PAT RICHARD FLIRTS WITH DISASTER TO WIN RALLYE BAIE DES CHALEURS
NEW RICHMOND, QUEBEC, July 3, 2010 - Pat Richard (Squamish, BC) and Alan Ockwell (Toronto) of Subaru Rally Team Canada won the 2010 Rallye Baie des Chaleurs in a total time of two hours, zero minutes and 30 seconds after narrowly avoiding disaster on the final stage. The New Richmond based Rallye Baie des Chaleurs is the third round of the Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Subaru and supported by Yokohama.
Attrition struck competitors hard, with more than half of the field failing to finish the rally. Known for its long and demanding stages, Rallye Baie des Chaleurs is hard on cars and crews alike. Those teams lucky enough to finish the event often do so while sustaining damage to their cars, making survival a key part of any winning strategy.
Although two crashes delayed the start of the final stage, conditions for the 2010 Rallye Baie des Chaleurs were good. Clear skies and warm temperatures meant that thousands of spectators were able to enjoy the thrilling live action of rally car racing.
"It was a great event," said Stephane Roussel, organiser of the Rallye Baie des Chaleurs. "The long stage roads at Rallye Baie des Chaleurs add to the event and keep things interesting."
"I got caught out, it was pretty embarrassing," said defending Canadian rally champion Richard, who rolled his car five kilometers from the finish of the last stage while leading the event. "A win is a win, and this is really important for the championship, so for that I am happy."
Richard had driven a near perfect rally to that point, and had built what appeared to be a secure lead. Landing back on their wheels after the roll, the team sprinted for the finish. The pair crossed the finish line, a large jump surrounded by spectators, with a smashed windshield and hood and flames flashing out from the engine bay.
Young talent Leo Urlichich (Thornhill, ON) and Christine Beavis (San Diego) were one of the few teams to avoid trouble, driving a clean event to a secure second place finish, his first national podium finish.
"Everyone told me I couldn't throw away my position," said an ecstatic Urlichich, who is proving his early nickname of "Crazy" Leo no longer applies. "The last stage is probably the best in North America. It has a bit of everything."
Bruno Carre and Yvan Joyal (Laval, QC), current Canadian Rally Championship leaders, kept a ten point lead in the championship with a third place finish while title rivals struggled with problems throughout the rally.
"The car was perfect for the last two stages," said Carre, who clipped a bridge early on the second day of action, narrowly avoiding being knocked out of the rally. Carre has shown flashes of brilliance in the past, but his consistency this season has combined with misfortune for other teams, showing the importance of staying clean and finishing an event are as critical to success as outright speed.
"It is good to be leading the championship, but there are still three events left, and I think Pat Richard and Antoine L'Estage will show us why they have both won championships."
Brothers Jan and Jody Zedril (Winnipeg) took the top spot in two wheel drive after a heated battle with three other competitors. Separated by less than 30 seconds after the first day of action, all four teams attacked on Saturday. Two teams were knocked out of the rally as conditions took their toll. The Zedrils were left to battle with veteran driver Sylvain Vincent and co-driver Simon Vincent. Eventually, the Zedrils found a winning rhythm and carved out a lead of over one minute heading into the finish.
"All afternoon we were both in it," said co-driver Jody Zedril, after the team had trouble gelling earlier in the event. "This has been the best two wheel drive entry we've seen since we started rallying in Canada back in 2007."
Championship contenders Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard (Ste-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) endured a punishing start to the rally. Shortly before technical inspection, their car broke down, and was unable to be repaired for competition. Luckily, the team was able to borrow a spare car brought by Leo Urlichich. The team battled both the field and a few ongoing problems with the car, eventually finishing sixth.
"The last stage we finally had a good run, and I drove like mad," said L'Estage. "Unfortunately, it was not enough to make up for the time already lost. I have to thank Leo though. Without him, we would not even have been able to run at all."
The championship battle moves into the mountains north of Montreal, Quebec for the Rallye Defi. Rough and technical roads help the rally live up to its name, French for challenge.