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Richard and Ockwell Taste Victory at Rally of the Tall Pines

Monday, November 26, 2012
Pat Richard (Squamish, BC) and Alan Ockwell (Toronto) of Subaru Rally Team Canada claimed victory at the Rally of the Tall Pines.

"It's nice to see this result for the team," said Richard. "The guys have been working so hard for so long. It's been about a year and a bit without a win, so it's a good change."

The event was not simple for Richard and Ockwell who, in a battle for the lead, suffered two flat tires and brake damage that caused a fire. Despite these problems on the final three stages the team pressed on and made it to the finish having earned the top spot on the podium.

"On the very last set of stages, we both got flats on the long stage. I drove mine out," recalled Richard, of the late event drama. "We kept the car on the road and the plan of keeping it steady today, and pushing where it matters... paid off."

Thanks to a strong season, Antoine L'Estage (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and co-driver Nathalie Richard (Halifax), arrived at the event having won four of the previous five rallies, and as the 2012 Canadian Rally Champions. A gamble on tire choice for the first stage nearly ended their rally early, when icy conditions almost caught the team out, but they continued driving hard all day. That pace caught up with them late in the afternoon, when the rear suspension broke, forcing the pair to drive on three wheels through a spectator stage and back to service. The team watched as nearly all of their lead vanished. Following repairs, the crew continued, pushing hard to maintain their lead but suffered a flat tire losing their lead and any hope of victory.

"That's not the way I wanted to finish the season," said L'Estage. "I wanted to win, but we had some problems. It's a good season overall; six rallies, four wins and two second places overall. Congrats to Pat and Alan and the Subaru team for this win. They had a tough season, so good for them."

Attrition played a big role in the way the results panned out for the entire field. Ugo Desgreniers (Orford, QC) and co-driver Erik Kirby (Sherbrooke, QC) managed the difficult conditions in a battle for third, ultimately taking the spot when others experienced severe problems. Desgreniers and Kirby had problems of their own and were happy to finish on the podium.

"I feel great because it was a really hard rally for us. We had problems with the car for the second half of the rally. By the end we had no brakes, and no fourth gear, but it was so much fun to drive," said Desgreniers.

The fourth place team of Ryan Huber (Mississauga, ON) and John Vanos (Markham, ON) capitalized on their local knowledge of the roads to climb to a career best fourth place national finish. Both Huber and Vanos began their involvement in rallying as volunteers, working their way up to being competitors. Their performance also clinched the Ontario Performance Rally Championship.

Fifth place went to Alexandre R. Ouellette (Gatineau, QC) and Nicholas R. Ouellette (Gatineau, QC), who finished first in the Production GT class, open to all wheel drive cars with limited modifications. The only other Production GT car to finish in the top ten was newcomer Jeremy Norris (Kitchener, ON) with six time Canadian Champion driver Frank Sprongl (Georgetown, ON) making his debut as a co-driver. The two finished in eighth place.

Martin Walter (North Gowan, ON) and Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff (Nepean, ON) finished in eleventh, the fastest two wheel drive car, winning the Group 5 class.

Eric Grochowski (Calgary) and Leanne Junnila (Calgary) finished fourth after coming into the event aiming to win the Canadian Rally Championship in two-wheel drive. The pair clinched the title with a disciplined drive. Keeping themselves in good position all rally meant the pair didn't need to take any risks in the challenging conditions.

"I know the event's reputation," said Grochowski. "We love the stage roads, but there's a lot of attrition out there, a lot of tricky conditions, a lot of gotchas. This caps off a really good year. There have been some ups and downs, but we're thrilled to have won the championship."

The Rally of the Tall Pines takes place in Bancroft, ON, and is defined by some of the most technical and demanding roads in the Canadian Rally Championship. An overnight freeze leading into the competition day meant that roads that were wet from rain suddenly became ice in some sections and gravel in others, making tire choice a gamble for teams trying to find the limits of performance.

The rally takes place over one day of competition with an army of volunteers, and draws a huge fan base from across the country, and especially from Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

"The rally has a core team of four people, but really, we represent the 230 people who come out as volunteers," said Ian Wright, Coordinator of the Rally of the Tall Pines. "Without those people, the rally wouldn't work. They're an amazing group, and they come back year after year. They bring a lot of enthusiasm and experience, which makes Tall Pines the event it is."

The Canadian Rally Championship comprises six events held nationwide in a season that
runs from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, supported by
Yokohama Tire Canada and features a contingency program from Subaru Canada. The Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) is the official sanctioning body for rallying in Canada.

Photo: Peter MacDonald
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