The Rallye Baie des Chaleurs in the town of New Richmond, Quebec in the beautiful Gaspe was the first rally I ever attended as photographer. It is my “home rally”, just across the Bay of Chaleurs from where I grew up in New Brunswick. My immediate family is from Northern New Brunswick and my grand parents are from the Matapedia valley. Going to Rallye BDC always feels like stepping back in time, and is one of the reasons why I love it so much.
I also love it because the atmosphere is just so good. It’s on or before Canada Day weekend, the ceremonial start is packed with fans, the shakedown stage is basically in town and easy to get to, and the spectator areas are always so much fun regardless of the weather. New Richmond is Rallyeville, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.
I’ve done Baie des Chaleurs so many times now that it can be easy to fall into the trap of “Alright, I’m going to the first stage, and then three passes of Camp Brule, and then tomorrow I’m headed to the jump.” I’ve tried a bunch of times now to do more than one stage in the morning on the first day, but the first loop of stages are difficult to get to once 00 has gone through them. This year, we went to the hairpin at the end of Eoleville, which worked out very well. Last year I was on the T corner and the stage was quite dusty, so that looked really nice. It had rained a ton leading up to the rally this year (including a ridiculous downpour during shakedown the night before) and the early morning stages on the first day were incredibly wet and muddy, so no dust at that point. The hairpin seemed like a better bet, especially since Frédéric Senterre was doing video again, and being able to set up two video cameras made that corner pretty sweet. During recce we tried to see if it was possible to get onto Douxbiro by leaving Eoleville up a very bad, very muddy access road and then down to St Edgar, but that transit was nearly a half hour. To do it on race day would have meant leaving Eoleville after just the top few cars had passed, since if we wanted to go into Douxbiro we’d have to be in position before 00. I’ve got all year to think about this particular problem and maybe next year I will have a better solution. This year I even had Nic Laverdiere in my car, and Nic knows the roads there as good as anyone.
In previous years, I’ve stayed up at Pin Rouge, so most of my driving routes in the morning involved coming down Chemin St Edgar, and then heading West at some point. This year, I was staying down on the water, West of the city, so I was coming at my points from the other direction. I made a stupid mistake the morning of the second day and we ended up on a really over grown quad trail that included a rough river crossing on the way to the junction for Le Burpreman. Topping that off was a big piece of wire locked across the road, forcing us to turn around and do the sketchy river crossing a second time. I am very glad that I have skid plates on my car. Regardless of this, we made it to our spot, and by Saturday morning the stages had dried out a bit and there was just enough dust to make things look pretty sweet. I had only ever photographed this corner in the wet before (last year it was dry but there was a house on fire and the fire department kept me from getting into the stage), and I was glad to see that my hunch was right. The corner does indeed look nice when it is dry.
Dealing with the Wet at Baie des Chaleurs
The weather in the Gaspe is always unpredictable. Shakedown started off glorious, with bright sunshine, but ended in a torrential downpour. Aside from getting coated in mud from the Leblanc brothers early on, that was not really a big deal. The main challenge came the next day, when I was photographing on the left-into-right at the end of the long straight on Camp Brule. The sun is getting low in the sky at that point, and it is behind the car. If you shoot that without a strobe of some kind, you end up having backlit subject. The problem here was a massive puddle on the inside of that first corner, so any lights you put on the inside corner are going to get soaked. In recent years I’ve become a fan of huge clear plastic bags. Big ones, like the sort of thing you weren’t allowed to play with as a kid. The strobe goes inside the bag, and the bag keeps everything dry. It works great, until the puddle starts getting mostly empty and then the water hitting the strobe is nearly entirely thick mud. After the first dozen cars the strobe was so completely covered in mud it was no longer effective and so I had to rethink my strategy for the remainder of the field. Last year it was raining when I shot that corner and I remember it happening later in the day. It was quite dark, as I recall, and so the images look very different.
Getting to a Service
I make it a point to photograph a service at rallies, and Baie des Chaleurs was no different. I love getting candid photos of teams and volunteeers, and it’s a good chance to do portrait work or some of the other “weird stuff” I am some times told I do. This year the weirdest moment happened when one of Ricardo Trivino’s crew started screaming in Spanish and grabbing the back of his neck. He threw something on the ground and stomped on it, and then everyone gathered around to see. He had been stung by something that looked like a cross between a dragonfly and a wasp. Freaking nasty.
Thanks and Acknowledgements
My thanks, as usual, to Fred Senterre and Nic Laverdiere. You guys always make rally so much fun and I especially appreciated the camaraderie this year. Bonus points for making a small camp fire on the before the first pass of Saut du 5 in order to keep the bugs away. Also, a special thank you to Maude and Alix who were so awesome and made delicious meals after each day. As General Patton once said, rally photographers march on their stomach. Finally, a huge thumbs up to Eric Guite who did a fantastic job as media coordinator this year. Baie des Chaleurs is incredibly well run, so thank you! Your hard work is greatly appreciated.