Thursday, September 1st, 2016
The Rallye Défi is just around the corner, September 8-10, 2016, and there’s a lot of excitement and speculation at who will come out on top overall at the fourth round of the 2016 Canadian Rally Championship. A deep field means the podium is anything but predictable at this formidable round of the series.
The rally itself has changed format, and now forgoes a day in Sainte Agathe in favour of two days in Montpellier, Quebec. The change also means that the roads which have traditionally had the worst conditions are off the schedule, a move that allows teams to push harder without having to worry about preserving their equipment.
Maxime Labrie leads the championship standings after three events. Co-driven by his wife Anik Barrette, the pair are poised to take advantage of the smoother road conditions at this year’s event and are well positioned to hang on to the points lead provided they finish the rally. For Labrie and Barrette, the goal will be to hold off the charge of championship rivals by scoring as many points as possible.
Early success this year, as well as valuable points earned at the Rocky Mountain Rally and Rallye Baie des Chaleurs have put the team into first place in the standings.
Their biggest threat, Antoine L’Estage and Darren Garrod of Subaru Rally Team Canada, struggled early in the season, and even if the pair win Défi they are mathematically unable to catch Labrie at this event. However, no one has won Défi more times than L’Estage. Victory in 2016 would mean a ninth career-win at the event, and there’s no current competitor that knows the event as well as L’Estage. The team will need to make the most of the last four events of the year to claim the championship title, and Défi is the ideal place to start that charge.
Last year, L’Estage was unable to claim victory at Défi, when Joel Levac and Stephanie Lewis took top honours. Competing in an ex-World Rally MINI, the team have an incredible car and in 2015 showed they were able to take advantage of the technology at hand, pressing their advantage on the early rough stages to beat out L’Estage. With the change in the stages this year, Levac and Lewis will need to show more pace, and rely less on the durability of their car if they want to repeat as victors. Though the pair have been quiet on their championship plans, they are currently only two points shy of L’Estage in the overall standings. A strong result at Défi could prove encouraging to any ambitions the team have for winning a title.
Boris Djordjevic is ranked third in the championship points, piloting L’Estage’s previous privateer car. Djordjevic built a strong pace in the former L’Estage car, assisted by co-driver John Hall. Combined with considerable experience, the 2014 Production AWD champion has taken his speed into Open Class and has already claimed two national podium finishes, including the 2016 Rocky Mountain Rally, where he finished second overall.
Wim van der Poel is second to Labrie in the standings. The western driver and co-driver Bryan Lord are less familiar faces at eastern events, but has speed and a long history in rallying. That experience has led to a consistent level of performance with top five finishes at every event this year, earning him his present position in the standings.
Possibly playing spoiler at Défi is the father daughter pairing of Sylvain and Chloe Erickson. Though they are not in the hunt for a title, the team have the capacity to take valuable points away from other competitors with a strong finish. Sylvain won the rally in 2003, co-driven by his brother. But the big question for the team will be their Hyundai Accent. The car has many ardent fans, as does the team, but reliability has left a lot to be desired. However, if the car holds together, the team are a viable threat to hit the podium.
Rallye Défi takes place in Montpellier, Quebec, September 8-10, 2016. Be sure to follow all of the action at crcrally.com and by following the official series social media @crcrally. Share your photos and videos by using #crcrally