, with his sister Nathalie in the co-driver’s seat, thrilled their many fans with lightning speed and aggressive style on the road but transmission trouble forced them out of the contest early. "It’s still the Tall Pines curse for me," mused Richard, who has never managed better than a second-place finish at this race despite record-breaking achievements at rallies on both sides of the border.
The notoriously difficult course of bumpy, twisting stage roads grew even more challenging throughout the day on Saturday as rain turned roads soupy and slick. The brutal race saw a packed field of nearly 50 entries plummet to just 21 finishers as competitor after competitor succumbed to the conditions.
Richard’s Subaru teammate Tom McGeer, six-time Canadian Champ, was among those sidelined. He suffered a race-ending problem with the transmission of his 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STi. Frank Sprongl, also six-time Champion, was sidelined early in the day.
Rival Andrew Comrie-Picard had managed to maintain a lead over L’Estage for most of the race, but as L’Estage finally pulled ahead, the Edmonton native crashed his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV off the road on a tough corner and failed to cross the finish line.
The win was long overdue for L’Estage, who has shown promise but earned inconsistent results throughout his career. A new car this year has failed to finish several events due to mechanical problems.
Second and third on the podium went to two-wheel drive rivals Jon Nichols from Lachine, Que. and Gord Olsen from Brooks, Alta. The two Volkswagen drivers have been locked in a tight battle for the class title all year, and this deciding race offered them the toughest contest of the season. Ultimately, it was Nichols' undisputed expertise on slick surfaces that earned him second-place overall and the 2004 Group 2 championship win.
It was another successful day for Suzuki factory team drivers Bill Bacon and Thierry Ménégoz, who both finished at the top of their class to lock up the P-2 production championship on Saturday.
The Rally of the Tall Pines marks the conclusion of the marketing and broadcast agreement between Rally Development Group (RDG) and CARS (Canadian Association of Rallysport) for the Canadian Rally Championship. As RDG found the agreement changes required by CARS unacceptable, their five-year agreement, scheduled to expire at the end of 2008, was terminated by CARS.
The Canadian Rally Championship is broadcast nationwide in prime time on Rogers Sportsnet and RDS and is the only Canadian motorsport series receiving exposure of this prominence. The complete TV schedule is available at www.CRC-Rally.com.
The Canadian Rally Championship is presented by Subaru and sanctioned by the Canadian Association of Rallysport.