Victory and championship for Antoine L'Estage

Bancroft (Ontario), November 25, 2007.- The last event of the Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Subaru and Castrol, was run this past weekend in Bancroft, Ontario, on snow and ice covered roads. Driver Antoine L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard, both from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (QC) had a perfect weekend, winning the event and the championship for drivers and co-drivers. It's a second title for L'Estage and Richard, who are also North-American champions for 2007.

Due to bad weather conditions, the rally proved to be difficult for several top teams who finished their rally off-road. Among them are Andrew Comrie-Picard (Toronto, ON) and Marc Goldfarb (Atkinson, NH) in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. Comrie-Picard still had a mathematical chance of winning the championship but two off-roads, the second one definitive, ended his hopes. Two other potential winner teams were forced to retire after going off-road: Peter Thomson (Toronto, ON)/Rod Hendricksen (Clinton, NJ), in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8, and Americans Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino, in a Subaru Impreza WRX STi.

So most of the rally showcased the dual between L'Estage/Richard and Frank Sprongl (Georgetown, ON)/Brian Maxwell (Port Hope, ON), in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7. Sprongl, six-times Canadian rally champion and a crowd favorite back in the 1990s, took the lead in the first third of the rally, but L'Estage gained command and led the rest of the way. Shortly before the halfway mark, the rally was so hard fought, both teams were equal at the top.

Rookie team Craig Henderson/Lyne Murphy, from Saint-Constant, QC, makes up the top three. In their Subaru Impreza WRX and running their fourth national rally ever, the team amazed everyone, avoiding pitfalls and pushing top teams in every stage.

Fourth in this Tall Pines, third overall and champions in their Production 4 class, Martin Gauvin and Daniel Duchesneau, both from New Richmond, QC, in a Subaru Impreza WRX, also gave a solid performance. Gauvin/Duchesneau lead Americans Ted and Lise Mendham (Subaru Impreza WRX) and Ontario rookie driver Leonid Urlichich/American co-driver Dave Shindle. Driving a Subaru Impreza WRX STi that used to be driven by former Canadian champion Tom McGeer, Ulrichich also had a very good drive in this rally where he could pass as a local, since he is from Peterborough, south of Bancroft.

In the final standings, drivers' championship, Antoine L'Estage finishes first with 124 points. He leads Andrew Comrie-Picard (88), Martin Gauvin (44), Craig Henderson (33), Gord Olsen (24) and Ted Mendham (21). In the co-drivers' championship, Nathalie Richard wins with 124 points, and leads Marc Goldfarb (71), Daniel Duchesneau (44), Brian Maxwell (34), Lyne Murphy (33) and Todd Patola (24). In the manufacturers' championship, Hyundai wins with 112 points, ahead of Mitsubishi (92) and Subaru (76).

The fifty-second season of the Canadian Rally Championship will start on February 9, 2008, with the presentation of Rallye Perce-Neige, in Maniwaki (QC).

Filming of the 2007 championship for TV has been provided by ATV Productions. For more information on the Canadian Rally Championship and rally events, please visit www.carsrally.ca.

Rally of the Tall Pines final standings (complete results on www.rallyscoring.com):

1) Antoine L'Estage -- Nathalie Richard (Hyundai Tiburon 4WD) -- 2 hours 00 min. 22 sec.

2) Frank Sprongl -- Brian Maxwell (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.7) -- 2h01'32

3) Craig Henderson -- Lyne Murphy (Subaru Impreza WRX) -- 2h10'10

4) Martin Gauvin -- Daniel Duchesneau (Subaru Impreza WRX) -- 2h11'10

5) Ted Mendham -- Lise Mendham (Subaru Impreza WRX) -- 2h14'21

6) Leonid Urlichich -- Dave Shindle (Subaru Impreza WRX STi) -- 2h14'56

7) Peter Reilly -- Phil Assad (Volkswagen Golf AWD) -- 2h17'33

8) Martin Losier -- Francois Morin (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.5) -- 2h18'13

9) John Cassidy -- Dave Getchell (Subaru Impreza WRX STi) -- 2h19'02

10) John Vanos -- Jeff Secor (Subaru Impreza WRX STi) -- 2h19'10

-credit: crc