Richard Wins Rallye Perce-Neige
Patrick Richard (Squamish, BC) and Rob Fagg (Isle of Man, UK) of the Subaru Canada Rally Team Canada have won the Rally Perce-Neige Maniwaki with a clean, trouble-free drive in their Subaru WRX STi. “It was flawless for us, we had no issues whatsoever” said Richard after the rally.“But it was very slippery; it was the iciest Perce-Neige I’ve ever seen.”
After more than two hours of timed competition, the final margin of victory over Steeve Hobbs, in another Subaru, was just over two minutes. Richard’s victory looked secure early on when 2012 Canadian Rally Champions Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard retired on the third stage of the event with an apparent engine failure in their Rockstar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. “It’s very frustrating” said a stoic L’Estage. “After such a great season in 2012 this is a tough way to start. But we’ll be back.”
After L’Estage’s retirement, “Crazy Leo” Urlichich kept the Subaru Canada team on its toes by posting consistent fast stage times throughout the middle section of the rally and at times gaining a narrow lead over Richard. But it all came apart in the cold night in the last forest stage of the rally when Urlichich went off the road and hit a rock, pushing a shock absorber completely through the hood of his car.
At the finish, Urlichich was frustrated with himself: “The game plan was to stay on the road. The problem was that once we could sniff the pace that we could fight for the victory… it’s so hard. I’m not right in my head I guess – I can’t go nine-tenths.”
For his part, Richard was confident throughout: “We didn’t have any pressure. We always had our plan. We were going to take it easy on the first stages, we started off easy. I knew that stages like Farley and Kitigan Zibi totally suit my style, and even after Leo had his problems I backed off and Steeve got within 45 seconds of us, it didn’t really worry me at all but then in the last run of Kitigan Zibi we took more than a minute off him.”
The victory is remarkable in that Richard had only met his co-driver, Rob Fagg, a day before the start of the event. “Rob did a great job, especially for his first event on the ice and snow.” The two had connected through mutual rallying contacts, and Fagg is an experienced co-driver based in the Isle of Man, UK. After the rally, he was beaming: “Pat’s a great driver. We had an amazing day.”
Second place overall went to Steeve Hobbs and Jean Mathieu Tremblay. His drive was measured and consistent and he felt very lucky for the result: “I just tried to finish; second place is very good. The rally was difficult, very difficult. Icy all the time, all the time. My strategy was to not push, to stay in control, stay on the road.”
Subaru swept the podium with a solid third place overall from Ugo Desgreniers and Erik Kirby. All of the top three cars took a similar strategy; said Desgreniers after the event: “I tried to go pretty slow at the beginning and go faster at the end where I was more comfortable, and it worked.” Remarkably, fourth through sixth place overall was covered by only 30 seconds after over two hours of rallying.
The battle in the always-competitive two-wheel-drive class was a classic winter rally story. The category was won by Paul Hartl (Toronto, Ontario) and Chuck Storry (North Gower, Ontario)in a Volkswagen Golf with a consistent and smooth drive that rewarded them with the top spot on the podium when the day-long leaders Simon Dube and Patrick Lavigne, in another Golf, crashed very near to the finish. Hartl and Storry, experienced and consistent snow rally competitors, had a very different attitude to the event than most competitors. Said Hartl on the podium: “snow and ice are the best –I love it, I always love it. I love this rally. And this is rallying; it’s never over – Dube was leading up to the last stage, and he didn’t make it because he went off but that what happens, it’s never over until the very end.”
Early two-wheel-drive contender Martin Walter, after getting stuck on a snowbank on the fifth stage and losing four minutes, left the door open for Dube to extend a more than fifteen-minute lead in the class by midday. Dube drove fast and cleanly all day until a misstep on the last forest stage put the team on top of a snowbank and unable to extract themselves. A dejected Dube was philosophical at the finish: “Rallying has highs and lows, and some days you get both.”
Martin Walter managed to recover from his early misstep and claw back to second place in two-wheel-drive podium despite taking over seventy minutes to complete the final 48km stage. Said Walter on the podium: “I feel happy to have made the finish line.I could tell you what’s working on the car quicker than what’s wrong with it. We have first gear sometimes, second gear sometimes, fourth seems to work great.”
Eric Deschênes and Catherine Asselin brought their Toyota Echo home in third place in class, winning the Production two-wheel-drive division in the process. Deschenes was very pleased with the finish: “It was very very very icy. I drove carefully. I made a good choice of tires that got me a good start. The stages in the forest were especially difficult ad icy.”
Every finisher of the Rally spoke about the need to be prudent to get to the finish. Said Richard: “ I don’t believe there’s any reason to go faster than you have to go to finish first.” Richard was clearly happy about the win after a difficult championship season the previous year: “This is redemption for 2012.”
Final results Rally Perce-Neige Maniwaki 2013:
1) Patrick Richard - Robert Fagg (Subaru Impreza WRX) - 2h12'19,5"
2) Steeve Hobbs - Jean-Mathieu Tremblay (Subaru Impreza WRX) - 2h14'21,6"
3) Ugo Desgreniers - Érik Kirby (Subaru Impreza WRX) - 2h16'17,8"
4) Simon Losier - Brian Maxwell (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.8) - 2h18'49,1"
5) Maxime Losier - Philippe Poirier (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.8) - 2h19'11,0"
6) Alexandre Béland - Lyne Murphy (Subaru Impreza WRX) - 2h19'19,5"
7) Max Riddle - Aaron Neumann (Subaru Impreza WRX) - 2h24'18,4"
8) Jeremy Norris - David Coles (Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS) - 2h27'41,6"
9) Alexandre R. Ouellette - Nicholas R. Ouellette (Subaru Impreza WRX) - 2h30'48,2"
10) Hardy Schmidtke - John Hall (Mitsubishi RKT Evo.9) - 2h32'49,8"
Rally Perce-Neige Maniwaki - Final results 2-Wheel-Drive:
1) Paul Hartl - Chuck Storry (Volkswagen) – 2h56'00,0"
2) Martin Walter - Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff (Nissan) – 3h09'10,2"
3) Éric Deschênes - Catherine Asselin (Toyota) – 3h26'30,3" (1st Production 2wd)
4) Francois Gauvreau - Guillaume Roussin (Ford) – 3h31'57,7" (2nd Production 2wd)
Photo Credit: CRC Photo by Keith Morison/CARS