by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Jason Swoboda

This afternoon, 56 of the top stage rally teams in North America will begin their quest to conquer “The Oldest, Meanest, Toughest Rally on the Circuit.” Lake Superior Performance Rally makes its return to the Rally America National Championship this Friday and Saturday, and brings with it 15 stages of widely varying length and surfaces, culminating in the Lakeshore Drive street stage on Saturday evening.

As you’re following along with the two-day event, and the many top crews competing in it, you’ll find one of the most compelling sets of storylines we’ve seen in the series all year long. Here’s what to look out for before Joseph Burke/Karen Jankowski become the first car to start the event at Bob Lake:

Can Piotr Fetela/Dominik Jozwiak further close the gap to Dave/Mike Brown?

After taking their fourth win of the season two weeks ago at Show-Me Rally, Fetela/Jozwiak are now only eight points behind Brown/Brown for the championship lead. That’s the difference between finishing a rally and not, as was the case in Colorado when the Fetela Rally Team took a DNF from first place on day one. It’s also the difference between first place overall and third—so if car #94 can take win number five, it’ll make up most, if not all, of the deficit.

How will this weekend’s additional entries affect both the race results and title chase?

Fetela’s ace in the hole against Brown? Deep entries in both the Open and Super Production classes. If they all finish the rally, top Open teams like Burke/Jankowski and Arek Gruszka/Lukasz Wronski (defending National Champions) would be expected to outplace the Open Light squad. Same goes for Super Production entrants like Nathan Usher/Marianna Langosch, Cameron Steely/Preston Osborn, and Zach Whitebread/Cameron Carr. That could all affect the point standings.

Who’s going to take home the most prizes from the 2WD Sisu Challenge?

Organized as an independent challenge by Tower City Race Team’s Al Dantes Jr. and members of the rallying community, the Sisu (that’s Finnish, loosely translated to “inner strength” or “determination” in English) Challenge will see 20 front- and rear-wheel drive teams compete for all sorts of prizes. The benefits aren’t just for the winners—last place, first to roll, fan favorites, and selected mid-pack racers on certain stages will also take home something for their troubles. Everyone’s got a chance at something!