Perce-Neige round one preview

Top talent set for snowy Round 1 of the Canadian Rally Championship Presented by Subaru STOUFFVILLE, Ontario (CARS Media) -- The nation's top rally drivers are set to kick off the 2008 Canadian Rally Championship Presented by Subaru February...

Top talent set for snowy Round 1 of the Canadian Rally Championship Presented by Subaru

STOUFFVILLE, Ontario (CARS Media) -- The nation's top rally drivers are set to kick off the 2008 Canadian Rally Championship Presented by Subaru February 8-9 at the Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki.

Defending Canadian champion driver Antoine L'Estage and his co-driver Nathalie Richard will battle it out against the best of the rest at the winter-weather event in the Gatineau region of Quebec. The Hyundai-supported driver has claimed back-to-back Canadian Rally Champion titles.

"We've won the championship for the past two years and everyone wants to take that from us," said L'Estage, who pilots a top-spec Hyundai Tiburon. "We're going to have to work hard to win again this year."

But they'll be keeping a close eye on 2007 event winners and series runners-up Andrew "ACP" Comrie-Picard and co-driver Marc Goldfarb in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Snow specialist Sylvain Erickson and co-driver Chloe Erickson are also sure to be a threat in their brand-new Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

"The Canadian rally championship is looking awesome for 2008," said Comrie-Picard. "The competition is going to be incredible."

There's no doubt the field will be blisteringly fast at the tricky winter rally. L'Estage and Comrie-Picard recently finished one-two at the U.S. season opener, and Erickson is a snow and ice veteran.

"This is an exciting time for rallysport in Canada," said Jorge Dascollas, President of the Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS). "With extensive contingency support programs announced by Subaru and Mitsubishi, the series is set to enjoy some of the most intense competition in North America."

Two-time Canadian champion Pat Richard will also return to the series with a Subaru factory effort in 2008, but it's not yet certain whether he'll attend the season opener.

Also, 2005 champion driver Peter Thomson, and western two-wheel drive contenders Eric Grochowski, from Calgary, and the Zedril brothers -- 2007 Production class champions from Winnipeg - are expected to compete.

The Rallye Perce Neige is the only true winter rally in the Canadian Rally Championship and is home to some of the longest stages on the continent. The event, held from February 8 - 10, includes 237 kilometers of competitive stages.

Rally car racing is often described simply as "real cars, real roads, real fast." The all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over closed-road courses that typically cover more than 150 kilometers of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Fans can get up close to the cars in the service areas and catch all the action from specially designated spectator points located at the best spots on the route.

The Canadian Rally Championship is comprised of six events held nationwide in a season that extends from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, features contingency programs from Subaru Canada and Mitsubishi Canada. The Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) is the official sanctioning body for rallying in Canada.

-credit: cars

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Series RALLY