Rally car racing enthusiasts will once again descend upon the Nicola Valley this weekend for the 40th anniversary edition of the Pacific Forest Rally — the fifth stop on this year’s Canadian Rally Championship series.
As always, the Pacific Forest Rally is poised to be a potential game-breaker as driving teams battle for the 2017 CRC title. With just two more stops in the series — in Bancroft, Ont. in November and at Kelowna’s Big White in December — a win at the PFR could all but seal the deal for one of the leading contenders.
As of Wednesday, a total of 33 entries from across North America were registered to compete in the Pacific Forest Rally, including the top three car-and-driver combinations in this year’s CRC.
Currently in first place in the driver standings with 46 points is Canadian Motorsport Hall of Famer Antoine L’Estage from St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
L’Estage is a nine-time winner of the Canadian Rally Championship, and eight-time winner of the Pacific Forest Rally (including the last six in a row).
L’Estage’s co-driver, Alan Ockwell, from Etobicoke, Ont., is a five-time CRC champion himself. He presently sits in second place in the co-driver standings.
After a pair of DNFs to start the season, the L’Estage-Ockwell partnership has been red hot — winning the last two rallies in a row (Rallye Baie de Chaleurs and Rallye Défi).
Also scheduled to compete in this year’s PFR is the second-place team in the standings, comprised of driver Leo “Crazy Leo” Urlichich and co-driver Sam Roxan, and the third-place tandem of driver Brandon Semenuk and co-driver John Hall.
Urlichich won the first event of the year (Rallye Pierce Neige) with co-driver Alex Kihurani, while Semenuk and Hall took top honours at the second stop on the CRC tour (the Rocky Mountain Rally in Invermere, B.C.).
The popular service area has moved slightly — from the truck stop by the airport to the parking lot of the newly-opened Best Western Plus Hotel by the bus depot.
There is also one brand new racing stage, located off of Exit 250 (Coldwater Road) of Highway 5 southbound.