One action-packed weekend! |
BANCROFT, ON – Every year, the Rally of the Tall Pines is one that brings out the best in the Canadian motorsport culture. As the final round in the Canadian Rally Championship (CRC), Tall Pines is always held in beautiful Bancroft, Ontario. Each and every year, thousands and thousands of Canadian rally buffs make the pilgrimage to Bancroft to watch some amazing cars piloted by some of Canada’s best drivers hit the trails. This year, Subaru Canada was generous enough to invite us out to watch their brand-new Impreza WRX STi rally car do what it does best.
The Subaru Canada Rally Team is made up of driver Martin Rowe and his co-driver Nathalie Richard. In the 2015 WRX STi rally car, they took on serious competition from Antoine L’Estage and Alan Ockwell in the Yokohama/Mitsubishi Canada Rally Team car. Subaru provided us with some amazing vantage points for these photos as well as incredible hospitality throughout the rally weekend. I know I’m a bit of a closet Subaru fanboy, but I just couldn’t get over all of the Subaru rally cars booting around; it made for a very overwhelming atmosphere.
After arriving on the Friday night, we got a good night’s sleep and woke up bright and early for Saturday morning. We spent the morning on the paddock, learning about all of the amazing cars on display. For amateurs to professionals, it became instantly evident that the vast majority of rally drivers choose Subaru. It’s pretty obvious why; the WRX and WRX STi are surprisingly affordable choices as rally vehicles. They’re dead reliable and pretty easy to source replacement parts for. Other commonly chosen rally vehicles include Mitsubishi Evolutions, some vintage Toyotas, and a few Legacys. One particular car that put a smile on my face was a classic Subaru Justy.
The course for Rally of the Tall Pines covers just under 200 kilometers surrounding and within Bancroft. In previous years, there has been tons and tons of snow, making this year particularly dry and dusty. No harm no foul for the cars; they ran just beautifully. As the day progressed, we moved between various sections of the course, learning more and more about how the cars handled and dealt with speed in varying conditions and road surfaces. This was easily one of the most exhilarating days of my life.
As the sun began to set, we had set up camp at a spot below some extremely tall trees. Mitsubishi was leading the rally at this point, and we saw (and heard!) them fly by, followed by driver Alexandre Béland of CanJam Racing in his Subaru WRX STi. The sounds out of all of these cars were just surreal; wide-open throttle and the burble of the Subaru’s flat four-cylinder engine had all of us grinning from ear to ear.
We were informed that prior to finishing the race, unfortunately the Subaru Canada team had an accident, particularly horrible news for us. Out of respect, we didn’t take any photos of the crash, but it’s important to note how well the car did in saving its occupants. Martin Rowe and Nathalie Richard were transported to the hospital and were discharged later that day without having sustained any severe injuries. The combination between safety features, solid structural rigidity and overall stiffness of the rally STi is undoubtedly what saved both these participants’ lives.
L’Estage and Ockwell of the Mitsubishi team swept the results and actually made rally history by becoming champions of all six rounds of 2014’s Canadian Rally Championship. I have no doubts in my mind that without the catastrophic accident having taken place, the WRX rally car would have had a solid chance at taking the win at Tall Pines.
I had an amazing time with some great friends from other media outlets as well as our great hosts at Subaru. My chariot to Bancroft was fitting; I took the all-new 2015 Subaru Outback and was able to put it through its paces as a road tripper. This was my first time actually attending any sort of Canadian Rally Championship, and I honestly cannot wait to make this an annual thing. For the rally fan, the Subaru enthusiast, or any sort of motorsport buff, Ontario’s Rally of the Tall Pines is a must-do experience at least once: I guarantee it won’t just be a one time thing.