Quebec driver Antoine L’Estage and his co-driver Nathalie Richard brought their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X to a second place finish at the Rallye Défi, the fourth round of the Canadian Rally Championship, contested in the Laurentians and the Outaouais regions of Quebec. With this strong result, the Rockstar Energy Drink duo increases their lead in their quest for additional Canadian and North American overall titles.
Six-time winners of the Rallye Défi, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard were looking forward to this event with the intention of improving the record for the number of wins at this rally, a record that they already hold. But, winning the championship this season is always their priority and with Ken Block and his World Rally Championship-spec car, they knew it would be a very tough order. “We had a really good day of competition on Friday,” said L’Estage. “The roads were tough but everything went well for us. The entire Rockstar Energy Drink Rally Team did a fantastic job of preparing such a great car for us and the Yokohama tires were amazing in the super rough sections of the morning’s stages.”
At the end of the day, the L’Estage/Richard duo was in second place, 58 seconds behind Ken Block/Alex Gelsomino. “Ken arrived here without any pressure – it’s his only rally in Canada this year and he could therefore push his machine as hard as it could be pushed. And what a machine it is! I love my car but his is on a whole other level. They did a great job this weekend and we congratulate them both.”
During the second day of competition, after the rain had already began to pour, L’Estage and Richard started the day swapping stage wins with Block and co-driver Gelsomino until the Rockstar Energy Drink team suffered from two left punctures after hitting a rock in the road. “In total, we set the fastest time on six of the twenty-three timed stages of the rally,” said Richard. “Our flats didn’t have much consequence on the standings other than increasing the gap between us and first place but we didn’t lose a position. Second place points still increases our lead in the Canadian Rally Championship so it’s a positive result for us.”
In a good position to claim yet another North American championship title and in a comfortable lead for the Canadian title, Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard head to British Columbia for the Pacific Forest Rally in October, without too much pressure. Before that, the team will compete at the Olympus Rally in Olympia, Washington for the final round of the Rally America series. They will once again be up against Ken Block in addition to their usual series competitors. L’Estage and Richard leave next week with the rally taking place on 22 – 23 September.
Antoine L’Estage holds four North American championship titles (2007, 2008, 2010, 2011), four Canadian titles (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011), one American title (2010), and thirty-six overall victories in Canada and the US. Nathalie Richard holds seven overall national championship titles (2011, 2010, 2007, 2004 in Canada and 2010, 2005, 2004 in the US), as well as forty-two overall rally wins on both sides of the border. She also holds a record seven North American Co-Driving Championship titles (2004 – 2011, excluding 2006).