Rallye International de Charlevoix preview

Champions face off in Canada's premier car rally. LA MALBAIE, Que. (Oct. 22/2002) - Canada's newly-crowned rally driving champion takes on his predecessor this weekend in the country's most grueling and prestigious car rally in the ...

Champions face off in Canada's premier car rally.

LA MALBAIE, Que. (Oct. 22/2002) - Canada's newly-crowned rally driving champion takes on his predecessor this weekend in the country's most grueling and prestigious car rally in the Charlevoix-Saguenay region of Quebec.

Pat Richard clinched the 2002 championship in late September when he took his fourth win of the year at the Rally of the Voyageurs in Ontario. But the 28-year-old from Vancouver will face tougher-than-usual competition on the Rallye International de Charlevoix, including five-time Canadian champion Tom McGeer.

The Charlevoix event, held since 1987, is Canada's most important rally. It is the eighth of nine rounds in the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama, but is longer and tougher than the others, as the country's candidate for inclusion in the world championship.

McGeer, 42, from Georgetown, Ont., has won three of the past four Charlevoix rallies and clinched his last two Canadian titles with victories here in 2000 and 2001. He has run few events this year, but triumphed in both of his two Canadian appearances, the Rallye de Quebec and the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs.

McGeer has also done a pair of rallies in the U.S., picking up a second place in Maine in July. Despite his limited schedule, he is Richard's main rival for the North American Rally Cup, which combines results from both countries.

Richard and McGeer, who both drive factory-backed Subaru Impreza WRXs, will also face challenges from a trio of European teams, plus 11-time U.S. champion John Buffum, who won here in 1999. He drives a Hyundai Tiberon.

While most Canadian rallies are single-day events without any practice, this one stretches over a week.

The teams were given three days, starting Monday, to do "reconnaissance" runs at legal speeds. Navigators prepare "pace notes," detailing the twists and turns of the roads. This should help the drivers go faster in competition.

The 31 cars will officially be sent on their way at a ceremonial wave-off at 6 p.m. on Thursday (Oct. 24) in La Malbaie outside the Manoir Richelieu, which will serve as rally headquarters. True competition gets underway early Friday morning on gravel roads in forests north of the town.

Over three days, the teams will cover a total of 1,246 kilometres, including 385 kilometres of special stages, the high-speed sections on roads temporarily closed to the public. The rally ends back in La Malbaie at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The event is being run to the standards of motorsport's worldwide governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, which is sending an official observer to assess its possible inclusion in the world championship.

Canada hosted world championship rallies five times in the 1960s and 1970s, but the last such event was the Criterium du Quebec in 1977. Indeed, the world championship has not visited North America since a U.S. event in 1988.

The European contingent in this year's rally includes Antony Warmbold, of Germany, in a Toyota Corolla; Auguste Turiani, of Monaco, in a Mitsubishi Lancer; and Pascal Linet, of France, in a Peugeot 206.

Warmbold is the son of Achim Warmbold, who won two world championship rallies in the 1970s. Turiani, who competes under the pseudonym "Tchine," is a veteran of more than 70 world championship events. This is his second appearance at Charlevoix. He finished sixth last year.

Local favorites include Sylvain Erickson, of Gatineau, in a Mitsubishi Lancer, currently second to Richard in the overall Canadian points standings, and two-time Quebec Cup champion Jon Nichols, of Lachine, in a Subaru Impreza WRX. He finished second to McGeer at Charlevoix last year.

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Series Other rally
Drivers Sylvain Erickson , Pat Richard , Jon Nichols , Tom McGeer , Antony Warmbold , John Buffum