Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs race report

NEW RICHMOND, Que. (July 7/2001) - Canadian rally driving champion Tom McGeer took his fourth win of the season on Saturday as he dominated the 24th Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs on the Gaspe Peninsula of eastern Quebec. Driving a Subaru Impreza WRX,...

NEW RICHMOND, Que. (July 7/2001) - Canadian rally driving champion Tom McGeer took his fourth win of the season on Saturday as he dominated the 24th Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs on the Gaspe Peninsula of eastern Quebec.

Driving a Subaru Impreza WRX, with Mark Williams as navigator, the 41-year-old from Georgetown, Ont., completed 192.8 kms. of special stages - the competitive portions of the rally on roads temporarily closed to the public - in one hour, 58 minutes, eight seconds for an average speed of 97.92 kph.

McGeer was fastest on 14 of the 15 special stages and finished four minutes, 34 seconds ahead of Subaru Canada team-mate Pat Richard, of Vancouver. Jon Nichols, of Lachine, Que., finished third to complete a sweep of the podium positions by Subaru Impreza drivers.

This was McGeer's third victory on the Baie-des-Chaleurs - scene of his very first triumph in 1992 - the 13th win of his career and his eighth in the past nine rallies, a streak which began at this same event a year ago.

"This rally has always been one of my favorites," he said. "It has its own character. It's rough in places, the way rallies used to be. You have to work really hard and the car has to be well-built. That is why I like it."

The win extends McGeer's already-commanding lead in the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama. After five of eight rounds, he now has 80 points, more than double the total of second-placed Richard, with 38. Sylvain Erickson, of Gatineau, Que., failed to finish and slipped to third with 37.

McGeer, already a four-time Canadian champion, could clinch his fifth title at the next event, the Rally of the Voyageurs in northern Ontario in September.

The Baie-des-Chaleurs, one of the best-supported rallies in Canada with 3,000 spectators in places, was based out of New Richmond on the southern coast of the Gaspe. It took place mostly on gravel roads in the forests to the north and east of the town. The first six special stages were held on Friday night.

McGeer built up a lead of more than two minutes on Friday and said he was then able to "cruise" on Saturday, driving well within his abilities and playing it safe on blind corners and crests.

Richard, his team-mate and closest challenger through most of the rally, was quickest on one stage, but was never a serious threat. His Impreza is a regular street model; McGeer's is a much-modified and more powerful version.

Richard, with navigator Ian McCurdy, of Whistler, B.C., took top honors in the Production class by almost 14 minutes. His second-place overall finish matched his best previous result (on the Rocky Mountain Rally in Alberta in May).

Nichols, who finished less than a minute behind Richard, was making his debut in an Impreza entered by the Subaru Lachute dealership. He is a four-time champion of the Group 2 class - for two-wheel-drive cars - and had only once before rallied a four-wheel-drive car.

"It's a lot of fun," said Nichols, who had Eric Tremblay, of St-Chrisostome, Que., as his navigator. "I'm still learning the car. It's got a lot of brute power. But about halfway through, I started to get some real confidence."

Jean-Sebastien Besner, of Montreal, with father Jacques navigating, finished fourth in a Mitsubishi Lancer. Antoine L'Estage, of L'Acadie, Que., and navigator Yanick Napert, of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., were fifth overall and second in the Production class in their Eagle Talon.

Several expected frontrunners fell by the wayside on Friday's opening stages, most notably Erickson, second in points coming to this event. He ran second to McGeer through the first three stages, but then suffered a transmission failure on his Mazda 323 GTR.

Barry Latreille, of Williamston, Ont., went off the road and rolled his Eagle Talon. He and his navigator, wife Sandra, walked away unhurt, but said that their car is a write-off. They will likely sit out the rest of this season and return with a new car next year.

Shortly afterwards, John Paynter rolled his Subaru Impreza. Paynter, of East Sackville, N.S., the third factory Subaru driver, broke a bone in his right hand. His navigator, brother Clarke, was not injured.

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RESULTS of the RALLYE BAIE-DES-CHALEURS

Round 5 of the Subaru Canadian Rally Championship, presented by Yokohama

(driver, navigator, hometowns, car, time)

1. Tom McGeer, Georgetown, Ont. / Mark Williams, Maryland, Subaru Impreza WRX, 1h58m08s; 2. Pat Richard, Vancouver / Ian McCurdy, Whistler, B.C., Subaru Impreza WRX, 2h02m42s; 3. Jon Nichols, Lachine, Que. / Eric Tremblay, St-Chrisostome, Que., Subaru Impreza WRX, 2h03m34s; 4. Jean-Sebastien Besner / Jacques Besner, Montreal, Mitsubishi Lancer, 2h06m03s; 5. Antoine L'Estage, L'Acadie, Que. / Yanick Napert, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., Eagle Talon, 2h16m37s; 6. Bruno Laverdiere, Laval, Que. / B. Gilles Lacroix, Mirabel, Que., Eagle Talon, 2h17m11s; 7. Pierre Bazinet, Bellefeuille, Que. / David Shindle, Maryland, Subaru Impreza RS, 2h17m27s; 8. Dominique Jullien, Belgium / Hughes Cyr, New Richmond, Que., Mitsubishi Lancer, 2h17m58s; 9. Stephane Levesque / Jerry Plourde, Quebec, Toyota Corolla, 2h18m28s; 10. Martin Gauvin / Dan Duscheneau, Quebec, Toyota MR-2, 2h18m41s.

DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP (after 5/8 rounds): 1. McGeer, 60 points; 2. Richard, 38; 3. Sylvain Erickson, Gatineau, Que., 37; 4. Nichols, 34; 5. John Paynter, East Sackville, N.S., 32.

-CARS

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Sylvain Erickson , David Shindle , Antoine L'Estage , Yanick Napert , Pat Richard , Jon Nichols , Tom McGeer , Mark Williams
Teams Williams