Saturday, June 29th, 2019
Words by Dean Campbell, photos by Jason Nugent.
Joel Levac and Stephanie Lewis drove their MINI to the top of the leaderboard on day one, carving out a huge advantage over the rest of the field. The pair won 10 of the 11 stages contested on the first day of racing and have adjusted their pace to hold their advantage without taking big risks.
“We have had a really good first day,” said Levac. “Now all we have to do is stay calm tomorrow and drive a good pace to the finish to win.”
While Levac and Lewis commanded the stages, other teams battled through the thick mud and struggled with mechanical issues. Early in the day, Jean-Sebastien Besner and Yvan Joyal had a hold on second place, while Maxime Labrie and Anik Barette took third. But neither team were able to maintain their positions, both retiring from the rally midway through the day.
Besner was out with propshaft and rear differential problems, while Labrie had front end damage and a coolant leak.
That handed podium positions to Karel Carré and Samuel Joyal who took over second place. The TEST Racing team had problems of their own, with suspension issues through most of the day, and a battery failure with one stage remaining. The two got to the end of the day tired, but satisfied with their standing in the event.
“We are happy to have our lead over second place,” said Carré. “The day has not been perfect, but now we just need to manage our position to finish on the podium tomorrow.”
Running third overall, Andre and Rene Leblanc have been careful to nurse their car as a result of a damaged transmission. On the first loop of stages, the team lost second gear and had to adjust their driving anywhere the roads became more technical and twisty, where third gear was too high, and first gear too low.
“We drained the transmission oil at the first service to get all the metal chunks out, and then refilled it with new fluid,” said Andre. We have been doing that at every service and so far, it’s still working for us. The fast stages are fine, but in the slower ones, I need to drive differently.”
Meanwhile, Sebastien Clark and Yanick Marin have moved up into fourth place overall with a clean, consistent drive. Yves Boudreau and Danny Hudon pushed their Production class Subaru to end the day in fifth place overall.
The battle in 2WD was expected to be a thriller, but just as the Open cars struggled with problems, similar problems blew apart the 2WD competition.
Wim van der Poel and Bryan Lord ended the day leading, the pair having developed a deadly combination of speed and control. But the expected battle never really materialized. The locals Mathieu Leblanc and Eric Dubé were taking the fight to the others until they broke a half shaft and retired before fixing the car to restart later in the day.
Jason Bailey and Shayne Peterson hardly had a chance to bring the fight to their rivals. A failure of the oil pump sidelined the team, and no spare parts could be found, ending their rally just a few hours after it began.
John Munroe and Bill Dubreuil moved into second place in 2WD, followed by Marc-Olivier Leblanc and Marc-Olivier Cavanaugh in third.
The forecast promised rain through the day, though blue skies materialized instead. A slim chance of rain on day two means that the muddy conditions might begin to dry out, giving better grip on the forest roads.