Rally of the Tall Pines 2012


Rally of the Tall Pines 2012
Bancroft, Ontario, Canada
November 23-24th, 2012

This was the 42nd running of the Rally of the Tall Pines and it is spread out over 516 kilometers of road, splitting 206kms from the stages and 312kms in transit for the nationals and only 393kms in total for the regionals being 150km in stages. Coming into this event Antoine L’Estage and Nathalie Richard already had the Canadian Rally Championship locked down and it was easy to tell though out the day that they were just trying not to destroy the car, but still pushing the limits!

Mark Harris (Senior Editor) and I arrived Thursday night and went over our game plan at the local bar across from our inn called “The Granite.” The next morning came too soon as it was earlier than expected leaving us time to kill so we joined the Recce cars for our own little drive on the Old Hastings stages.

It was a cold Canadian weekend and we even got to see some snow and ice on Saturday morning! The weather conditions made the first few stages (mostly A1) extremely slippery and challenging for teams. The ruts being left were frozen solid so corners weren’t the smoothest to transition. Throughout the day things managed to warm up a bit once the sun came out.

This ’88 Peugeot 205 was a car I thought I would never get to see with my own eyes, especially on a rally stage! Driven by Karoly Toth and co-driver Jimmy Brandt, it was truly amazing just to see it. Sadly it was not able to finish due to a power steering pump issue.

As I walked the pits, I was falling in love with the oldies. Parked next to the 205 was a 77’ Toyota Corolla. Behind the wheel was R. Nuno Pereira and at his side was Isabel G. Pereira. Unfortunately this was yet another car in the mix that was unable to finish because of an engine problem.

Fiestas are a very popular choice among Fords now right next to the Focus. Even though it is only front wheel drive it is still a very quick car if driven properly!

No matter what anyone says AWD always has the advantage in a rally. This Subaru STi is quick off the launch spraying gravel and dirt inches in front of me.

Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell were fighting for the North American Manufactures title here for Subaru. They had won the event in 2009 so both have had tons of experience on these roads, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are extremely difficult especially in unpredictable conditions!

I may or may not have been in a spot where I shouldn’t have been on the middle of the road, but that doesn’t matter… it was a thrill! The cars I appreciated the most were the ones that were built by the (privateer) drivers themselves. Rallying costs a great deal of money unlike most other motorsports. You can’t get away with cheap parts here like you would on your weekend track car – it takes extreme dedication to commit to this sport!

Edward “Fast Eddie” McNeily making the AWD guys look silly coming into the Iron Bridge in his R2 Ford Fiesta! These cars are so underrated, it was a shame him and his co-driver Holter Ole could not finish because of a “mechanical problem”.

Finishing in an amazing fourth place with a time of 1:56:24.5 was Ryan Huber and his Co-Driver John Vanos! They were flying through every corner spraying anyone standing in their way with dirt. A great time, and well deserved position!

The number 39 Tonic car was one of two that managed to survive the trials and finish. The other had a little accident and had a nasty collision wrapped around a tree thankfully both drivers were okay!

There were tons of accidents throughout the rally as Mark and I had anticipated due mostly to the weather. Corners were unpredictable throughout the day depending how much sunlight everything got, especially in the middle of a blind turn when you are expecting it to still be grippy! No one was hurt from my understandings except a few of the rally cars.

First place finish went to Patrick Richard and Alan Ockwell in their ’08 Subaru WRX STi with a time of 1:46:18.4! Second place was awarded to overall champions Antoine L’estage and Nathalie Richard in their Mitsubishi EVO X finishing with a total time of 1:50:56.1. Thrid place went to Ugo Desgreniers and his co-driver Erik Kirby in their ’05 Subaru WRX STI just trailing L’estage and Richard by about 2-seconds with a time of 1:52:39.1!

It was sad to see that Crazy Leo had pulled out of the rally. He left a comment on Facebook stating that due to a previous crash he would have been unable to give his 100% commitment. I mean it’s understandable because the conditions were tough so maybe it was smart decision after all. If L’estage and Richards already had the title locked down was it worth risking the car?

The Rally of the Tall Pines is always my favorite event to shoot of the year as I look forward to 2013 and hope to be even more prepared for intense action.

Check out our past coverage of Rally of the Tall Pines 2011

Words & Photos:Ben Fry


  1. Would be nice when you talk about the 4th place finishers – Ryan Huber and John Vanos – that you show a pic of their car #21 not car #17.