ANTOINE L'ESTAGE AND NATHALIE RICHAR DOMINATE THE RALLY IN THE 100 ACRE WOOD
Salem (Missouri), February 27th, 2011. -- The 2010 Canadian, American, and North American Rally Champions, Antoine L'Estage of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Qc and Nathalie Richard of Halifax, NS won ten of the first twelve competitive stages to build up a lead as high as 44 seconds at Missouri's Rally of the 100 Acre Wood. This, the second round of the Rally America series, the premier rally championship in the United States, was eventually won by the Canadian duo ahead of their main rivals from the UK.
L'Estage and RIchard started off the rally by winning the first short spectator stage before heading out to the more challenging gravel roads near Steelville, Missouri. By the end of the first day, L'Estage drove his Rockstar Royal Group Misubishi to build up a gap of more than twenty-two seconds over former US and British Champion David Higgins. " Starting Day 2 with a comfortable lead was important to me. We only competed against David and his co-driver Craig Drew on a couple of stages at the last snow rally before we both DNF'd. We had a nice lead then too but I was really looking forward to seeing how we would compare on gravel " admits Antoine L'Estage, who adds : " it's great to have them here for us to use as a benchmark. I really look forward to more clean battles with them this year ".
The Rally in the 100 Acre Wood is known for its fast gravel competition roads. This past weekend, heavy rain on the eve of the rally caused some of the roads to be impassable and made for some very big watersplashes throughout the competition. Organizers were quick to come up with alternative routes without decreasing much of the overall rally mileage. The team's Yokohama tires were faultless on the combination of slick, loose, and dry road sections : " we did not have any problems with the Yokohamas at all. Sometimes when you push harder you take more risks and are more susceptible to punctures but I was very happy with the tires' grip and their reliability. John Buffum's Libra Racing shop once again prepared my Evo X perfectly and allowed me to drive a great event without any mechanical worries " indicates the reigning champion.
Heading into the remaining three stages of the rally, L'Estage and Richard's intent was to just manage their lead without taking any chances. They finished second on each of the three stages and eventually won the rally by almost eighteen seconds. " It's hard for drivers to not want to win every competitive stage " explains Nathalie Richard, Antoine's co-driver of five years. " They sometimes need to put their egos aside and finish a smart rally, which is what Antoine was able to do. He drove a fantastic rally and we're both very happy with the win. To top it off, it was Antoine's birthday and there's no better way to celebrate it than at the top of the podium! "
L'Estage and Richard are coming off an unprecedented 2010 season, which saw them win the Canadian, Rally America, and North American championships, as well as a bronze medal for Antoine at the Summer X Games. With the victory this past weekend in Missouri, as well as a victory earlier this month at Quebec's Rallye Perce Neige, the first event in the 2011 Canadian Rally Championship, L'Estage and Richard now lead the North American Rally Cup as well as the hunt for the Canadian title.
Antoine L'Estage holds three North American championship titles (2007, 2008, 2010), three Canadian titles (2006, 2007, 2010), one American title (2010), and twenty-seven overall victories in Canada and the US. Nathalie Richard holds six overall national championship titles (3 in Canada and 3 in the USA), as well as thirty-three overall rally wins on both sides of the border. She is also a six-time North American Co-Driving Champion (2004 -- 2010, excluding 2006).
Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard participate in the 2011 Rally America and Canadian Rally Championships with the support of Rockstar Energy Drink, Royal Group, Yokohama Tires, Mitsubishi Canada, Drenth Motorsport Gearboxes, Garrett Turbos, Energie Cardio, Libra Racing, Driver's Edge Autosport (OMP), and VP Racing Fuels. For more information on the team or on rallying in general, visit antoinelestage.com.
-source: coyote rallye