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By Claude Lamoureux / www.flagworld.com
 

A return to the Canadian Rally Championship for the second round of the series, the Rallye Baie-des-Chaleurs, for Isle of Man co-driver Rob Fagg was rewarded with a second placed finish. Calling the notes for former champion Pat Richard again in the Subaru Canada team, the pair overcame a host of issues to stand on the podium once again and remain at the top of the championship standings.

Even prior to the New Richmond, Quebec based event start, Richard and Fagg were aware that they would not be able to push as hard as they would like to, with Richard continuing his recovery from a foot injury sustained earlier in the year. But following their win on the opening round back in February they were also aware that they did not need to win but rather to ensure they got as many points as possible.

Following Friday’s stage reconnaissance, during which the Rocket Rally Racing pairing would write entirely new pace notes, it was reported the stages would be very fast along with tricky sections of heavy mud, and with rain forecast this could get worse.

The opening leg of the event would get underway midday on Saturday with the 6km Le Parc Caribou test up first and following the seeded draw it was Crazy Leo Urlichich (Subaru Impreza) first on the road, reigning champions Antione L’Estage/Nathalie Richard (Mitsubishi Evo X) second and Richard and Robert Graham & Co Quantity Surveyors supported Fagg in a happy third position. First blood would go to L’Estage though with him recording the quickest time by a margin of 6.2 seconds over Urlichich with Richard/Fagg a further 2.3 back.

The 5km Le Musselyville and 11km Le Robidoux bought the crews back to service and it would be three from three for L’Estage as he held a lead of 25.3 seconds over second placed Urlichich and the Subaru Canada pairing in third, still only 10.2 seconds off second.

With no reported issues, except for the pain Pat was experiencing in his injured ankle which was effecting his braking, it would be a repeat of the previous stages ahead of the midday halt and as crews entered there would be no change in the running order.

As the competition resumed, with the longest loops of the event totalling 35km, the drama was about to begin. The 14km Le Preton stage saw Richard/Fagg’s progress hampered as they lost fifth gear, limiting them to just four gears which were not ideal with the fast nature of the loop, a lot of which were 5th and 6th gear sections. But despite the issues they would keep in touch with the two in front as they reached service, L’Estage also experiencing a time losing stall during the stage.

The Subaru Canada service crew then pulled out all the stops; swapping the broken sequential gearbox for a standard shift gearbox within the 20 minute service and get the car back out without penalty. The change though would not be good for Richard’s injured foot as he would be required to use the clutch for gear changes.

Again the previous loop was repeated but this time with heavy rain and low lying fog patches, and would see the retirement of Urlichich with an engine issue while both L’Etage and Richard would experience water loss from their respective cars cooling systems. Both though survived the night and after fastest times on the final two stages Pat and Rob would take over at the top with a 10.7 second lead over title rivals Antoine and Nathalie.

Sunday would see battle take place in bright hot conditions, but Pat and Rob were all too well aware that the day’s stages contained some tricky muddy sections. The overnight break had also given the injured ankle of Richard the chance to rest but was still giving the driver an amount of pain.

L’Estage pushed hard on the opening loop of the day to return to the top of the leaderboard as the Subaru Canada pairs Impreza lost water again and caused the pair to back off their pace. A large gap to third though ensured the pair we able to nurse the car and remain in second spot. Over the final stages it would be a case of continuing to the nurse the car as the overheating continued and the team turned the power down to ensure they reached the finish and picked up valuable points towards their championship. But with L’Estage also suffering engine issues anything could change.

As crews reached the finish of the event, it would be L’Estage/Richard who took the win by a margin of 48.8 seconds from

Richard/Fagg, a result though which would leave the pair still in the lead of the Canadian Rally Championship, a position that Rob was very happy with.

“It has been a tough rally for us this weekend, with the conditions playing there part along with Pat struggling with injury,” commented Rob at the event finish on Sunday evening. “But we have finished on the podium and picked up good points keeping us in control of the championship. The team have been amazing; the gearbox change they performed is full credit to them and shows what a great bunch of guys they are to turn that around.”

And with a two month break now till the third round in September, Rallye Defi, it gives chance for Pat to continue his recovery.

“It goes without saying that Pat’s injury have slowed us down this weekend, but you have to take you hat off to him for continuing through the pain and driving us to this result,” explained Rob. “The break should allow for his foot to recover further and come Rallye Defi hopefully be in a state we can battle for the overall win”.

Between now and then Rob has a busy period a head, the third round of the Eurocars Motorsport Manx Rally Championship takes place on Saturday July 20th with the Dave Corris Forest Stages. He will be back alongside Arron Newby in the TEG Sport Subaru Impreza and hope to get their championship challenge back on track. Then there is an event away from the stages as Rob gets married at the start of August before heading off on Honeymoon.

Rob is supported in 2013 by Robert Graham & Co Quantity Surveyors, Nicky Grist Motorsport (www.nickygrist.com) and Fastime Stopwatches (www.astopwatch.com)