FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 14, 2008
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Bethel, Maine — Driver Antoine L’Estage and his co-driver Nathalie Richard, from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu (Québec), had been exchanging times with Irishman Niall McShea, the 2004 FIA Production World Champion, at the New England Forest Rally this past weekend. At the wheel of their Royal Group Yokohama Hyundai Tiburon, the L’Estage/Richard duo were beating all their regular opponents before any chance of victory slipped through their hands with a seized motor on the very last competitive stage of the rally.
"It’s pretty disappointing because we always set out to win and we had a good record of two wins in three US starts this year. We had never planned to be in the hunt for the 2008 Rally America title so the pressure wasn’t really on our shoulders for that but at the same time, had we finished today, we would’ve been leading the championship!" explained Antoine. "The most important thing to me is that we are able to keep the pace with a world champion and battle the faster, newer, and more powerful cars in the series," he adds. Throughout competition Saturday, L’Estage took back nine seconds on the eventual winner before the Quebecois’ engine failure.
Just prior to the start of the rally, the thought of battling for first place seemed almost unreachable for Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard. The team drew the dreaded position of first on the road, meaning they would involuntarily “sweep” loose gravel from the competitive roads, enabling cleaner, faster runs for the teams behind them. Nevertheless, the Royal Group Yokohama Hyundai finished the first day in the top three. "This weekend I truly felt how much of a disadvantage it is to start first on Friday’s types of roads. We lost a lot of time as a result but we finished the day respectably," indicated L’Estage.
The second day of the event started off well for L’Estage and Richard, winning the first stage of the day and reducing the gap to first place. "In three stages we were able to take back 11 seconds to first place and were just 17 seconds behind with 27 miles remaining," adds Antoine L’Estage. With a podium finish in sight, the team from Quebec succumbed to a seized motor and came to a dead stop on the stage. "It happens – it’s mechanical and there’s nothing I can do about it. I’d prefer to focus on the fact that I swapped times with a world champion, that Nathalie once again did a fantastic job by my side, and that our mechanics are some of the best around. We had great Yokohama tires to choose from and we were one of the few teams that did not suffer from flat tires throughout the entire rocky-surfaced event," concludes Antoine.
"The results will show that we didn’t finish but we were the only ones who came close to potentially depriving Niall and his co-driver Marshall Clarke of the win. Antoine drove a great rally and afterwards, we got as many congratulations as if we had won!" indicated Nathalie Richard.
The team, wearing the Royal Group and Yokohama colours for their US campaign, is participating in a partial programme in the Rally America series, as well as the entire Canadian Rally Championship.
The next stop for the team will be July 31st, August 1st and 2nd in a unique competition: the X Games in Los Angeles. This will be the 14th edition of the X Games, known as the Olympics of extreme sports, for which the team qualified following their two victories in the first half of the Rally America season.
As for the Canadian Rally Championship, Quebec’s Rallye Défi Ste-Agathe/Montpelier will take place on September 5th and 6th.
Information: Martine Nadeau 514-843-4160, ext 221 / cell 514-238-0568