In front of the large crowd in attendance to cheer on the local teams and take part in one of New Richmond’s most spectacular events, the competitors did not disappoint. Jean-Sébastien Besner, co-driven by Yvan Joyal, took the early lead of the event. However, they needed to make it to the end without encountering mechanical troubles or pilot error on this rally’s extremely fast but tricky roads. Having often been the victim of mechanical issues and bad luck at the Rallye Baie des Chaleurs, this year Besner had everything on his side and won with a very commanding lead of more than two minutes over the top team from Gaspésie, consisting of brother André and René Leblanc (Subaru WRX STI), who were tied with the winners on close to half of the special stages.
A fantastic battle for third place was between Nicolas Laverdière/Vincent Trudel (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo XIII) and Mikael Arsenault/Amélie Bélanger (Subaru WRX STI). The latter local favourites had the crowd behind them and were among the more spectacular teams, however, they eventually conceded nineteen seconds to Laverdière/Trudel.
Fifth place went to Quebecker Patrick Rainville (organizer of Rallye Perce-Neige), co-driven by Nova Scotian Tim Dine. Rainville/Dine had a faultless rally in their Subaru WRX STI, finishing in front of two-wheel drive winners Mathieu Leblanc and Alex-Samuel L'Italien-Leblanc (Honda Civic). As another local team, the Lebalncs took the opportunity to shine in front of their fans as they finished ahead of the four-wheel drive teams of Sumit Panjabi/Mal Swann (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII), Maxim Ferlatte/Camille Joseph (Subaru WRX STI) and Frédéric Bujold/Ian Guité (Subaru WRX STI).
The two-wheel drive podium was completed by yet another Gaspésie team of Patrick and Dave Cyr in a Volkswagen Golf GTI, and the multi-time Quebec champion Simon Dubé, co-driven by American Aaron Crescenti (also in a VW Golf GTI). Leaders of this class towards the start of the rally, Dubé/Crescenti suffered from mechanical problems, costing them time and the top spot. In total, seventeen ECRC teams make it to the end.
Besner/Joyal’s victory, combined with the absence of Simon Vincent (winner of the second round of the season) and mechanical problems for Leo Urlichich, (winner of the initial round of 2017 last February), reaffirms their position at the top of the championship leaderboard. The next event, the Rally of the Voyageurs, will take place in Ontario on July 15th, and will surely be just as exciting.
The Eastern Canadian Rally Championship (ECRC) is comprised of nine events, all at the regional level, spread out between Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes.
For more information, consult the site www.ecrc-crec.ca