by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Scott Rains

It’s called “The Oldest, Meanest, Toughest Rally on the Circuit” for a reason, and last year’s Lake Superior Performance Rally was no exception. Of the 49 competing squads that signed up for the 2017 Rally America National Championship finale, just 34—an impressive number, but a significant cut from the entry list—managed to finish the event.

15 stages comprised the weekend schedule, kicking off with the 4.14-mile Baraga Plains stage that led both days of racing. The 123.03-mile race route finished with Lakeshore Drive, by far the rally’s shortest stage at just under half a mile.

If you’ve been following along with this year’s Rally America season, you know just how quick Piotr Fetela and Dominik Jozwiak have been in their Ford Fiesta FRT Proto. It should come as no surprise, then, that the #94 car topped the stage charts on nine of the 15 stages in its debut event, although missing stages on both days would cause them to officially be scored as a DNF.

That left most of the season’s top competitors to continue fighting it out among themselves. Rally America National Championship points leaders Arkadiusz Gruszka and Lukasz Wronski would win the Far Point I and Estes Lake I stages on the first day, while Nathan Usher and Marianna Langosch took the Lakeshore Drive stage that capped off the event and season. While they didn’t win a stage, PMR Motorsports’ Tim Rooney and Ole Holter would also remain consistently toward the top of the results table.

But it was the reunited crew of Justin Pritchard and Rachelle Kaltak who would win the remaining three stages, running together for the first time in more than two years. Kaltak took time out of the car to welcome her first child with husband Samir in August 2016, while Pritchard went a perfect five for five in regional events with Ryan Scott in the co-driver’s seat from Show-Me Rally in 2015 through LSPR’s dual regionals in 2016.

The duo planned to reunite at last year’s Rally in the 100 Acre Wood last March, trading in Pritchard’s Open Light car for a brand new Open class ride, but health issues forced him to step out of the driver’s seat for most of the year. When he was cleared to return to the car in the summer, the duo circled LSPR on the calendar as their reunion event.

Pritchard and Kaltak were third overall at the end of Friday’s seven stages, incurring a one-minute penalty for entering Estes Lake II too early, but climbed back into overall contention with strong times through Saturday. They were never worse than third on the first six stages of the day, won the penultimate stage of the rally on Menge Creek II, and managed to preserve a nearly 30-second lead over Rooney and Holter into Lakeshore Drive to take their first overall victory.

Rooney and Holter finished second overall to win the Super Production class, while Ryan Millen and Rhianon Gelsomino completed the podium in their factory-backed Toyota RAV4 SE to also top the 2WD overall standings. Usher and Langosch were just under a minute off the overall podium in fourth, while Gruszka and Wronski wrapped up the Rally America National Championship with a fifth place overall finish.

This year’s Lake Superior Performance Rally will take place on October 19-20, 2018. For more information on the event, click here. To volunteer for the event, click here.