Saturday, February 3rd, 2018
February 4, 2018.- The traditional opening round of Canadian and Eastern Canadian rally calendars, the Rallye Perce-Neige, took place this past weekend in Maniwaki, Québec. As the first of eight rounds of the 2018 Eastern Canadian Rally Championship (ECRC), this challenging event saw multiple lead changes on the snow and ice-covered roads, lined with only minimal snowbanks. In the end, victory went to brothers André and René Leblanc, of the Gaspé region of Quebec, in their Subaru WRX STI.
Of the 32 teams contesting this 2018 edition of the Rallye Perce-Neige, no fewer than 20 (mainly from Quebec and Ontario) registered for the ECRC, reaffirming the competitors’ interest in this series. A total of fourteen of these registrants crossed the finish line, sometimes delayed by several minutes following unintentional excursions into the snow during competition !
A battle for the victory was omnipresent during the hour and twenty-seven minutes that it took the eventual ECRC winners to solidify their position. The Leblanc brothers captured the lead with a margin of forty-two seconds ahead of Ontarian Chris Martin, co-driven by American Brian Johnson, also in a Subaru WRX STI. The podium was completed by Quebeckers Simon Vincent and Hubert Gaudreau (Subaru WRX STI), who were two minutes and thirty-four seconds behind first place.
Commencing his performance rally career, young Olivier Martel turned heads this weekend, co-driven by Vincent Hubert in another Subaru WRX STI. As a local from Maniwaki, he was surely familiar with the roads but the Martel/Hubert duo remarkably finished in fourth place despite his inexperience and the very tricky conditions this rally had to offer.
The Top 5 was rounded out by Jérôme Mailloux and Dave Cyr, in a 4WD Ford Focus. Once again, another great performance for a driver without much experience allowed for a non-Subaru to crack the top five spots ! The battle for fifth place was one to watch between Mailloux/Cyr, and Jean-Luc Bergeron/Mélanie Drolet, in a Subaru WRX STI. In the end, only ten seconds separated the two teams. For Jean-Luc Bergeron, it’s nevertheless a nice welcome back to competition, after having missed the event last year and going off course in 2016. It was also a nice debut in performance rally competition for his co-driver Mélanie Drolet, a multiple Quebec Rally-X champion.
Sébastien Clark and Pat Lévesque (Subaru WRX STI) finished in seventh spot of the ECRC, just ahead of two-wheel drive winners Mathieu Leblanc and Éric Dubé in their Honda Civic. For Mathieu Leblanc, the 2017 2WD champion, this new season starts just as successfully as the last season ended.
The 2WD victory for Leblanc/Dubé didn’t come easy as Philippe Benoît and Jonathan Desgroseillers challenged them with their Mini Cooper S right to the end. Benoît/Desgroseillers eventually finished second in class, thirty-five seconds behind Leblanc/Dubé.
Winners of the Production 4 wheel drive class were Max Méconse, originally from Maniwaki but now living in Nova Scotia, co-driven by Cindy McCarron, in a Subaru WRX STI, finishing tenth ahead of former road racer and rally driver Charles Hammer. Hammer made his debut in the series at the wheel of a Volvo 242 (1984 model), co-driven by Aris Mantopoulos.
The Production 2 wheel drive victory went to Francis Belley and Dany Mallette, in a Ford Focus.
The Eastern Canadian Rally Championship (ECRC) is comprised of eight rounds this season, spread out between Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. The next event, the Lanark Highlands Forest Rally, will take place on May 5th, in Ontario
For more information, please visit www.ecrc-crec.ca
Photo credit : Rallye Perce-Neige winners (André and René Leblanc) : © Maxime Poirier / poleposition.ca