Third win for Antoine L'Estage in 2006
Duhamel (Québec), September 10, 2006.- Quebec driver Antoine L'Estage, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and his co-driver Nathalie Richard, from Halifax, N.-S., won Défi Ste-Agathe/Duhamel, the fourth of six rounds in the Canadian Rally Championship. This win, paired with the problems encountered by his closest rivals, gives L'Estage a comfortable lead in the championship.
Having won Perce-Neige and Rocky Mountain rallies earlier in the season, Antoine L'Estage added this third win in four starts after driving long and tough timed stages in the Laurentians (Friday night stages in Sainte-Agathe) and in Petite nation regions (Montpellier and Duhamel on Saturday). It is a first victory with Nathalie Richard, his new co-driver. It should also be mentioned that L'Estage becomes the second driver, after John Buffum in the late 80s, to win Defi twice in a row.
On Friday night, Sylvain and Chloé Erickson, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4, had moved into the lead after the first leg on Friday night, with a 13-second lead on L'Estage/Richard. Knowing that L'Estage would push to the limit as soon as the rally got into the long stages on dirt roads, around Duhamel's Lac Gagnon, everybody expected an epic battle between the two, both for the victory and the championship. Unfortunately, an overheating engine put an end to the Erickson team as soon as they got into the first long stage. But the rally was far from over for the L'Estage/Richard team as another Mitsubishi, in the hands of Andrew Comrie-Picard and co-driver Marc Goldfarb, tried to move past. Scoring two best times, Torontonian Comrie-Picard never gave up. He finished one minute and 18 seconds behind L'Estage.
Third at finish and still a potential winner for the championship, Matthew Iorio and co-driver Ole Holter, in a Subaru Impreza WRX, were given a 10-minute penalty for moving backwards out of a control zone. This costly error for Iorio in championship points is a bonus for Norm Leblanc (Pemberton, B.-C.) and co-driver Keith Morison (Calgary, AB), also in a Subaru Impreza WRX. It is also their first podium this year.
In the top 6 are Mathieu and Laurence-fanny L'Estage (Subaru Impreza WRX), Jean-Paul Pérusse and Marcel-Paul Raymond (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6) and Bruno Carré/Yvan Joyal who were having their first ride in a Subaru Impreza WRX. Ontarians Peter Reilly and Phillip Assad came in seventh place in their VW Golf 4WD.
In the drivers' Championship, Antoine L'Estage leads with 67 points, followed by Sylvain Erickson with 45 points, Matthew Iorio with 41 points, Norm Leblanc with 34, Frank Sprongl with 32 points and Mathieu L'Estage, Antoine's younger brother, with 31 points. Only these six drivers may now mathematically win this year's championship.
The next round will be the Pacific Forest Rally, held in the Merritt area, northeast of Vancouver in British Columbia, on October 13 and 14. All information pertaining to the series and the competitors is available on the Canadian Association of Rallysport website, at www.carsrally.ca.