Antoine L'Estage new rally champion
The biggest names in U.S. rally competition descended on a rural corner of Maine and New Hampshire last weekend for the sixth and final round of the 2010 Rally America championship, the New England Forest Rally.
Everybody who's anybody was there (well, almost -- Dave Mirra was practicing BMX somewhere). The entry list ballooned to 65 mean rally cars that slid and jumped their way through a 100-plus-mile course over two days.
For fans of the sport, it was a nail-biter. Canadian Antoine L'Estage and his co-driver/spouse Nathalie Richard have been fighting hard all year in the U.S. -- the first time the talented duo has run the full Rally America championship. They went into the event with a 13-point lead in the series, but still had to place well to secure the title.
Ken Block took the lead early on but crashed his Ford Fiesta. L'Estage was going well in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, but his turbocharger failed, leaving him down on power for awhile. Travis Pastrana was way out front in his Subaru WRX STi, and his engine blew up.
Andrew "ACP" Comrie-Picard was a little off the pace running in his backup Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, then he let the smoke out of some wires and that was it for his day.
When the dust settled, L'Estage had managed to get back to the front and sealed his season with a victory. For the Canadian driver, that's a record of six podiums in six starts in the U.S. (two first-place finishes, three seconds and a third). Pretty good year!
In rally car racing, as in other motorsports, there are always different competitors running different battles. In Rally America, there's a very competitive class called Super Production, which restricts the number of modifications teams can make to a more production-based philosophy -- upgraded from stock, but not much. No crazy engines or plastic windows like the fastest guys have or like the cars that come to X Games. Even so, they're still plenty fast.
X Games driver Pat Moro took the 2010 Super Production title (yes, his car will be upgraded for X Games) over rival Travis Hanson.
In two-wheel drive (yup, you don't have to be in a Subaru or Mitsubishi to have fun in the dirt), first-time X Games driver and local hero Chris Duplessis piloted his 2009 Scion xD to second place in the race and the championship title. The youngest driver in the field at just 23, he's pretty good in two-wheel drive and it'll be awesome to see him step it up to play with the big boys in an all-wheel drive beast at the X Games.