Pat Richard wins DRAMATIC Rally of the Tall Pines, crowned Canadian Rally Champion

In a dramatic season finale, Pat Richard (Squamish, B.C.) and Alan Ockwell (Toronto) won the Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft, Ontario to clinch the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Subaru and supported by Yokohama.

"It's fantastic to repeat as champions," said Richard, who in winning the event, took his fourth overall title. "Now I have to win two more titles and tie the record!"

Transmission problems late in the day threatened to put the team out of the event, but the Subaru Impreza STI held up to get the pair into service where a new transmission was installed, allowing the two to continue. With this result, Richard and Ockwell also secured the manufacturer's title for Subaru Canada.

Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard (Saine-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.) had a heartbreaking event. The two-time Canadian and North American Champions had been leading into the final four stages when clutch problems prevented them from starting the last stage on time. As the pair struggled to get going, competitors passed them on the stage and the team watched not just the event win, but the Canadian Rally Championship title and North American Rally Cup title fall apart in front of them. They eventually got the car going, finishing fifth.

"It's been said that the highs in the this sport are really high, but that it can also be cruel," said L'Estage, "We definitely felt that today."

Andrew Comrie-Picard (Toronto) and Jeremy Wimpey (State College, PA) finished a strong second place in their NOS Mitsubishi EVO X. "We've just drove as hard as we could," said Comrie-Picard. "Our car isn't as developed as we'd like, so we knew we'd have to make it up in the driving."

For Comrie-Picard, this result secures him the North American Rally Cup driver's title.

Frank and Dan Sprongl (Georgetown, Ont.) were driving the second Subaru Rally Team Canada Impreza STI, finishing third. "We got quicker through the day," said Frank. "It's been three years since we've been in a car together, and two years since I have driven on gravel, so it's been a good weekend."

Two wheel drive competition was well represented, with 16 entries spread over three classes.

Michael Hordijk (Mars, PA) and Jessie Amend (Pittsburgh, PA) were the top two-wheel drive car in their VW TDI Golf, finishing 11th and winning the Group 5 class. Though the pair has rallied in the US, this marks their first event in Canada.

Martin Walter (North Gower, Ont.) and Ferdinand Trauttmansdorf (Ottawa) were the second place two wheel drive car in their Nissan 240 SX. The team finished in 13th overall. Third two wheel drive was Peter Kocandrle (Acton, Ont.) and Jimmy Brandt (Lake Odessa, MI) in a Suzuki Swift GT. Kocandrle and Brandt finished 14th overall and won the Group 2 class. Matt Barnes (Kitchener, Ont.) and Andrew Wallbank (Guelph, Ont.) finished 18th, winning the Production Sport class in a Toyota Paseo.

The 2009 Two Wheel Drive Championship driver's title went to Jan Zedril (Winnipeg), with Leanne Junnila (Calgary). The Group 2 title went to Jan and Jody Zedril (Winnipeg), while Neil and Lorna Wright (Ottawa) earned the Production Sport title. Production GT went to Hardy Schmidtke (Cochrane, Alta.) and Adam Vokes (Red Deer, Alta.). Nathalie Richard won the Ladies Championship, and Nick Mathew (Mississauga, Ont.) was the top novice driver.

"We had a record number of entries this year, with 51 cars at the start line," said rally coordinator Mike Koch. "We had unusually warm conditions, making it great for spectators to watch one of the deepest fields of the year in action."

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 kilometers 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.

Full coverage of the championship will air on RDS and TSN. Check local listings.

For more information: www.carsrally.ca or www.tallpinesrally.com

Rally of the Tall Pines Final Results (full results at www.tallpinesrally.com)

-credit: cars