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2011 Rallye de Charlevoix: The dream come true! Great battle with Antoine L’Estage and John Buffum

November 7, 2011

Dear friends, this year’s Rallye de Charlevoix will go down in history as a very special event for our team.


The magic started with the news that the legendary rally driver John Buffum would be co-driving for Antoine L’Estage. Up to this point we hadn’t been able to match Antoine’s pace, but we knew, that because John and Antoine didn’t have much experience in the car together, this rally was going to be our big chance!


If on that day, October 22nd, you weren’t at the event, or checking stage times live, you missed one of the best battles in North American rallying! Here is how it started. Martin Brady and I tied John Buffum and Antoine L’Estage on the first 2 tarmac stages.

On stage three we were beaten by… one second! Common! The two champions, who have 17 million rally wins combined, only beat us by one second after 24 kilometers of rallying! I was boiling with excitement and was only hoping that we would not crash too early! The next stage was new for this year, with some rough spots, short strips of tarmac and a very fast second half. I drove as hard as I could, while constantly correcting pace notes on the fly. I couldn’t believe it, but we beat the champions by six seconds and jumped into the lead by five. I was ecstatic!

Charles Warren, charlevoixendirect.com


Next up was a long, 35 kilometer stage that had everything a proper rally can throw at you. Embedded rocks, water-splashes, narrow and technical sections, fast and crazy stretches, straights and bumps and dips and jumps! The champions had the better of us this time, by five seconds, which  meant that we were tied (again!) going into the two spectator-packed “La Pax” stages.

I have never liked short stages, because I suck at them! We came out five seconds behind. With two night stages to go, totaling over 28 kilometers, everybody knew that it was far from over. Both these stages were the repeats of what we had done earlier, so the notes had been checked and I was ready to wrap the Beast around a tree, but I wasn’t slowing down! Leaving the last service I received a blessing from the team to go “write it off!”. Not often do you get a carte blanche like that. I could feel that something very special was about to happen!

On the second to last stage we had a good run and I was surprised about our pace at night. When I started rallying, Andrew Comrie-Picard said that driving at night “separated the men from the boys”. Only now I was starting to understand what he meant. We fought back to within four seconds from L’Estage and Buffum.

Jeff Bachman — twitter.com/jeffbachman


Now, sitting at home it’s impossible to express how excited, proud and honored I was! In the recent events we were never in a position to have a proper fight: we were too far behind the top two teams, and often well ahead of the fourth place guys. And that takes away the excitement and makes you always take a little more care, because there is simply no point in taking chances. You try to drive quickly, but it’s not the same… the fight is something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time and the dream finally came true! And it couldn’t have been a better fight, than battling with arguably the two greatest drivers on this side of the pond!

Before starting the last stage I asked Antoine if he would do thing: go as hard as he could. If we were to win this rally, I wanted it to happen because we were truly the fastest. James Cameron himself couldn’t have orchestrated it any better! A cold, dark night somewhere far north of the mighty Saint Lawrence River,  two fire-breathing rally cars ready to define the laws of physics. There were four  people from four  different parts of the world. There were 17 kilometers left to go for… and only one second separating them!

Start line… first gear… count down… launch control…

ONE THOUGHT: “I AM the happiest man on Earth. There is no more pressure, no more tactics. Just go as fast you can, whatever happens, it is worth it!”

… drop the clutch!


I wish I could drive like that every time! Nearly every braking point was perfect, the straights seemed shorter than ever, the car handled beautifully, it felt like birthday and Christmas on the same day! If you are a driver or a co-driver, I wish you could feel what I felt at least once in your life. Just going as fast as you can, without thinking about anything else. Not slowing down where you normally would, braking that little bit later and being that little bit earlier and harder on the throttle. This is why we love what we do, this is it!


We tied Antoine and John on that stage, and we lost the rally by one second. After the initial disappointment I realized that it couldn’t have ended any better. My dream came true, I got my fight and that fight was a very special one. We’ve reached another level of driving at night, and that’s a big achievement.

After seeing Lewis Hamilton struggle last season in Singapore, I’ve realized a very important thing: you learn much more from your defeats than from your successes. After this amazing Rallye de Charlevoix, I am even more determined, hungry and ready to take it to the next level! I simply can’t wait for the Rally of the Tall Pines!

I want to say a huge thank you to my team, Can-Jam Motorsports and especially to Duane Hoo, his brothers Kevin and Nicholas, their father Stewart, Richard Wong, Sean Smith, Ken Anctil, James MacKenzie and all the others, who have battled alongside me for all these years. Special thanks goes to Antoine L’Estage and John Buffum for their advice, honesty and support. And of course, to my mom and dad, who have had to put up with me for the longest! -:)


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posted in Blog by Crazy Leo

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5 Comments to "2011 Rallye de Charlevoix: The dream come true! Great battle with Antoine L’Estage and John Buffum"

  • Seth Mandich wrote:

    Awesome post Leo! I love seeing you mixing it with the champions! Hopefully some day I can experience that feeling! Keep it up man!

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    CrazyLeo Net Reply:

    Thanks! All you need is…. work at it like a maniac, have an amazing team and a good o-driver! :)

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    Seth Mandich Reply:

    Well, I’m starting with working like a maniac and going from there! :)

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  • Josée wrote:

    Finally had the time to read your report! Love it! It think Antoine too enjoyed the fight. He came, very discretely, to ask me what your time was after the first run in La Pax and he seemed a little bit “annoyed” by the fact you had beaten him by 5 seconds. I think it acted as a whip on him!

    Great rally! Can’t wait for the Pines!

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  • Josée wrote:

    Finally had the time to read your report! Love it! It think Antoine too enjoyed the fight. He came, very discretely, to ask me what your time was after the first run in La Pax and he seemed a little bit “annoyed” by the fact you had beaten him by 5 seconds. I think it acted as a whip on him!

    Great rally! Can’t wait for the Pines!

    Reply | Link

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