L'ESTAGE WINS RALLY AMERICA SEASON OPENER AFTER PASTRANA STRIKES DEER Canadian Snow Rallying Specialist Takes Victory After Race Leader Pastrana Strikes Deer ATLANTA, Mich., Jan. 28, 2008 -- Canadian Antoine L'Estage won the Sno*Drift...
L'ESTAGE WINS RALLY AMERICA SEASON OPENER AFTER PASTRANA STRIKES DEER
Canadian Snow Rallying Specialist Takes Victory After Race Leader Pastrana Strikes Deer
ATLANTA, Mich., Jan. 28, 2008 -- Canadian Antoine L'Estage won the Sno*Drift rally, the first round of the 2008 Rally America National Championship Series season, after race leader and two-time series champion Travis Pastrana struck a deer and retired late in the event.
Fellow Canadian and winter-driving veteran Andrew Comrie-Picard -- who won the event in 2006 -- earned second place. Eighteen-year-old American Kyle Sarasin, the 2007 Rally America rookie of the year, finished third overall in his debut in the series' elite Open class.
"I'm very happy for our win, but I'm speechless," said L'Estage. "Travis was the designated winner. He beat everybody -- until the end. It's a very good start to the year for us."
L'Estage and co-driver Nathalie Richard, the 2007 Canadian rally champions, plan to compete in select Rally America events in 2008 in addition to a full Canadian rally series schedule.
Matthew Johnson, the 2007 Rally America PGT champion, performed well in his move to Open class competition for 2008, finishing fourth overall.
BMX superstar Dave Mirra, who was making his American rally debut at Sno*Drift, finished 18th overall in a Subaru Impreza fielded by Vermont SportsCar.
What had looked like an easy victory for Subaru Rally Team USA driver Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom turned to disaster when they hit a deer on the course late in the rally, causing irreparable damage to their car and forcing them out of the race.
The duo, who had led the contest from the start, was almost two minutes ahead of the rest of the field when the accident occurred on the 16th of 17 stages in the Sno*Drift event. Both Pastrana and Edstrom were unhurt.
The snowy and icy course conditions at Sno*Drift -- the only winter-weather event in Rally America's nine-event championship -- were treacherous, and several podium contenders ran into trouble that knocked them out of contention.
Last season's championship runner-up, Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team Andrew Pinker and co-driver Robbie Durant, found themselves out of the rally before it really began. The pair retired early on Day 1 with a blown engine in their Subaru WRX STi rally car.
Their teammates Tanner Foust and Chrissie Beavis were charging hard on Day 2 when they wound up in a snow bank and lost seven minutes trying to get out.
Pastrana and Edstrom's Subaru Rally Team USA teammates Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino also ran into trouble on Day 2, losing 10 minutes to an off-road excursion.
The nine-event 2008 Rally America National Championship season continues with the Rally in the 100 Acre Wood from Feb. 22-23 in Salem, Mo.
Quotes from selected Rally America National Championship Series drivers following the season-opening Sno*Drift Rally from Jan. 25-26 in Atlanta, Mich.:
ANTOINE L'ESTAGE (First place) (No. 17 Royal Group Yokohama Hyundai Tiburon): "I have mixed feelings. I'm happy, but at the same time, I feel so bad for (Pastrana and Edstrom) because they did a great rally. They were the fastest, but we'll take the win. On those last stages, we were cruising to the end, but we'll take it. We worked hard. I don't like to win like that, but sometimes that's the way it is. It's happened to me before." (About the Sno*Drift rally): "It was the first time I had run Sno*Drift, and there were a few tricky spots where I made some mistakes. We took notice of that, and it will be different next year if we come back. It's a great rally, with very challenging roads, different surfaces and changing rhythms. It's a nice event."
ANDREW COMRIE-PICARD (Second place) (No. 20 Slowboy Racing Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX): "It's an awesome result. We were actually not going as fast as we could have all weekend, and I felt really frustrated by that. The car wasn't set up right. I was having trouble under braking, so I couldn't really go that fast, but in the end, that sort of helped us out because we didn't make any big mistakes. That's the real key in a snow rally -- to just suck less than everybody else, like we did two years ago when we won. You just have to be there at the finish and not make any big mistakes. I feel really badly for the other guys who had problems, but you've got to really judge your pace to go just fast enough to win. Kudos to Antoine -- it was a really great drive for him. I'm both proud and a little embarrassed that the Canadians came down and put in such a strong performance because it looks like we are snow ringers. But Antoine's a great driver, and I'll be in for hopefully the whole Rally America championship if our sponsorship comes together, and we'll be looking to be just as competitive on gravel."
KYLE SARASIN (Third place) (No. 55 CPD Racing Subaru Impreza WRX STi): "It's my first overall podium, and I'm super excited. Sno*Drift usually has some weird stuff happen, like today. I'm used to the conditions, so I think I had a little bit of a head start coming in here. Our game plan was to be consistent, try to stay in the race and get a top-10 finish. Some stuff happened, some people went out, and we ended up getting third overall, which was awesome. It's a good start to the season. This was my first race in Open class, and it went really well. Hopefully the rest of the season has some good battles like I had here and goes just as well."
KEN BLOCK (Fifth place) (No. 43 Subaru Rally Team USA Subaru Impreza WRX STi): "We had a great rally. We were comfortably in second overall behind Pastrana when on Leg 2 we got stuck in a snow bank for over 10 minutes. That ruined any chances of a good points result, but we had the speed here. We won over half of the stages and could have been on the podium or even won. It's upsetting because we were not really pushing hard. It wasn't a big mistake. We just got sucked into the inside snow bank of an easy left turn. Now I can't wait until the 100 Acre Wood rally next month. I've won there the past two years, and I have a lot of confidence on those roads."
DAVE MIRRA (18th place) (No. 40 Monster Energy Subaru Impreza): "My one goal for this rally was to just finish and get some experience. The roads were slick everywhere, and although we were not pushing hard, it was definitely a huge challenge to stay clean and out of the snow banks. This was such a good time. Now I'm really looking forward to the next rally where we'll be on gravel."
ANDREW PINKER (DNF; engine) (No. 2 Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi): "We should have been there battling with the top guys, but unfortunately, we had an engine blow up on the first stage. We got three miles in and all of sudden, it just went. It's a real shame. This has been a good event for me the last couple of years. In 2006, it was the first rally I ever did in the U.S., and we took the lead on the first day. It worked out very well for us last year, as well, so we were hunting for a win this year, but sometimes, it's not to be. This was only my second mechanical failure in the U.S., and I'm in my third year now, so I can't complain too much. Everyone's got to get their fair share."
TRAVIS PASTRANA (DNF; accident) (No. 199 Subaru Rally Team USA Subaru Impreza WRX STi): "Because of the lead we built on Friday and everyone else's problems, it meant we could just sit back and relax on the final leg, which for me isn't very exciting. But on the second-to-last stage with a huge lead and just a few miles to the finish, we hit a deer at over 60 mph. It all happened so quickly, we were shocked. The car sustained heavy damage and couldn't continue. Amazingly bad luck!"
FINAL RESULTS: SNO*DRIFT RALLY
1. Antoine L'Estage
2. Andrew Comrie-Picard
3. Kyle Sarasin
4. Matthew Johnson
5. Ken Block
6. Tanner Foust
7. William Bacon
8. Piotr Wiktorczyk
9. Patrick Moro
10. Bryan Pepp
-credit: rally america