Saturday, September 10th, 2016
The second day of the 2016 Rallye Défi proved to be as unpredictable as the first. With the main championship teams out of contention at the start of the day, a new crop of teams began to battle for the top positions.
Marc Bourassa and Daniel Paquette beat out the field to win their first-ever national rally event. The pair came into the rally with relatively few expectations, and the sole aim to have fun. Starting the day in third place, the team were hopeful to hang on to the podium position. However, other teams began to crack under the pressure of being at the front of a national rally, while Bourassa and Paquette stayed cool.
“I just wanted to have fun and enjoy my time,” said Bourassa. “I’ve been racing for many years, and have had good results, but never a podium result. The last two years we’ve had lots of mechanical problems as we developed the new car.
“Finally it’s paid off, and we had everything run well. The car was strong and fast, so I’m very happy.”
After a good performance on day one, André and René Leblanc pushed too hard early on the Saturday stages and crashed out. The crash sent a ripple effect throughout the entire rally. Some teams felt that the stage should be cancelled, while others wanted it to count in the final result. Ultimately, the decision came at the end of the rally after rally officials debated the situation and determined the stage would be cancelled and not counted in the final results.
Simon and Eric Losier took second place in the overall standings as a result – the reward for a calm drive all weekend. However, the team faced many challenges during the event in order to keep their car functioning properly. The crew did everything they could to minimize the problems and keep the Losier pair running strong.
“I’m really happy about the podium result,” said Simon. “This was a really hard rally for us. It felt like every other stage we had problems that cost us five or ten seconds, and we would have to fix the car and then fight to get that time back. So to be here on the podium now is really good.”
Third place was earned by Simon Vincent and Hubert Gaudreau, who had traded times all rally with Wim van der Poel and Bryan Lord. Vincent is aiming for the Novice driver’s title this year, and the podium finish will do a lot to help his chances at the award. There were tense moments for the team following the final time control while the organizers debated the decision over whether to cancel the stage. Had officials chosen to count the stage, Vincent and Gaudreau would have finished in fourth place.
“There were a lot of teams that DNF’d here,” said Vincent. “But ultimately our perseverance paid off and we have finished third in the national standings. Consistency was the key for us.
“We did attack specifically on the final stage on the first day, where we won the stage. To set the fastest time is a really rare thing, so I am very proud of that result.”
While the all-wheel drive cars struggled with reliability issues, the 2WD field had no such difficulties. From start to finish, Chris Greenhouse and Brian Johnson dominated the class, putting down the significant power of their SRT4 and taking advantage of the car’s handling on the wide and fast roads during the second day of competition.
“We came here in 2014 and got the two wheel drive win, and now we’ve done it again this year,” said Greenhouse. “Baie was a nightmare for us this year, so to come here and have a clean run feels really great. Everyone always talks about how this sport is a team effort, and it might be cliche, but it’s true. Everyone did a great job this weekend, so this really is a team result.”
Jan and Jody Zedril made the most of their equipment, but were at a significant power deficit and unable to match Greenhouse’s speed. Despite pushing at the limit of their ability, the Zedrils finished the event with a car that looked no worse for wear than when it started.
Dave Wallingford and Leanne Junnila rounded out the 2WD podium with a third place finish. Wallingford got his start in rallying last year at a rally school – where he first drove a standard transmission car – and has excelled to the point of being in contention for the 2WD North American Rally Cup title.
The pairing of Justin and Chrissy Bayliff were the lone entry in the all-wheel drive Production class. The pair had a bad crash at the Rocky Mountain Rally in June, and a good finish at Défi was the primary goal for the team. The sixth place finish was exactly what the team needed to regain their confidence heading into the second half of the season.
Meanwhile, frustrations continued for the Subaru Rally Team Canada duo of Antoine L’Estage and Darren Garrod. After a mechanical problem forced the team out on the first day, they restarted on Saturday morning, this time with the goal of climbing back up the order in an attempt to score more championship points. However, it was not to be for the team, as they finished 14th overall.
Maxime Labrie continues to lead the driver’s championship standings, despite not finishing the event. He is expected to enter the Pacific Forest Rally, co-driven by Philippe Poirier.
Of the other drivers in the title hunt, Wim van der Poel was the only driver to score any additional points by finishing in the top ten, slightly closing the gap to Labrie.
The Canadian Rally Championship continues in just a few weeks at the Pacific Forest Rally in Merritt, BC, September 30 – October 1, 2016. Held in the mountains surrounding the Nicola Valley, the rally is known for challenging roads with big drop-offs.
Be sure to follow the Canadian Rally Championship on social media @CRCRally and connect with us using #CRCRally.