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Rally car racing enthusiasts will once again descend upon the Nicola Valley this weekend for the 40th anniversary edition of the Pacific Forest Rally — the fifth stop on this year’s Canadian Rally Championship series.

As always, the Pacific Forest Rally is poised to be a potential game-breaker as driving teams battle for the 2017 CRC title. With just two more stops in the series — in Bancroft, Ont. in November and at Kelowna’s Big White in December — a win at the PFR could all but seal the deal for one of the leading contenders. 

As of Wednesday, a total of 33 entries from across North America were registered to compete in the Pacific Forest Rally, including the top three car-and-driver combinations in this year’s CRC. 

Currently in first place in the driver standings with 46 points is Canadian Motorsport Hall of Famer Antoine L’Estage from St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

L’Estage is a nine-time winner of the Canadian Rally Championship, and eight-time winner of the Pacific Forest Rally (including the last six in a row).

L’Estage’s co-driver, Alan Ockwell, from Etobicoke, Ont., is a five-time CRC champion himself. He presently sits in second place in the co-driver standings.

After a pair of DNFs to start the season, the L’Estage-Ockwell partnership has been red hot — winning the last two rallies in a row (Rallye Baie de Chaleurs and Rallye Défi).

Also scheduled to compete in this year’s PFR is the second-place team in the standings, comprised of driver Leo “Crazy Leo” Urlichich and co-driver Sam Roxan, and the third-place tandem of driver Brandon Semenuk and co-driver John Hall.

Urlichich won the first event of the year (Rallye Pierce Neige) with co-driver Alex Kihurani, while Semenuk and Hall took top honours at the second stop on the CRC tour (the Rocky Mountain Rally in Invermere, B.C.).

There have been a few changes to this year’s Pacific Forest Rally.

The popular service area has moved slightly — from the truck stop by the airport to the parking lot of the newly-opened Best Western Plus Hotel by the bus depot.

There is also one brand new racing stage, located off of Exit 250 (Coldwater Road) of  Highway 5 southbound.

Familiar to racing enthusiasts will be the car expo and ceremonial start on Granite Ave. on Friday afternoon, and the racing stages located at Helmer Lake (Exit 315 on Highway 5 northbound) and at the Dillard Forest (Loon Lake exit on Highway 97C eastbound). Detailed directions can be found below.