See that picture up above? That will not be the scene this weekend at the season ending Rally of the Tall Pines. Anyone who has been involved in rally in the continent’s north east knows that Tall Pines is famous for changeable weather that usually includes the season’s first blast of snow. The area has had snow for a couple of weeks now and even the Toronto area, some 2 1/2 hours south is expecting 10 cm of snow tomorrow! Even still, as of yesterday the roads were hard packed gravel, which means super fast. The only thing that is consistent about Pines is that competitors won’t know what tires to install until they peek out of the hotel room on Saturday morning.
The Garage will be at Tall Pines this year, with video and still cameras in tow. If all goes well, we’ll get our readers some in car footage Friday night and an interview or two. It has been a long time since I competed at Tall Pines and I’m excited to be able to cover what many consider one of the most challenging events in North American rally.
If you are anywhere near Southern Ontario and have always wanted to see real rallying, you must visit the Bancroft area this Saturday. Spectating is free and you can get up close and personal with the cars and stars at service. Visit the Tall Pines web site and pick up the virtual spectators guide. You can grab a print copy at the event.
To get a better idea of some of the exciting battles we can expect, we have the latest official Canadian Rally Championship news after the break.
BANCROFT, Ontario Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Unpredictable weather and challenging roads set the stage for a fierce final showdown at CanadaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rally season ender, the Rally of the Tall Pines, November 20-22, in Bancroft, Ontario.
Subaru Rally Team CanadaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Pat Richard and co-driver Alan Ockwell have already secured the Canadian championship title, but defending champions Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard are looking for redemption in what has been a frustrating Canadian season.
There will be plenty to fight for at Tall Pines, with the Hyundai team of LÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Estage and Nathalie Richard in close contention with Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino for the North American Rally Cup – a series which scores a teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s best six events on both sides of the Canada-US border. These three top factory teams are all out for a big win at this final event of the season.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I’ve won Tall Pines three times, and we’re ready to win again this yearÃ¢â‚¬Â says LÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Estage. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The North American Rally Cup has only been won by one American in the past seven years, and I want to make sure it stays that way!Ã¢â‚¬Â
But their biggest challengers for the title arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to make it easy. Subaru Rally Team USAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino are looking to wrap up the title on LÃ¢â‚¬â„¢EstageÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s turf.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Antoine has won two races in our U.S. championship and it’s my goal to win my second this year in his,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Block. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It’s going to be a battle, and I plan on standing on the top of that podium at the end.”
Block made his rally debut at Tall Pines several years ago and has since made it a regular stop on his competition calendar. The event ended early for Block in 2007 after he slid off the road.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It’s great to have won the title, but we really want to win at Tall Pines,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Patrick Richard. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It’s great not to have to worry about championship points so we’ll be pushing really hard.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Andrew Ã¢â‚¬Å“ACPÃ¢â‚¬Â Comrie-Picard and guest co-driver Chrissie Beavis will make the gravel debut of the teamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a first in North America.
Also entered is BlockÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Monster Energy teammate Dave Mirra, a BMX legend who has recently made the switch from two wheels to four.
More than 40 teams are expected to take the start at this event, including a diverse two-wheel drive entry including historic cars such as a 1978 Datsun 280Z, and a 1976 Ford Cortina GT. Zebe Szewczyk has made the trek from Alberta in his blazing yellow Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart, and there are a number of production entries fighting for class wins.
Tall Pines Rally also marks the culmination of Subaru and MitsubishiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 2008 contingency award programs, and they will be awarding thousands of dollars in prize money to the top competitors in each marque based on event and season standings.
The storied Rally of the Tall Pines is an event that features some of the toughest driving challenges in North America, with conditions often referred to as Ã¢â‚¬Å“winter roads with summer ditchesÃ¢â‚¬Â.
The cold weather in the region at this time of year means the roads can become snow or ice covered, but drivers will not have the benefit of snow banks to keep them on the road. A small mistake can have big consequences at this event.
The Rally of the Tall Pines is one of the most spectator-friendly in the series, and this year will include a new Super Special stage minutes from downtown Bancroft. The rally is held November 20-22, 2008, and includes more than 150 kilometers of competitive stages run in the Canadian Shield setting around Bancroft, Ontario.
Rally car racing is often described simply as Ã¢â‚¬Å“real cars, real roads, real fast.Ã¢â‚¬Â The all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over closed-road courses that typically cover more than 150 kilometres of gravel, dirt or snow-covered roads. Fans can get up close to the cars in the service areas and catch all the action from specially designated spectator points located at the best spots on the route.
The Canadian Rally Championship is comprised of six events held nationwide in a season that extends from February to November. The series is presented by Subaru Canada, supported by Yokohama Tire Canada and features contingency programs from Subaru Canada and Mitsubishi Canada. The Canadian Association of Rallysport (CARS) is the official sanctioning body for rallying in Canada.
Full coverage of the championship will air on RDS and TSN. Check local listings.
For more information on the web: www.CARSrally.ca ; www.tallpinesrally.com
As always with our awesome rally footage, the photo above is courtesy of Warwick Patterson