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

“The Oldest, Meanest, Toughest Rally on the Circuit” kicks off this afternoon, as 56 entries begin the 2018 Lake Superior Performance Rally at 3:50PM local time. Here are some of the top storylines coming out of the start of the eighth round of the 2018 Rally America National Championship:

Friday Stage Preview

Bob Lake (run in both directions), Estes Lake, Teepee Tower, and Far Point are the four stages on the docket for competitors today, with each run twice. Teepee Tower is the longest stage of the rally at a whopping 14.25 miles. For those looking to watch the action, Estes Lake offers one spectator point, while Far Point has two.

“Bob Lake has a fast start and finish, but a very tricky surface change in the middle,” explains Tower City Race Team’s Al Dantes Jr. “The surface goes from sand to black top soil, very slippery in spots, and hidden tall stumps near the roadside catch teams every year. There’s also an amazing corner in the middle with a decreasing radius—it tightens from a 5, to a 4, to a 3, to a 2 when it snaps shut.

“Estes Lake is a flowing drag race with a few sharp corners mixed in to kill your momentum. Teepee Tower is a super fast stage that WILL find the max speed of your car, if you’re brave, and Far Point wants to be fast like TeePee, but is tighter with better flow.”

“Teepee Tower is so fast,” adds River City Rally’s Michael Hooper. “It’s traditionally not my style, but it’s an amazing feeling to trust the notes and stay flat over the fast bits, and take big cuts from notes made on recce. We hit 118 miles per hour in 2017 (the GPS speedometer said 125), so we expect over 120 this year!”

Brown vs. Fetela: The Battle Continues

With their fourth victory of the 2018 Rally America National Championship, Fetela Rally Team’s Piotr Fetela/Dominik Jozwiak continued to close in on current overall points leaders Dave and Mike Brown. With the end of the season rapidly approaching, Brown/Brown remain eight points clear of Fetela/Jozwiak for the driver and co-driver championship lead, 94-86.

July’s Rally Colorado remains the difference maker, as Fetela/Jozwiak’s early withdrawal due to mechanical issues prevented them from earning the eight finishing points that Brown/Brown took for completing the event, even as they missed the top 10 in the overall standings. Fetela/Jozwiak rebounded by taking back-to-back wins in the past two rounds at Sno*Drift Summer Rally and Show-Me Rally to whittle away at part of the deficit, but Brown/Brown podiumed at both events behind them.

Sneak Attack Rally Steps Up to Super Production

Sneak Attack Rally, which currently ranks third in the Rally America National Championship with Nathan Usher/Marianna Langosch, moved from the Open Light class to Super Production at Show-Me Rally earlier this month with a new motor. They’ll look to finish their first event with the new powerplant at LSPR after retiring early from Show-Me.

“The change to the car was swapping in a 3.0L 6-cylinder (EZ30R) motor from an Outback,” Usher explains. “It gave a significant increase in horsepower as well as a much broader power curve. Unfortunately, squeezing in the swap between rallies didn’t leave me with a lot of time for testing to work the bugs out. It started overheating four miles into SS2... so we decided it was best not to start SS3. I ordered a low-miles motor on Monday (after Show-Me) that arrived on Tuesday, and I quickly got that in the car and running the same evening.”

Burke and Hooper Renew Intriguing Group 5 Battle

Seamus Burke/Martin Brady’s 1977 Ford Escort MkII is one of the most captivating cars in Rally America, a legendary vintage rally car that puts down some of the fastest times in the entire eld. But they’ve faced a challenge from River City Rally for the fastest times in 2WD in multiple events this season, as Michael Hooper’s 2006 Lexus IS350 looks to defeat Burke/Brady for the Group 5 and overall 2WD wins.

After running with Alison LaRoza at Southern Ohio Forest Rally and Brian Katz at Show-Me Rally, Hooper will reunite with co-driver Claudia Barbera-Pullen at LSPR this weekend. They’ll start eighth on Friday afternoon, the second 2WD car on the road and just two cars behind Burke/Brady. The two cars finished fourth and fifth overall at SOFR in their most recent face-off this year, separated by just two minutes and 2.8 seconds.