Perce-Neige: Series round one summary

Antoine L'Estage wins season opening showdown at Rallye Perce Neige MANIWAKI, Quebec (CARS Media) -- Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard of St Jean-sur-Richlieu, Que., started the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship presented by Subaru and ...

Antoine L'Estage wins season opening showdown at Rallye Perce Neige

MANIWAKI, Quebec (CARS Media) -- Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard of St Jean-sur-Richlieu, Que., started the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship presented by Subaru and supported by Yokohama, with a win at the legendary Rallye Perce Neige The rally featured an exceptionally strong field that included six former winners, and some of the most trying conditions this rally has ever seen.

Antoine L'Estage and co-driver, Nathalie Richard, came to the event with their brand new Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi EVO X and planned to use the event to develop the car. After almost 200kms of competition, the reigning North American Rally Champions had a winning margin of just four seconds.

"It's absolutely amazing, unbelievable," said L'Estage at the finish. "We came here expecting to be slower, and just learn the car, but other people had problems and we got faster. I'm very, very happy with the result."

Second place went to Sylvain and Philip Erickson of Gatineau, Que. Showing his traditional aggressive driving style, Erickson pulled into the lead in the afternoon, but slipped to their final podium position behind L'Estage after encountering engine trouble and pacenote problems.

"I am very happy to have finished on the podium," said Sylvain Erickson."It was a tough event and not everything went how we wanted, but we've made it here to the podium as the fastest Subaru."

Third place goes to Peter Thomson of Toronto, and Rod Hendricksen of Clinton, N.J. The two have not run very many events this past year, but were able to stay clean the entire event and finish up on the podium.

"It's a bit unexpected, but it's great to get the podium," said Thomson. "We just tried to do our own thing and let everyone else make mistakes."

The 2009 Rallye Perce Neige Maniwaki featured a strong and very deep field. Multiple champions including Antoine L'Estage, Pat Richard, Frank Sprongl and Peter Thomson as well as others to watch in the form of Craig Henderson, Nick Mathew and Chris Martin were on hand to contest the Rallye Perce Neige. Many of these drivers are expected to contest the full Canadian Rally Championship.

Former Canadian Rally Champion, Frank Sprongl of Georgetown, Ont., took the early lead and won nearly every stage. A time penalty was assessed in the early afternoon and Sprongl was fighting to make up the time but crashed late in the day, ending his rally.

Defending Canadian Rally Champions, Subaru Rally Team Canada's Pat Richard of Squamish, B.C., and Alan Ockwell of Toronto were leading the event when their engine blew near the end of the rally.

Brothers Jan and Jody Zedril, from Winnipeg, were the fastest two-wheel drive car, finishing 14th overall in their 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer. The duo run in the Group 2 class, reserved for modified two wheel drive cars.

The Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki 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 included a grueling 195 kilometers of fast competitive stages over ice and snow.

"It's a fantastic start to the season, we had a really deep field here. That we had six drivers who have all won here before is pretty amazing," said Terry Epp, the National Series Manager for the Canadian Association of Rallysport.

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, supported by Yokohama Canada and features contingency programs from Subaru Canada and Mitsubishi Canada. The Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) is the official sanctioning body for rallying in Canada.

The series moves west for the next round of the championship, the Rocky Mountain Rally, May 29-30 in Calgary, Alberta.

Full coverage of the championship will air on RDS and TSN. Check local listings.

Rallye Perce Neige Maniwaki Final Results (full results at www.rallyscoring.com)

1) Antoine L'Estage -- Nathalie Richard (Mitsubishi EVO X) -- 1 hours 59 min. 17 sec.

2) Sylvain Erickson -- Philip Erickson (Subaru Impreza STI) -- 1:59:21

3) Peter Thomson -- Rod Hendricksen (Mitsubishi EVO IX) -- 2:03:26

4) Bruno Carre -- Yvan Joyal (Subaru Impreza STI) -- 2:04:26

5) Jean-Sebastien Besner -- Jacques Besner (Mitsubishi EVO VIII) -- 2:12:03

6) Craig Henderson -- Lyne Murphy (Subaru Impreza STI) -- 2:12:37

7) Rejean Losier -- Francois Morin (Mitsubishi EVO VIII) -- 2:13:35

8) Martin Losier -- Patrick Losier (Mitsubishi EVO V) -- 2:13:41

9) Chris Martin -- Phil Narini (Subaru Impreza) -- 2:16:23

10) Andrew Wallbank -- Robin Fleguel (Subaru Impreza STI) -- 2:18:09

-credit: crc

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