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So Close

A Third Consecutive Canadian Rally Championship Narrowly Eluded Pat Richard in 2010

Pat Richard won back-to-back Canadian Rally Championships in 2008-09.

Pat ‘Rocket’ Richard was so close to three-peating in 2010, he could almost taste it. Heading into the final race of the Canadian Rally Champonship season, it was all there for the taking.

Then fate, as it often does in motorsports, intervened.

Richard, one of the most decorated drivers in the last decade of Canadian Rally racing just missed out on winning his third national title in a row, after a broken lower control arm forced him to retire in the final stage at the Rally of the Tall Pines, the 2010 season finale.

The Subaru Rally Team Canada driver finished second in the championship behind one of his main rivals, Antoine L’Estage (Rockstar Mitsubishi), who secured his third career Canadian title. It was also his third in five years, but first with Mitsubishi (he won in 2006 and 2007 with Hyundai).

“I’m so happy that we’ve done it,” L’Estage said after the victory. “The car was so good all season, and my family and sponsors have all been very supportive. I am so happy that I can show my appreciation by winning every rally title there is in North America.”
L’Estage was the dominant driver on the Canadian Rally scene in 2010, winning four out of six races.
For his part, Richard was gracious in defeat, although clearly disappointed.

“Congratulations to Antoine and [co-driver] Nathalie [Richard] on their win,” he said. “We’ve done so well in the past, it’s tough not to be able to continue that trend. This rally was really hard on us, and we wanted to win, but sometimes that’s just not how things go.”

The same could be said for much of Richard’s 2010 campaign, which featured only one win (at Rallye Baie des Chaleurs in early July), compared to L’Estage’s four.

Despite the lack of victories, Richard and co-driver Alan Ockwell were close to the lead heading into the Rally of the Tall Pines – even though L’Estage had won three of the first five races, he held only a slim two-point lead over Richard, 76-74.

Although Richard didn’t win as many races in 2010 as he had in recent years (he amassed seven victories in 2008-09), he did finish second behind L’Estage three times to keep the points battle close.

Both drivers had a subpar season opener at Rallye Perce-Neige Maniwaki in New Richmond, Quebec (L’Estage was 16th and Richard didn’t finish due to a mechanical problem), and then finished 1-2 for the remainder of the season. Neither driver could separate from the other – until the Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft, Ontario.

Richard and Ockwell (centre) reached the top step of the podium only once in 2010.Richard’s late-race retirement, coupled with L’Estage’s win earned the championship for the Mitsubishi driver with a total of 98 points. Richard finished with 75, which actually tied him for second, but Craig Henderson was placed third because he didn’t win any races.

Despite not winning the Drivers’ Championship, Richard’s efforts were instrumental in helping Subaru win the Canadian Manufacturers’ title, which was the Japanese marque’s third consecutive crown and its ninth since 2000.

Ever the consummate professional, Richard was proud of the capturing another Manufacturers’ title. “Although I couldn’t bring home the Drivers’ title, it means a lot to know that our efforts helped Subaru Rally Team Canada to achieve a well-deserved Manufacturers’ Championship. We’re looking forward to more hot competition next year!” he said in a statement to close out the season.

In the meantime, Richard certainly won’t be resting on his laurels. He’ll be hard at work, helping his team prepare his car for the 2011 season at Rocket Rally Racing (a company he owns), which is a specialized rally preparation and parts shop based in Squamish, B.C.

With the first rally of the new season mere weeks away (Feb. 4-5), Richard won’t have to wait long to have another go at L’Estage and his other rivals.

Having had his string of championships broken, the field had best look out for the Rocket in 2011. He’s going to be eager to start a new streak.

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