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County driver returns to world rally stages

Ian Crerar returns to world rally competition in Europe

The road to the world rally stage is proving as steep as some of the mountains they race on for a local rally and road racing champion.

Ian Crerar is facing some roadblocks in his return to world rally competition in Europe.
Following his successes in the World Rally Championship (WRC) at Corsica and Monte Carlo in 2016 and 2017, this time Crerar has built and shipped a Porsche 911 to Europe for the R-GT Cup competition.

But getting there is half the battle, and Crerar has run into more than his share of challenges just getting to the start line.

The technical requirements for running in these events are strict, he said – geared for manufacturer-supported teams – and although the car is compliant with the rules, it has been an uphill struggle to prove it.

“We’ve had the engine out of the car several times to take pictures of the build,” Crerar said. “Each time is supposed to be the last, but the goal posts keep moving.”

The car started out as a well-worn 300,000-km street 2006 Porsche 911 (997 model) that Crerar picked up in California. But now, after six months of work in the Prince Edward County-based ClearWater Design Racing shop, it’s been transformed into a Canadian flag-themed rally car. Crerar, with fellow-Canadian co-driver Pat Levesque, will be the only Canadian team running in the R-GT series, so the car will stand out.

To prepare it for racing the entire interior was removed, an FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Autosport ) spec cage installed and many of the working parts of the car upgraded and improved, including the suspension, wiring, and converting an automatic transmission to manual.

While they are still waiting for final approval from FIA, Crerar and Levesque have been given special permission to run the car in the Rallye International du Valais in Switzerland on Oct. 18. They will not be scored, but the event organizers are excited to have international competitors taking part, and have made a special arrangement for the Canadian team.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to test the car and our mettle against an international field,” Crerar said. “It’s what we came to Europe for – preparing for the Rallye Monte Carlo in January.”

The team plans to compete in the full 2019 R-GT Cup championship season, starting with the iconic Rallye Monte Carlo. These are high-speed performance rally events, run on tarmac on some of the most challenging roads in Europe.

Drivers piloting Porsche GT3 cars won the R-GT championship in the first three years, and Crerar – who races in several series in Canada in a variety of Porsche 911s – is looking forward to taking this R-GT 911 to Europe’s toughest roads.

“Porsche makes a really stout and effective motorsports tool right of out of the box,” he said. “Competing in the R-GT championship in a Porsche, well, people can be very excited about it because they have a storied history in European rally and I think that people miss it. It’s a cool European marque coming back and tearing up the championship.”

To qualify for the event the car must be less than 15 years old, which means this car will be eligible to race until 2021, Crerar said, hinting that he would like to run in the series for the next two seasons.

Now that the car has landed in Europe it will be serviced by Chazel Technologie Course, a renowned rally performance shop, and the same outfit that he rented his WRC rally cars from in 2016 and 2017.

The FIA R-GT Cup was created in 2015, and is being contested for the fourth time in 2018. It takes place in conjunction with tarmac rallies that are part of the European Rally Championship (ERC) and the World Rally Championship (WRC).

Crerar is not the only member of the family who is competing in a dream race.

Driver Michelle Laframboise of Picton, and navigator Elise Racette of Mirabel, Quebec, representing ClearWater Design Racing, bested teams from around the world in 2017 to win their class, as well as finishing fifth overall in the all-female off-road navigational rally that takes place in the wilds of California and Nevada.

Michelle Laframboise, Crerar’s wife and business partner in ClearWater Design Canoe and Kayak on Prince Edward County Road 15, is currently driving in the Rebelle Rally (www.rebellerally.com), a women-only off-road navigational challenge, taking place Oct. 11 to 22 in the deserts of California and Nevada.

She and her co-driver Elise Racette will be aiming to beat their fifth place overall finish and retain their first place title from the International Cup in 2017.

Fans can follow Ian’s and Michelle’s progress online.

Ian: October 18-20, http://www.riv.ch/fr/

Michelle: October 11-20, http://www.rebellerally.com/live/

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesSports & Recreation

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