Sunday, July 3rd, 2016
Joel Levac and Stephanie Lewis took a decisive lead on the first day of the 2016 Rallye Baie des Chaleurs. Driving their WRC MINI, the pair took the lead on stage two and held it though the remaining eight stages on the first day of competition.
“The roads today have been very slippery,” said Levac. “You have to be careful where you push, because in some places, it is so hard to find grip.”
Rain in the week leading up to the event saturated the road surface. Storms continued into Saturday, changing the surface into slick mud that dramatically reduced traction. Many teams were caught out by the tough conditions, most notably the Subaru Rally Team Canada.
“I braked too late, and couldn’t make the corner,” said Antoine L’Estage, about an error in driving on the second stage of the rally. The rare mistake proved costly for the team. The car went off the road and rolled into the ditch. Though it was a soft roll, and no mechanical parts were badly damaged, the team were unable to continue and were forced to restart the event later in the day, taking 30 minutes in penalties.
“To climb back up from these penalties will be really hard,” said L’Estage, who now hopes to simply get back into the top ten in an effort to score some much needed championship points.
Finishing the first day in second place are brothers and New Richmond, Quebec locals André and René Leblanc. Local knowledge certainly helps the team in being able to commit to the trickier sections of road, but the pair have also been strategic in where to push and where to take it easy.
“We slowed down in the dark tonight, and lost eight seconds to the team behind us, but that’s ok,” said André Leblanc. “When I am feeling more fresh tomorrow morning, we will push hard again on the first stages of the day.”
The Leblanc brothers are hoping to hold off Maxime Labrie and Anick Barrette. Labrie leads the drivers championship after winning at Rallye Perce Neige, and finishing just off the podium at the Rocky Mountain Rally last month. A podium finish at Rallye BDC will help his championship standing, but a second place finish would be even more helpful.
“The roads are very challenging. You really have to be careful not to make mistakes because the grip can change so fast,” said Labrie. “We will see how the weather is tomorrow, and maybe we can push a little harder.”
The top three teams are in a class of their own, four minutes ahead of fourth place Boris Djordjevic and John Hall. Just behind the western team, a tight battle is set to continue on the second day between Win van der Poel and Simon Vincent. Heading into the overnight break, the two are separated by just 0.7 seconds.
Simon Dubé and Aaron Crescenti lead the two wheel drive class despite problems with oil consumption in the engine.
“I rebuilt the engine after the last rally because it was using oil, but the problem hasn’t been fixed,” said Dubé. “It’s been a long few weeks and I am a bit tired right now. But we’re still pushing and we’re having fun in the car.”
That fun has translated into the class lead, a top ten placement overall at the end of the first day, and gap of more than three minutes back to their closest competitor in class.
Dave Wallingford and Leanne Junnila are competing in an R2 Fiesta and have struggled with notes at Baie. Wallingford has no experience writing his own notes, and the team’s pace reflects that lack of experience. Mathieu Leblanc and Alex-Samuel Litalien-Leblanc are third in class.
Dubé’s chief rival, Chris Greenhouse, has had problems on the first day and fallen well down the order. Broken engine mounts in Greenhouse’s car led to failed driveshafts. Greenhouse and co-driver Brian Johnson were sidelined and retired, only to restart the event later with penalties.
“It hasn’t been a great day,” said Greenhouse. The problems continued for the team through the afternoon and evening stages. The team hopes to solve whatever problems they can before the start of competition on Sunday morning.
An initial forecast for continued rain on Sunday has been updated to sunny and windy conditions. Any exposed sections of road will dry quickly, offering greater grip for the teams on the five remaining stages in the rally. Nearly 100kms remain in the event, providing opportunities for those looking to improve their position by the final time control.
Sunday will be comprised of a single pass on the Robidoux stage, followed by two passes on the technical, 25km JAS stage. Two runnings of the TNO du 5 stage, including the iconic Baie jump will close out the event.
Follow along during the second day of action by watching for updates on Instagram and Twitter @CRCRally, and at facebook.com/crcrally. Share your photos using #crcrally