Friday, September 7th, 2018
The start of Rallye Défi is just hours away, and teams are going through final checks before the first stage begins. Défi marks the halfway point in the seven-event Canadian Rally Championship, and the final round of the series to be held in Quebec. A host of eastern teams are set to take on the challenging roads of this event, but a familiar face will not be on hand to fight for victory.
No one has won the Rallye Défi more often than Antoine L’Estage. The legend of Canadian rallying has won this event nine times since 2005. This year, an entry list of strong Quebecois drivers are set to battle it out for victory. Two of the entries have plays spoiler to L’Estage’s domination in the past.
Joel Levac and Stephanie Lewis are running their second consecutive event in the CRC. The pair were leading the Rallye Baie des Chaleurs two months ago, until a timing error resulted in heavy penalties. The team withdrew from the event and have since regrouped to attempt to earn their second-ever victory of Défi. The team won the event in 2015 in their first season running their ex-WRC MINI.
Fifth on the road, but defending victor is Marc Bourassa. Last year, attrition helped hand the local drive the lead, but his experience and better judgement got him to the finish. This year, Bourassa is co-driven by Elise Racette.
Meanwhile, a strong top six will be looking for their own place atop the podium.
Karel Carré and Samuel Joyal have shown impressive pace over the last year, winning the season opener, Rallye Perce Neige. In the past, Carré has struggled to drive cleanly to avoid issues, but may be leaving that style behind.
Jean-Sebastien Besner and Yvan Joyal arrive in Montpellier as winners of the Rallye Baie des Chaleurs. The team have proven they have both the pace and good judgement to regularly finish on the podium. Besner also won Rallye Défi, in 2001.
Simon Vincent and Hubert Gaudreau start fourth on the road and have been focused on scoring points to position themselves for a run at the overall championship. The two are at the top of the driver and co-driver standings respectively, but with a single point advantage over rivals Carré and Joyal. The pressure will be on for Vincent and Gaudreau to pile speed on top of consistency if they want to hold onto the points lead this weekend.
Steeve Hobbs and Philippe Poirier have potential for a podium finish. The pair have had difficult fortunes lately, but Défi could be the event in which their luck turns for the better.
Meanwhile, the 2WD battle is likely to come down in favour of Wim van der Poel and Bryan Lord, or Mathieu Leblanc and Eric Dubé. Van der Poel and Lord have shown impressive speed following their switch from Open class to Open 2WD. However, Leblanc and Dubé have shown impressive speed at both Rallye Perce Neige and Rallye Baie.
Seven stages are held Friday afternoon and evening, with a further 14 to be contested tomorrow. The forecast shows good weather both days, and roads are in good shape.