F Features

Sweet Relief

Pat Richard Ends Year-Long Winless Streak

Richard hadn’t made it to the top step of the podium since July 2010, which was a remarkable drought for a driver with his resume. Photo by Andrew Harvey Photography

Pat Richard (Squamish, BC) and Alan Ockwell (Toronto) of Subaru Rally Team Canada won the Pacific Forest Rally, putting an end to a year-long drought. The two were competing together for the first time this season, though together they won the 2008 and 2009 Canadian Rally Championship titles.

“We took control of the event right from the start,” said Richard, who led most of the rally. “Then we had to manage the lead. Really, it was a clean run, with no drama. The car was flawless, Alan was great.”

Richard last won a round of the Canadian Rally Championship in the middle of the 2010 season, and has faced a number of challenges since. Between car development issues and using a different co-driver for most of the 2011 season the team had been unable to reach the top of the podium while his rivals seemed to have nearly trouble free runs at every event.

L`Estage is still in line for his second straight title. Photo by Andrew Harvey PhotographyThough Richard’s bid for driver’s title is over for this season, he arrived at Pacific Forest Rally relaxed and refocused on earning the manufacturer’s title for Subaru. The points scored this weekend are vital in Richard’s bid to earn the Manufacturer’s title in the Canadian Rally Championship. Richard will still need to win the final event of the season to secure the title for Subaru.

Second place team of Antoine L’Estage (St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC) and Nathalie Richard (Halifax, NS) ran a conservative event but remained focused on their goal for the season.

“For this rally, we really needed to concentrate on the Driver’s Championship and not get caught up in the battle for the event win. We only needed to finish tenth here to get the points we needed,” said L’Estage, whose second place result earns a second consecutive Canadian Rally Championship title for both he and codriver Nathalie Richard.

“This marks my fourth career championship in Canada, and at the last event, I clinched my fourth North American title,” said L’Estage. “I wouldn’t be here without the help of my sponsors and of course my team. They worked hard all season, and we’ve had great results. Of the last 11 rallies we’ve done, we’ve only had one DNF, we’ve won six, and been on the podium for the rest.”

“Crazy” Leo Urlichich (Toronto) and Martin Brady (Meath, Ireland) earned the final spot on the podium, Though Urlichich wasn’t satisfied with the result.

“Of course I want to do better than third place,” said Urlichich. “But we had two really good accomplishments this weekend. We led the rally while both Antoine and Pat were still competing, and our margin back from those guys is a lot less than it used to be. We just need to fine tune ourselves and our car, and I think we can go even faster.”

The Pacific Forest Rally podium. Photo by Andrew Harvey PhotographyImmediately behind the top three, a battle emerged between the team of Hardy Schmidtke (Cochrane, AB) and John Hall (Sherwood Park, AB) versus rookie Max Riddle (Vancouver) and co-driver Aaron Neumann (Vancouver). Schmidtke took advantage of early road position on the first day to open up a comfortable margin while slotting into fourth place. Riddle, who was further back in the start order was slowed by dusty conditions that made it hard to see, especially on the night stages.

“I’ve competed for three years to have earned my road position,” said Schmidtke, referring to his driver ranking that moves him closer to the front of the pack. “But Max is really fast, so I’m not sure I can hold him off.”

Meanwhile, Riddle, who started competing less than a year ago, drove calmly, clawing back the seconds until edging past Schmidtke halfway through day two.

“On Friday, our goal was to get into the top five,” said Riddle, a position that gives the team an extra minute gap to help reduce the chances of catching the dust from the car ahead. “From there, we just drove hard to make up time.”

Riddle and Neumann finished fourth, their highest result in a national championship event.

In two wheel drive, brothers Jan and Jody Zedril (Winnipeg) had a largely trouble free run to the top spot on the two wheel drive podium. The pair has been one of the most consistent competitors in two wheel drive and have been rewarded by winning the Two-Wheel Drive Championship making Jan the only driver to win the title in its three year history.

The Pacific Forest Rally also includes the PIAA ecoChallenge, an award given based on a combination of fast times and low fuel consumption. Jim Shepard and local Nicki Beverley (Merritt, BC) took the top spot in the ecoChallenge in their Toyota Celica. Though dominated by two wheel drive cars, pro mountain bike rider Brandon Semenuk (Whistler, BC) and Adam Vokes (Red Deer, AB) were the top ranked all-wheel drive car.

“This rally offers up a great challenge for teams, and an amazing experience for spectators,” said organiser Paul Westwick. “The stages really reward teams that push and take chances, and that means more excitement for the fans.”

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