ANTOINE L'ESTAGE, 50TH CANADIAN CHAMPION!
Bancroft, ON - November 26, 2006.- This past weekend was the last round of the 2006 Canadian Rally Championship season. Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC, won the event, confirming a number of titles: overall champion for L'Estage, the Ladies' Cup for Richard and the marques' championship for Hyundai.
In the absence of many favorites, this edition of the Tall Pines was run under perfect weather. It promised an epic battle between L'Estage and Toronto driver Andrew Comrie-Picard, in a Mitsubishi Lancer, co-driven by Marc Goldfarb, from New Hampshire. Unfortunately, in the very first stage, Comrie-Picard/Goldfarb were victims of transmission problems and, in the following stage, they had to retire with electrical problems. From then on, Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard had no problem pacing their rally. They won all the stages and finished with more than a four minute lead on the next team.
In second place was rookie driver Richard Wong, from Markham, ON. Ex-mechanic for six-times champion Tom McGeer, Wong, with American co-driver Dave Shindle, offered quite a show in his Subaru Impreza. Wong's performance is even more significant when one considers he finished ahead of legendary driver Jean-Paul Pérusse, in a Mitsubishi Lancer. For the Montreal driver, it was a second podium at Tall Pines^Å 33 years after the first one when he won the rally in 1973! Pérusse, who for this occasion was co-driven by Martin Headland, just like in the 70s and 80s, can look back over a fruitful rallying career.
Fourth position also offered quite a spectacular battle between, John Vanos (Markham, ON) and co-driver Alan Ockwell (Stouffville, ON), in a Subaru Impreza, winning by four seconds over Frank Sprongl (Georgetown, ON) and Brian Maxwell (Port Hope, ON), in a Production 2 Suzuki Swift +. A Honda Civic, with driver Maxime Labrie (Laprairie, QC) and co-driver Jean-François Guité (Maria, QC), rounded up the top 6. With his sixth place finish, Labrie and Guité won the Group 2 title in the championship while ensuring Honda won the Group 2 marques' championship.
2006 marks the 50th season of the Canadian Rally Championship, a record for a motorsports series in Canada. In the final overall drivers' championship, Antoine L'Estage becomes the new reigning champion with 106 points, ahead of Matthew Iorio, 63 points; Norm LeBlanc, 48; Sylvain Erickson, 45; Frank Sprongl, 42 and Mathieu L'Estage, 31. Ole Holter, Matthew Iorio's co-driver, wins the co-drivers' championship, leading Nathalie Richard, Chloé Erickson and Keith Morison.
Next season will debut with the Perce-Neige/Maniwaki Rally, on February 3, 2007, in western Québec. For more information on rallying and rally events, please visit the Canadian Association of Rallysport's website, at www.carsrally.ca.
Tall Pines Rally Final Results (complete results on www.rallyscoring.com):