Plentiful of action at the Défi Ste-Agathe/Duhamel...
Second consecutive victory for Antoine L'Estage
Duhamel (Quebec), September 11, 2005 - Already a race winner in July at the Baie-des-Chaleurs event, St-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu, Quebec's Antoine L'Estage captured a second victory last weekend - his third in the Canadian Rally Championship - when he finished first overall at the Défi Ste-Agathe/Duhamel held in the Laurentians, Quebec.
Aboard their Hyundai Tiburon 4WD, L'Estage and his co-driver Yanick Napert were quick from the word go, winning three of the opening four special stages held Friday night to vault into the overall lead. The domination of the L'Estage/Napert team resumed the following day on the difficult and challenging gravel roads that serpentine around the town of Duhamel in Park of Papineau-Labelle.
Antoine L'Estage emerged fastest in seven of the ten stages but unexpectedly came very close from losing everything on the penultimate stage when a problem with the boost of his turbo forced him to slow down. American Matt Iorio put an intense pressure on L'Estage from the start of the event and drove as hard as he could to snatch the lead from the Quebec driver. Unfortunately, Iorio flew off the road with less than just six kilometres to cover.
L'Estage managed to cross the line in first place despite his turbo problem. The intense fight for second place continued until the end and was extremely exciting. Second position was in fact decided on the ultimate stage. After Iorio left the road, several other competitors suffered from punctured tires. Making a return to competition in a more powerful Subaru Impreza WRX, Julien Pilon finally finished second despite a blown turbo! Pilon and his co-driver Marie-Ève Pilon drove a brilliant race, climbing from sixth to second place.
American driver Tim Penasak benefited from the retirements of Jon Nichols (broken wheel), Gord Olsen (broken wheel) and Sylvain Erickson (engine problem) to climb on the podium in third place overall. First on the points' table before the rally, Toronto's Peter Thomson endured a difficult time in the Laurentians. He lost several minutes in changing a flat tire and crossed the line in sixth place behind the Sprongl brothers aboard their Suzuki Swift + who again claimed victory in the 2-wheel drive category. After the Défi, Thomson still leads the standings but L'Estage has closed the gap on him.
The next round of the Canadian Rally Championship - the Pacific Forest Rally held in Merritt, British Columbia, October 15 - will be crucial in the Thomson-L'Estage race for the 2005 title.
The Canadian Rally Championship is in its 49th year of running and information about the series and other rallies in Canada can be found at www.carsrally.ca.