Tall Pines: Season finale preview

Stage set for final showdown at the Rally of the Tall Pines BANCROFT, Ontario -- Unpredictable weather and challenging roads set the stage for a fierce final showdown at Canada's rally season ender, the Rally of the Tall Pines, November 20-22,...

Stage set for final showdown at the Rally of the Tall Pines

BANCROFT, Ontario -- Unpredictable weather and challenging roads set the stage for a fierce final showdown at Canada's rally season ender, the Rally of the Tall Pines, November 20-22, in Bancroft, Ontario.

Subaru Rally Team Canada's Pat Richard and co-driver Alan Ockwell have already secured the Canadian championship title, but defending champions Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard are looking for redemption in what has been a frustrating Canadian season.

There will be plenty to fight for at Tall Pines, with the Hyundai team of L'Estage and Nathalie Richard in close contention with Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino for the North American Rally Cup - a series which scores a team's best six events on both sides of the Canada-US border. These three top factory teams are all out for a big win at this final event of the season.

"I've won Tall Pines three times, and we're ready to win again this year" says L'Estage. "The North American Rally Cup has only been won by one American in the past seven years, and I want to make sure it stays that way!"

But their biggest challengers for the title aren't going to make it easy. Subaru Rally Team USA's Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino are looking to wrap up the title on L'Estage's turf.

"Antoine has won two races in our U.S. championship and it's my goal to win my second this year in his," said Block. "It's going to be a battle, and I plan on standing on the top of that podium at the end."

Block made his rally debut at Tall Pines several years ago and has since made it a regular stop on his competition calendar. The event ended early for Block in 2007 after he slid off the road.

"It's great to have won the title, but we really want to win at Tall Pines," said Patrick Richard. "It's great not to have to worry about championship points so we'll be pushing really hard."

Andrew "ACP" Comrie-Picard and guest co-driver Chrissie Beavis will make the gravel debut of the team's Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X -- a first in North America.

Also entered is Block's Monster Energy teammate Dave Mirra, a BMX legend who has recently made the switch from two wheels to four.

More than 40 teams are expected to take the start at this event, including a diverse two-wheel drive entry including historic cars such as a 1978 Datsun 280Z, and a 1976 Ford Cortina GT. Zebe Szewczyk has made the trek from Alberta in his blazing yellow Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, and there are a number of production entries fighting for class wins.

Tall Pines Rally also marks the culmination of Subaru and Mitsubishi's 2008 contingency award programs, and they will be awarding thousands of dollars in prize money to the top competitors in each marque based on event and season standings.

The storied Rally of the Tall Pines is an event that features some of the toughest driving challenges in North America, with conditions often referred to as "winter roads with summer ditches".

The cold weather in the region at this time of year means the roads can become snow or ice covered, but drivers will not have the benefit of snow banks to keep them on the road. A small mistake can have big consequences at this event.

The Rally of the Tall Pines is one of the most spectator-friendly in the series, and this year will include a new Super Special stage minutes from downtown Bancroft. The rally is held November 20-22, 2008, and includes more than 150 kilometers of competitive stages run in the Canadian Shield setting around Bancroft, Ontario.

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 kilometres 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 Tire 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.

-credit: cars

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Series RALLY