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This week’s issue of Handbrakes & Hairpins features a look at the WRC Rally Sweden and the Canadian Rally Championship’s Rallye Perce Niege, plus a preview of this weekend’s Rally in the 100 Acre Wood (Rally America National Championship). With Travis Pastrana, Ken Block, David Higgins and Antoine L’Estage on the start list, this will be a thrilling rally to follow. We also bring you the latest news from the fantastic epay Silver Fern Rally in New Zealand in November.

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Victory at Antoine L’Estage’s 100th Rally!

Antoine L'Estage/Nathalie Richard - Picture by Mike Proulx/WorldRallySport.com.

Driver Antoine L’Estage (of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and his co-driver Nathalie Richard (of Halifax, NS) won this past weekend’s Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs in New Richmond, Québec. At the wheel of their Rockstar Royal Group Mitsubishi Evo X, the duo overcame multiple obstacles at this event to eventually walk away with their sixth consecutive victory in the Canadian Rally Championship, increasing their lead in the series, as well as in the North American Rally Cup. This win is extra special for Antoine L’Estage as this past weekend’s event marked the 100th rally of his career. Continue reading Victory at Antoine L’Estage’s 100th Rally!

L’Estage overcomes adversity, wins Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs

Antoine L'Estage/Nathalie Richard - Picture by Scott Rains/WorldRallySport.com

Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard bounced back to take a commanding lead of the Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs after differential problems nearly ended their rally on Friday night. However, trouble struck late on Saturday that cut the teams lead to a much smaller margin than they would have liked.

At the start of the day, Pat Richard and Leanne Junnila were leading the rally, having come out ahead after multiple problems struck both the Subaru team and the Rockstar team of L’Estage and Richard. But that lead didn’t last. “Three kilometres into the second stage today, the rear control arm snapped,” said Richard. “It’s exactly the same problem we had at Tall Pines last year. It’s a known issue so we change the part every service.” Continue reading L’Estage overcomes adversity, wins Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs

Richard leads the charge in Rallye Baie

Antoine L'Estage/Nathalie Richard - Picture by Coyote Rally Media Services.

As Antoine L’Estage prepared to compete in the 2011 Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs, he explained to us that this is his 100th rally as a driver. L’Estage first competed three times as a co-driver for Jean-Sebastien Besner, Jean-Paul Perusse and his father, Jaques L’Estage.

“It was good, because I learned about the other parts of rally, even if there were no notes, there was a lot to learn,” said L’Estage before the start of the rally today. “When Nathalie (Richard) told me this was my one hundredth rally, I thought ‘wow, that’s pretty cool.’ I hadn’t even realized.”

For L’Estage the rally got off to a great start but by the end of the day, tables had turned. Running second on the road, L’Estage opted for cut gravel tires, rather than mud tires, the same choice made by chief rivals Pat Richard and Leanne Junnila.

Unfortunately for Richard and Junnila, their Subaru was suffering engine problems, costing a great deal of time. Each stage, L’Estage would find himself with a greater margin. “We lost 15 or 20 second on the first stage, and about twice that on the second stage,” said Richard at Friday’s only service after the first three stages. “I was able to get a bit of a fix sorted out before the third stage, but it keeps dropping power.”

By the end of six stages, the story was completely different. Richard had clawed back time as L’Estage was experiencing technical problems. The rear differential failed on the last stage of the day, forcing he and Nathalie Richard to finish in two wheel drive. The car will be fixed for tomorrow.

Heading into day two, Richard and Junnila lead L’Estage by nine seconds.

“We had some drama today,” said Richard. “On the fourth stage, right after service, we hit a kick and the car went up on it’s nose, knocking off our bottom lights, and blowing the breaker on the rest of the lights, so we had to run the rest of the stage with no lights. We reset the breaker after the stage and we were able to keep going. We also had a moment on the last stage, so we sure haven’t had a perfect run.”

Swap Shop team mates Bruno Carre and Craig Henderson were battling each other for third place, with just six seconds between the two after the first three stages. “We were careful the first two stages,” said Carre of the approach he and co-driver Yvan Joyal took this afternoon. “Then we started to push, and we’re catching Craig.” Unfortunately the rally would end on the stages following service, when mechanical problems sidelined the team.

The Rallye Baie des Chaleurs continues to be a challenge for all of the teams. Ugo Desgreniers crashed out of the rally while solidly in the top ten in the same corner that caused Richard to roll last year. Nick and Massimo Narini were uncharacteristically well down the order with car problems. “We lost a shifter bushing, so the shifter moves around like it’s in neutral even though it’s in gear. I just can’t find the gears at all,” said Nick.

Leo Urlichich and Martin Brady have had a troubled start to the rally, getting a flat, blowing a turbo hose and having problems with the antilag system. “The flat was near the end of the stage, so at least we could drive it out,” said Urlichich.

Simon Losier and Brian Maxwell got a flat, costing about a minute, but they weren’t the only ones having tire problems.

“We had two flats on the right side of the car,” said Simon Dube, pointing to his VW Golf. “The first we had to stop and change on stage, which cost five minutes. The second, we noticed before the next stage, so we changed it, but took a 20 second penalty for starting the stage late.” Dube is well back of the two wheel drive leaders now, while David Berube and Yves St-Pierre are leading the class heading into tomorrow’s stages.

Nearly 40 cars started the 2011 Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs. Rain over the last few days has made the roads slick with mud. In more open areas, the mud has started to dry out. With sun in the forecast for tomorrow, roads should dry out quickly, making conditions faster.