Rallye Perce-Neige final summary

Antoine L'Estage takes first win of 2008 Canadian Rally Championship Presented by Subaru MANIWAKI, Quebec (CARS Media) -- Defending Canadian Rally Champion Antoine L'Estage took the first win of the 2008 Canadian Rally Championship Presented by...

Antoine L'Estage takes first win of 2008 Canadian Rally Championship Presented by Subaru

MANIWAKI, Quebec (CARS Media) -- Defending Canadian Rally Champion Antoine L'Estage took the first win of the 2008 Canadian Rally Championship Presented by Subaru on Saturday, besting a competitive field of top drivers at the Rallye Perce-Neige in Maniwaki, Quebec.

"It's a very good start, I'm very happy," said L'Estage at the finish.

It's the second win of the early season for him and co-driver Nathalie Richard, who also took victory at the U.S. season-opener two weeks ago. L'Estage said it took a push late in the day in his Hyundai Tiburon to secure the victory in icy conditions.

Andrew "ACP" Comrie-Picard and co-driver Marc Goldfarb finished second overall in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.

"It was a classic Perce Neige where anything can happen and fortunately it didn't happen to us," said Comrie-Picard. "There were some great drivers and we had a great time; it's going to be a very competitive year."

Just 14 seconds behind them were Subaru Canada's Pat Richard and co-driver Alan Ockwell in a 2007 Subaru WRX STI. It was an exciting return to the series for Richard. The two-time Canadian champion hasn't competed in a full Canadian national effort since 2004.

"We fought hard to come back and made it to third," he said. "It would have been nice to finish second or even first."

Richard is expected to debut a 2008 Subaru WRX STI, prepared for Subaru Canada by his own Rocket Rally shop, at the next Canadian round.

These three veteran drivers are expected to challenge for the championship title all season, but there is a deep field of fast teams -- including drivers Jon Nichols and Mathieu L'Estage (both in new Mitsubishi Evolution cars) and newcomer Leonid "Crazy Leo" Urlichich (in a Subaru WRX STI) -- who will also be pushing for the top three spots.

Brothers Jan and Jody Zedril, from Winnipeg, were the fastest two-wheel drive car, finishing 12th overall in their 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer. The duo are the defending North American Production class champions.

The Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki is the only true winter rally in the Canadian Rally Championship and is home to some of the longest stages on the continent. The event included a grueling 237 kilometers of fast competitive stages over ice and snow.

"It's a great start to the season, and we have a field that has never looked better," said Terry Epp, the National Series Manager for the Canadian Association of Rallysport.

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 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.

The series moves west for the next round of the championship, the Rocky Mountain Rally, May 23-24 in Calgary, Alberta.

-credit: crc

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Series Other rally
Drivers Antoine L'Estage , Pat Richard , Jon Nichols , Nathalie Richard , Marc Goldfarb , Alan Ockwell , Jody Zedril