Yokohama Tire (Canada) Inc. will support a pair of the top independent rally teams in the 2004 Canadian rally championship, the company has announced, extending its participation in Canada’s fastest-growing motorsport for a seventh consecutive year.
The popular Qubec team of driver Antoine L’Estage and co-driver Yanick Napert will carry one end of the Yokohama banner for the season while expatriate Canadian Andrew Comrie-Picard and U.S. co-driver Marc Goldfarb will hold the other for the five remaining events in the Canadian Rally Championship presented by Subaru.
Both teams will debut their new colours at the start of the season’s second event, the Rocky Mountain Rally in Calgary on May 28.
The teams will have access to an array Yokohama’s highly specialized competition rally tires as well as the newest generation of sophisticated Yokohama winter tires.
"Our corporate involvement in rallying in Canada goes back to 1984," explained Sean Nakano, director of marketing for Yokohama Canada. "Over the years, we have sponsored some of the best competitors and been a strong supporter of the national series. Rally is not only a terrific way to showcase the high technology pioneered by Yokohama and a great way to reach enthusiasts, it is a real-world demonstration of products like our winter tires." The Yokohama teams will be equipped with the newest Yokohama IG10 winter tires for the icy stages that characterize the beginning and end of the Canadian season. L’Estage and Napert have risen quickly to national prominence after establishing themselves as top contenders in the highly competitive Qubec regional rally scene in 2001 and 2002. Driving a Hyundai Elantra, the pair picked up two second-place finishes in the national series in 2003 (Rallye Perce Neige and Tall Pines Rally) as well as a fourth at Rocky Mountain on route to a fifth place in the series standings. L’Estage was the top novice in the 2001 national championship.
L’Estage, of L’Acadie, Qubec, and Napert, of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Qubec, will pilot a Hyundai Tiburon in the 2004 championship chase under the banner of quipe de Rallye Coyotes. U.S. rally legend John Buffum built the car for the Hyundai factory team and will be its crew chief in Calgary.
Comrie-Picard also established himself as a promising new talent in just a few short years on the national scene, although his rally credentials extend to regional and historic competition in France, Britain and Sweden before starting his climb to the top in Canada. He moved from regional champion in Ontario in 2001 to contest the national title, where he finished second overall and first novice in 2002. His top national event finish is second in the 2002 Rallye International Charlevoix. Goldfarb is a seasoned U.S. competitor who has frequently teamed with Comrie-Picard in the past.
A native of Edmonton, Comrie-Picard now lives in New York City. Goldfarb began rallying in 1978 and has been co-driver for some of the top U.S. teams. He is a resident of New Hampshire. The pair will field a Mitsubishi Lancer for 2004.
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