Wednesday, July 5th, 2023
The teams of the Canadian Rally Championship were joined by Mexican teams from the NACAM Championship to bring the heat to New Richmond, Quebec at Rallye Baie des Chaleurs. Celebrating it’s 45th Edition in 2023 with almost fifty entries, the third round of the Canadian Rally Championship presented a classic combination of challenging roads, humid weather, changing conditions, and plenty of attrition. The legendary Camp Brulé and Saut Du 5 spectator areas were packed with fans to watch it all go down despite frequent rain showers.
The road conditions shifted back and forth between slippery mud and dry gravel, but it didn’t slow Joel Levac and Laurence-Fanny L’Estage. The veteran team in the ex-WRC Mini put on a clinic for the rest of the field, leading the rally from stage two through the finish. Despite claiming that their focus was on having fun, the duo drove smooth and fast, avoiding the attrition that hit many of the teams.
Levac and L’Estage were flanked on the podium by two of the teams from the NACAM championship. Battling to bring home maximum points in their series, Ricardo Cordero, Alejandro Mauro, and Miguel Granados swapped positions several times through the rally. Cordero and Granados had the advantage of experience, having finished first and third respectively at Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs in 2022. Cordero and co-driver Marco Hernandez came out on top of this battle, earning second place in their Citroen C3.
Granados and co-driver Marc Marti suffered a crash that, while not ending their rally, broke the driver’s concentration. This gave Mauro and co-driver Diego San Juan just enough of an opening to claim the third spot on the podium.
The race to the top of the 2WD standings was just as exciting. After blowing the turbo on their new Fiesta at Rocky Mountain Rally, André and René Leblanc rebounded spectacularly at their home-town rally. Despite getting high-centered and losing nearly a minute in the second loop on Saturday, the 2021 Overall Champions led the 2WD class from stage two, finishing nearly sixteen minutes ahead of fellow local heroes Mathieu Leblanc and Éric Dubé. Olivier Guité and Martin Noel rounded out the 2WD podium in their Fiesta.
Topping the list of teams who suffered this weekend was the Subaru of championship points leaders Alexandre Moreau and Ian Guité. Their hopes of extending their lead ended with a crash on stage two. Heroic efforts from their service crew resulted in a re-start, but Moreau ended the rally taking home only two more points, just enough to maintain a one point lead in the overall standings.
Likewise, 2WD championship points leaders Chris Greenhouse and Ryan Scott were well on their way to their third podium finish of the year when a bad jump broke a driveshaft on stage thirteen. Finishing fourth in class was not what Greenhouse had in mind, but the points earned keeps him well ahead in his hunt for his first championship.
Special mention needs to be made of Jean-Sebastien Besner. Furious over the failure of his Evo at the Rocky Mountain Rally, he decided to treat himself to a new rally car for his fiftieth birthday, bringing an R5 Fiesta to Rallye Baie Des Chaleurs. Although unable to catch the lead group of NACAM competitors, Besner and co-driver Yvan Joyal showed amazing speed and consistency in their first rally with the new car, taking home fifth place and moving up into second place in the championship, just one point behind Moreau.
With another spectacular Rallye Baie des Chaleurs in the books, the teams will have a break before facing the fourth round of the Canadian Rally Championship at Rallye Défi Petite Nation, September 8th-10th, in Montpellier, QC.