"Crazy Leo" Urlichich made a winning return to competition last weekend, winning the opening round of the 2017 Canadian Rally Championship.
The Rallye Perce-Neige was also the first round of the 2017 Eastern Canadian Rally Championship (ECRC) as well as the inaugural round of the American Rally Association championship.
Forty-one teams entered the event held on snow and ice-covered roads in and around Maniwaki, in the Haute-Gatineau (Outaouais) region of Québec.
Early leader was one of the clear favourites, Antoine L’Estage, who, after succumbing to mechanical problems, handed the top spot over to Urlichich.
Driving a Production-class 4WD Subaru WRX STI freshly built by Cam-Jam Racing in Toronto, Urlichich was co-driven by Alex Kihurani. The pair put in an excellent performance to beat many teams with more impressive and powerful machinery. But keep in mind that Urlichich gained valuable rally experience when he contended for the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy in the FIA World Rally Championship a few years ago.
In addition to winning the Canadian Championship’s portion and the Quebec Championship portions of the event, Urlichich - making his comeback after a three-year absence - also finished third overall behind Brit David Higgins and American Travis Pastrana, who were exclusively entered in the American Rally Association portion of the event.
After a seven-year absence from Canadian rallying, Bill Bacon and co-driver Gregorz Dorman took their Subaru from Rocket Rally in British Columbia to second place.
With their own, totally custom Open-class car not ready in time, veteran Sylvain Erickson and Patrick Levesque borrowed a car from a friend, and put that car to good use. They struggled with problems over the final stages and lost time, dropping to third place before arriving at the finish.
Subaru Rally Team Canada’s Antoine L’Estage has reunited with co-driver Alan Ockwell for the 2017 season. The team took an initial lead through the first three stages, but things took a turn for the worse on the fourth stage when driveline problems resulted in the loss of the all wheel drive system.
The team dropped from the overall lead down to third, and then took heavy penalties in service to get the car fixed. Technical issues continued through the rest of the event until the team were finally side lined deep in the forest stages of the final leg.
The Canadian two-wheel drive field was especially hard hit by the difficult winter conditions. Cameron Steely and Preston Osborn overcame an off to finish at the top of the standings. Steely and Osborn have a lot of experience in two-wheel drive, but coming from Colorado, were new to running studded tires on ice and snow.