Antoine L'Estage Perce-Neige preview

ANTOINE L'ESTAGE IN THE HUNT FOR A THIRD CONSECUTIVE TITLE Already victorious in Michigan Since claiming victory at November's Rally of the Tall Pines, the last round of the Canadian Rally Championship, the off-season for Antoine L'Estage...

ANTOINE L'ESTAGE IN THE HUNT FOR A THIRD CONSECUTIVE TITLE
Already victorious in Michigan

Since claiming victory at November's Rally of the Tall Pines, the last round of the Canadian Rally Championship, the off-season for Antoine L'Estage and his co-driver, Nathalie Richard, has not been dormant. The duo from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec was honoured at the CARS annual banquet in Quebec as 2007 Canadian and North American Rally Champions. The following week, their Concerto Yokohama Hyundai Tiburon was one of the stars at the manufacturer's spectacular booth in the Montreal Auto Show. Only days later, the Concerto team and rally legend/car preparer John Buffum worked double time in order to attend and win Michigan's Sno*Drift Rally, the first event in the Rally America championship. With a victory already in the bank, the team set the wheels in motion in their hunt for a third consecutive Canadian title as well as back-to-back North American titles.

"It's been a very busy January for us, commented Antoine. We wanted to start the defence of our North American Championship early by going to the only American winter event, instead of waiting another month for their gravel rallies to begin. The win was doubly sweet, not only because it is a great start to the season but also because it was a good shakedown for the Canadian championship debut this weekend in Maniwaki, Quebec. The Yokohama tires are excellent on snow and ice surfaces, Nathalie and I continue to work very well together with our notes, and John Buffum provided a perfectly-prepared car for the event - and we didn't put a scratch on it! For Maniwaki, all that was needed mechanically was general check-up. As the longest rally of the season and with some of the longest stages we'll compete on all year, Perce-Neige is an endurance event. The Canadian championship consists of only six rounds, and therefore the result of each rally is extremely important. Our team's goal is to accumulate the maximum points possible at each and every event."

A perfect season ?

To maintain the titles they acquired last year, L'Estage and Richard may need to aim for perfection in 2008. Each event needs to be perfectly prepared for with no stone left unturned. The slightest error could have a huge impact on the overall championship standings. In Canada, even though they won five of the six rallies, L'Estage and Richard needed to wait until the last event of the season before claiming the title. "We will always be looking for victory, exclaimed the two-time champion. Thanks to partners such as Hyundai Canada, Concerto, and Yokohama, as well as everybody working with us on-site, we are a very competitive twosome. The victory in Michigan started our season off on the right foot and we're ready for another winning season. But we know the competition this year will be very strong."

One Perce-Neige, many decisions

The day before the rally, the teams get a chance to drive the competition roads at low speeds in order to write and perfect their pacenotes. The official start of 43rd running of the Rallye Perce-Neige will take place on Saturday morning, February 9th in Maniwaki, Quebec. Around 50 teams will run short special stages around the town before heading out to the Aigle Forest for a series of long stages on forest roads. "Good decisions need to be made in the afternoon, he adds, especially in terms of tires. We'll be battling it out on stages 30 to 45 kilometres in length and a bad tire choice could be catastrophic. Road conditions during our reconnaisance on Thursday, as well as the weekend weather, will be the deciding factors."

-credit: coyote rallye

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