BANCROFT, Ontario (November 21, 2009) – Yokohama team driver Andrew Comrie-Picard put in a clutch performance with a hard-earned second place finish in the Rally of the Tall Pines here to garner his first North American Rally Cup championship.
With co-driver Jeremy Wimpey of State College, Pennsylvania, Toronto-based Comrie-Picard haunted the top of the leader board in his 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X for all 15 of the day’s special stages to lock up the second podium step behind overall winners Pat Richard and Allan Ockwell.
“We just drove as hard as we could,” Comrie-Picard admits.
Comrie-Picard’s North American Rally Cup championship caps a busy season in both Canada and the US, where ‘ACP’ earned a third in the Rally America Championship and a fourth visit to the prestigious X Games in Los Angeles. He ends the 2009 Canadian Rally Championship season in fourth.
Another kind of clutch performance sunk the championship hopes of the Yokohama team of Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard, who led the Canadian championship and the chase for the North American rally Cup going into the Tall Pines.
L’Estage and Richard, of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, were one stage away from locking up both championships – and a rally victory – when the clutch on their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X quit before the start of the final stage of the event. The pair had been in a see-saw battle with the winning Subaru Impreza WRX STI of Richard and Ockwell for the entire event. L’Estage was eventually able to coax the car through the final stage to claim fifth overall, not enough to prevent their Subaru rivals from claiming both the rally victory and the Canadian Rally Championship for 2009.
L’Estage recounts the team’s heart-breaking final minutes of the season. “Going into the last stage of the day (26 km) we had a 48 second lead over second place but our clutch had seized,” he recalls. “To make matters worse, the start line on that stage was uphill. For nine or ten minutes we tried desperately to start the car as we watched our championship hopes slip away. We eventually got started and set a blistering pace on that stage to finish the rally in 5th place.
“Unfortunately, it was not enough. We were all set to win the rally, the Canadian title for both of us and the North American driver’s title. It was a very emotional time for our entire crew and we are still in a state of disbelief,” says L’Estage.
L’Estage and Richard finish the Canadian Rally Championship in second place.
“We are very proud of the Yokohama teams and what they accomplished in 2009,” says Jonathon Karelse, marketing manager for Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc. “Regular trips to the podium, including a convincing win in winter conditions where we can demonstrate our winter tire technology in real world conditions, have made this season a memorable one.”
Yokohama has been a supporter of rally motorsport in Canada for more than a decade.
The Canadian Rally Championship has been televised nationally since 1993, and the 2009 series was made available on multiple media platforms, including as downloads from iTunes, on-line on Flat Over Crest (www.flatovercrest.com) and to 80 million homes in Europe on MotorsTV. Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc. markets and distributes a full line of tires for high performance, passenger car, light truck, and commercial truck applications, as well as off-the-road tires for mining, forestry and construction applications. It maintains distribution centres across Canada to serve more than 700 independent tire dealers.