Saturday, October 1, 2011
Richard Puts Subaru on Top of Podium at Pacific Forest Rally
MERRITT, British Columbia -- Pat Richard (Squamish, BC) and Alan Ockwell (Toronto) of Subaru Rally Team Canada won the Pacific Forest Rally, putting an end to a year long drought. The two were competing together for the first time this season, though together they won the 2008 and 2009 Canadian Rally Championship titles.
“We took control of the event right from the start,” said Richard, who led most of the rally. “Then we had to manage the lead. Really, it was a clean run, with no drama. The car was flawless, Alan was great.”
Richard last won a round of the Canadian Rally Championship in the middle of the 2010 season, and has faced a number of challenges since. Between car development issues and using a different co-driver for most of the 2011 season the team had been unable to reach the top of the podium while his rivals seemed to have nearly trouble free runs at every event.
Though Richard’s bid for driver's title is over for this season, he arrived at Pacific Forest Rally relaxed and refocused on earning the manufacturer's title for Subaru. The points scored this weekend are vital in Richard's bid to earn the Manufacturer's title in the Canadian Rally Championship. Richard will still need to win the final event of the season to secure the title for Subaru.
Second place team of Antoine L’Estage (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and Nathalie Richard (Halifax, NS) ran a conservative event but remained focused on their goal for the season.
“For this rally, we really needed to concentrate on the Driver's Championship and not get caught up in the battle for the event win. We only needed to finish tenth here to get the points we needed,” said L'Estage, whose second place result earns a second consecutive Canadian Rally Championship title for both he and codriver Nathalie Richard.
“This marks my fourth career championship in Canada, and at the last event, I clinched my fourth North American title,” said L'Estage. “I wouldn't be here without the help of my sponsors and of course my team. They worked hard all season, and we've had great results. Of the last 11 rallies we've done, we've only had one DNF, we've won six, and been on the podium for the rest.”
“Crazy” Leo Urlichich (Toronto) and Martin Brady (Meath, Ireland) earned the final spot on the podium, Though Urlichich wasn't satisfied with the result.
“Of course I want to do better than third place,” said Urlichich. “But we had two really good accomplishments this weekend. We led the rally while both Antoine and Pat were still competing, and our margin back from those guys is a lot less than it used to be. We just need to fine tune ourselves and our car, and I think we can go even faster.”
Immediately behind the top three, a battle emerged between the team of Hardy Schmidtke (Cochrane, AB) and John Hall (Sherwood Park, AB) versus rookie Max Riddle (Vancouver) and co-driver Aaron Neumann (Vancouver). Schmidtke took advantage of early road position on the first day to open up a comfortable margin while slotting into fourth place. Riddle, who was further back in the start order was slowed by dusty conditions that made it hard to see, especially on the night stages.
“I've competed for three years to have earned my road position,” said Schmidtke, referring to his driver ranking that moves him closer to the front of the pack. “But Max is really fast, so I'm not sure I can hold him off.”
Meanwhile, Riddle, who started competing less than a year ago, drove calmly, clawing back the seconds until edging past Schmidtke halfway through day two.
“On Friday, our goal was to get into the top five,” said Riddle, a position that gives the team an extra minute gap to help reduce the chances of catching the dust from the car ahead. “From there, we just drove hard to make up time.”
Riddle and Neumann finished fourth, their highest result in a national championship event.
In two wheel drive, brothers Jan and Jody Zedril (Winnipeg) had a largely trouble free run to the top spot on the two wheel drive podium. The pair has been one of the most consistent competitors in two wheel drive, though have strong competition in the national championship after failing to finish the Rocky Mountain Rally in May of this year.
Their main rival, Eric Grochowski (Calgary), who returned this season after a year off represents the biggest challenger for the national championship, a title which will be decided at the last round of the season. Grochowski was rejoined by co-driver Leanne Junnila for the Pacific Forest Rally. The two already have a national title together, but struggled with a lack of power this weekend.
“I haven't built our new race motor yet, so we're running a stock motor,” said Grochowski, of his VW Golf. “The hairpins and hillclimbs really hurt us on Friday's stages, but the roads on day two were more our style.”
Nevertheless, the pair was unable to make up significant time on the Zedrils, and so finished a distant second place.
The Pacific Forest Rally also includes the PIAA ecoChallenge, an award given based on a combination of fast times and low fuel consumption. Jim Shepard and local Nicki Beverley (Merritt, BC) took the top spot in the ecoChallenge in their Toyota Celica. Though dominated by two wheel drive cars, pro mountain bike rider Brandon Semenuk (Whistler, BC) and Adam Vokes (Red Deer, AB) were the top ranked all wheel drive car.
“This rally offers up a great challenge for teams, and an amazing experience for spectators,” said organiser Paul Westwick. “The stages really reward teams that push and take chances, and that means more excitement for the fans.”
The 2011 Canadian Rally Championship finishes at the Rally of the Tall Pines, in Bancroft, ON, November 25-26, 2011. Conditions are highly variable at the Rally of the Tall Pines, so teams must prepare to face everything from soft gravel to snow and ice. Multiple class championships will be up for grabs, and teams will be driving at maximum attack!
The Canadian Rally Championship comprises six events held nationwide in a season that
extends from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, supported by
Yokohama Tire 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
Rally 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.
Full coverage of the championship will air on RDS and TSN. Check local listings.
For more information: www.carsrally.ca or www.pacificforestrally.com
You can also follow the series on Twitter @CRCRally or at facebook.com/CRCRally
Pacific Forest Rally Final Results
Pat Richard – Alan Ockwell – One hour, 19 minutes, 49.60 seconds
Antoine L'Estage – Nathalie Richard – 1:20:37.45
Leo Urlichich – Martin Brady – 1:21:55.80
Max Riddle – Aaron Neumann – 1:29:36.00
Hardy Schmidtke – John Hall – 1:30:36.90
Mike Goodwin – Martin Burnley – 1:31:19.70
Mark Jennings-Bates – Jennifer Daly – 1:33:27.10
Jan Zedril – Jody Zedril – 1:35:26.10
Onur Tezcan – Angela Cosner – 1:37:25.60
Eric Grochowski – Leanne Junnila – 1:39:09.80