OPRC Mid-Season Update
By Brandon Pace, VP Performance
Half Way Through the 2022 OPRC
With a warmer than normal Rallye Perce Neige, shorter than normal Rallye Perce Neige #2 in Maniwaki, QC and a hot as expected Black Bear Rally in Catchacoma, ON. we find ourselves at the half way mark of the Ontario Performance Rally Championship. After hundreds of kilometres over 3 events, favourites are beginning to emerge across the classes of Overall, 2 Wheel Drive, Production 4 Wheel Drive and Production 2 Wheel Drive. With many of the competitors opting out of at least one of the first three rallies, the second half of the championship is set up to be unpredictable. As of now, this is how it looks, but everything could change in a fortnight at Rallye Defi and then again during the double header at the Rally of the Tall Pines.
Only three drivers have found themselves scoring championship points in all three of the rallies this year, leaving the standings quite close. Two of the three said drivers have been rewarded for their consistency, with Matthew Ballinger sitting atop the overall standings tied with Olivier Martel, both having 44 points. Secondly, Trevor Pougnet’s consistency across the three events has him eyeing a podium spot with his 27 points and 4th place. Currently in 3rd with a mere 4 points more than Pougnet is Gabriel Monette with 31 points. Not too far behind in 5th and 6th is Aube and Drake with 24 and 22 respectively. Andrew Wallbank, the third driver to consistently earn points at all the rallies, has not been as fortunate as Ballinger and Pougnet. After a tighter than expected “Left 2” early on during the double header at Rallye Perce Neige. Wallbank had to limp through the remainder of both events, earning points for starting and finishing. His car troubles didn’t stop there as engine problems caused a premature end to his Black Bear Rally, after he posted the fastest time for stage #1. With all the bad luck, Wallbank finds himself with a meagre 5 championship points and well down the standings in 19th place.
The overall standings are quite close, but the 2 wheel drive (2WD) standings are really close with only 10 points separating the top six drivers. In 2WD none of the drivers have been able to get their cars to all three events. The top 5 consist of drivers who made it to the double header in Maniwaki. Hans Larose narrowly holds the top spot with 32 points but must have a strong second half of the championship with his rivals hot on his heels. Both Marc-Olivier Leblanc and Kurtis Duddy are in a tie for second place, gathering up 31 points each by the mid-point of the championship. Fourth place Crawford New, fifth Mal Swann, and sixth place Charles Hammer are not to be counted out just yet as any one of them could also make a push for the class win. New with 24 points, Swann with 23 and Hammer with 22 will all be looking to make the most of any mistakes from the top three in class. Leading the rest of the pack, in seventh spot is Sean McConnachie in his Ford. After not being able to make it to Maniwaki, McConnachie had a solid performance at Black Bear Rally. Finding a way to claw back to second in class, after having a small off on the first stage that cost him at least a minute, made it an uphill battle all day. The second place earned him 17 points and he is followed by the rest of the class Toufanov, Jones, Besse and Rawcliffe with 14, 12, 8 and 1 point respectively.
In the Production 4WD class, the fight for 1st is starting to become a two horse race with Ballinger’s 24 points besting Pougnet’s 14. As mentioned before Ballinger and Pougnet are two of only three drivers to earn points at all events. It goes to show how important every championship event is as both of them are in contention for the overall and class honours. After coming off of a successful 2021 OPRC campaign winning the novice title and placing 2nd both overall and in class, you can bet that Pougnet will not make it easy for Ballinger throughout the second half of 2022 as he probably wants to upgrade those two second places into firsts. Just a stumble from either of the front runners could open the door for Trudel and Rioux as both drivers have 9 points and share third.
The Production 2WD class has been slightly less dramatic than the other classes with Marc-Olivier Leblanc besting Crawford New at both Perce Neige rallies, leaving them with 18 and 12 points. At Black Bear Rally, there was no sight of Leblanc and New had sustained serious damage to his Plymouth Neon at Rallye Baie des Chaleurs in New Richmond, QC a month earlier, leaving him in Ballinger’s right seat for the rally. With the leaders out of the way, novice driver Roderick Jones grabbed 9 points for the class win at Black Bear Rally and third in the championship. Leblanc and New will have to keep their eyes in their review mirrors as Jones will be there with his commitment to compete in both Rallye Defi and the season ending double header of the Rally of the Tall Pines.
Who else will make it to Rallye Defi, the Small Pines Rally and Pine Cone Rally? More importantly who will finish the last three events? How does the saying go? To finish first, first you must finish.