In a rally where there where more DNF's than finishers, reaching the finish line was a feat in itself. Temperatures dropped to below freezing in the days leading up to the event, leaving the stages covered in a mix of ice, gravel and mud.
Being the penultimate round of the season, Antione L'Estage and Darren Garrod would need a big score to take the lead of the championship from the current leader Maxime Labrie. There was the added pressure from Travis Pastrana, with Subaru Rally Team USA, looking for his first win in Canada in their 2016 Impreza.
“These conditions are probably the worst I have seen in the 15 years I’ve done this rally” - Antoine L'Estage at the start of the first stage.
The tight and technical roads, combined with the ice and gravel proved to be too much for many drivers - with many, if not most, having technical problems pushing them further down the field, and many not finishing.
Antoine led from the off, with the gap to their closest rivals Pastrana / Durant opening up after they suffered suspension failure. His experience in the tight and technical stages gave him the key to victory over his rivals, winning all but five of the stages.
By the end, only nine of the 30 starting teams managed to finish. Four of these teams where with Rocket Rally.
“It went from a race to survival, but we managed to finish in second so I’m still really stoked.” - Pastrana after his suspension issues.
“We came here with the goal of getting back into the lead of the Canadian Championship, but with Travis here I knew it was going to be very strong competition. At the end to win the rally, and beat these guys is just perfect.” - L'Estage after the rally.
A massive congratulations to L'Estage and all the team, and commiserations to those who had a difficult weekend. The final round of the CRC will be held in Kelowna, BC, with a new addition to the season with the Big White Rally.
With one event to go, as the championship stands, the winner of the 2016 CRC will be using EXE-TC suspension.