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

River City Rally’s Michael Hooper and Claudia Barbera-Pullen picked the perfect time to score their first Rally America National Championship class victory this weekend. Topping the 2-Wheel Drive field at Lake Superior Performance Rally also meant they would win the 2WD SISU Challenge, the independently organized event put on by Tower City Race Team to encourage participation in the Group 5, Group 2, and B-spec classes.

“I’d like to offer a huge thank you to Tower City and all that donated to make this possible,” Hooper said after the victory, before immediately highlighting the successes of his competitors. “It was so impressive to see (Adam) VanDamme’s pace when things got slick. It really highlights what can be done in 2WD with an ample helping of skill and courage!”

“I was humbled and honored to be a part of the first SISU 2WD Challenge,” said Al Dantes Jr. of Tower City Race Team, who organized the event. “LSPR was kind enough to give the TCRT and STANG Rally team 15 minutes of mic time at the banquet, where we handed out prizes to almost every single team!

“We had 24 cars in total, with every 2WD rally car entered! The event itself exceeded the hype. Mud on Friday. Snow, sleet, and slop on Saturday. The winners were very diverse and well deserving!”

Hooper/Barbera-Pullen, competing together for the first time since Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in March, took the overall 2WD victory by just over three minutes ahead of Seamus Burke and Martin Brady. Burke/Brady, whose most recent Rally America event ended in a 2WD win at Southern Ohio Forest Rally, voluntarily paid a double entry fee before recusing themselves from the SISU Challenge results. That elevated Justin Kollien and Daniel Garant to second in the SISU Challenge standings, with VanDamme and Jacob Carlson third.

Saturday’s snowy weather and slippery conditions enabled the 2WD competitors to capitalize on the first pass at each stage. Group 2 racers Kevin Schmidt and Brian Flint led the charge, taking the win in the first pass at Herman-Nestoria. Schmidt/Flint were in the top three of every stage in Saturday’s first loop, while at least four 2WD cars placed in the top 10 in each of those stages.
Tower City Race Team will organize its next 2WD SISU Challenge on June 15, 2019 on the upper peninsula of Michigan. More information on the next SISU Challenge, including entry and prize information, will be revealed closer to the event.