Anyone who doesn’t believe that climate change is a real thing just needs to look at photos of the Rally of the Tall Pines over the years. Historically described as Winter roads with Summer ditches, it had been a number of years since Tall Pines had been held in snowy conditions. A couple of years ago, organizers decided to push the event back from the third weekend of November to the final weekend in the hopes that snow would become a constant again. Mother Nature has not cooperated. The Friday afternoon recce and shakedown stages were held under a steady drizzle on wet roads with temperatures hovering around 8 degrees. Rally day arrived with road surfaces that were a mix of gravel and ice. No snow.
The odds on favourite to win was the Subaru Canada Rally Team entry of Antoine L’Estage and Alan Ockwell. Having already clinched the 2015 Canadian Rally Championship at the previous event, the team had begun testing some new components for the 2016 season. Development on the dyno can only go so far, as it can’t duplicate the sheer abuse that a car receives in competition, so having an opportunity to test in actual competition can potentially be a big win. Testing in the public eye can also be a double edged sword however, as some new component inside the engine failed at the end of the second stage, leaving L’Estage and Ockwell at the side of the road, unable to continue.
That left the Father and Son Vincent team leading the rally, but the pair weren’t able to relax, as several other teams were on full attack. 2013 Tall Pines winners Chris Martin and Brian Johnson were fast on every stage, until a flat tire destroyed a brake line on Egan Creek, ending their rally. Mountain Biking superstar Brandon Semenuk made his Tall Pines debut with second spot on the podium with co-driver John Hall at the wheel of a Rocket Rally prepared Subaru. Third spot on the podium went to the hard charging and high flying Jeremy Norris and Jeff Hagan in another Subaru.