Andrew “ACP” Comrie-Picard and co-driver Ole Holter won the Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR) this past weekend in style, with a margin of more than six minutes over their nearest competitor and puttinag their two-wheel-drive (2WD) Team O’Neil Ford Fiesta ST on the overall podium in a field of all-wheel-drive cars – a feat only achieved once before in the 10 years of Rally America history.

The team, who had already clinched the National Two-Wheel-Drive Rally America Championship in July, at the New England Forest Rally (NEFR), made it four wins in a row with the latest victory, with a streak from the Mt. Washington Hillclimb through NEFR, the Ojibwe Forest rally, and now LSPR.

The result is a remarkable 17th consecutive podium in the Rally America series for driver ACP.

“Yeah, wow, what a great result!” said ACP from the podium. “We couldn’t have asked for better: wrapping up the debut year of the Fiesta ST with a win and overall podium on what turned out to be the trickiest rally all year. Thanks to the whole team and to Ole for just nailing everything perfectly.”

The LSPR rally is often referred to as the “oldest, toughest, meanest rally on the circuit” and this year it lived up to its name, with intermittent heavy rain, sections of high traction punctuated by corners of soupy mud, and even a snowstorm in the middle of the second day. Many teams fell foul of the tricky conditions, including overall contenders Travis Pastrana and Chrissie Beavis, who went off the road on a muddy corner late in the event. Pastrana/Beavis’ teammates David Higgins and Craig Drew had a few problems but were able to overcome them on their way to the win.

Co-driver Holter said that “it was a classic LSPR: you could have crashed a thousand times, but we didn’t have any close calls or any problems. It’s remarkable, really – a testament to the car and the team. Andrew was just in the zone the whole time.”

The overall podium result is not only remarkable for being in a 2WD car, but it is the first time in many years that a car with a completely stock, unmodified engine has had such a result.

“The motor – and the turbo and manifolds and a lot of the car, actually – is just the way it came from the factory – we haven’t opened it or anything. And it’s the same engine that we’ve been running for the last six events and taken the last four wins,” said team principal Tim O’Neil.

The 1.6-liter, turbocharged, direct-injected EcoBoost Ford motor in the car also allowed the team to run lighter fuel loads than their competitors: “we get amazing mileage, especially on transits, where we have street-car fuel efficiency – very unusual for a racing car,” said crew chief Pascal Belperron.

The team used BFGoodrich g-Force competition rally tires for the effort, going to a narrower model for mud traction when the rains made the roads treacherous, and they once again suffered no flat tires, completing a perfect season with no punctures.

"This surpasses even our high expectations of the team and of the rally Fiesta ST," said Scott Denby, marketing and strategy manager, Ford Racing. “Rally is a brutal sport, and to finish every event on the podium, win the Championship with room to spare, and put the 2WD car on the overall podium is a terrific testament to the team and the Fiesta.”

The Team O’Neil Motorsports crew kept the car in top form with no issues all weekend. Technicians are Pascal and Marcel Belperron, Jarred Ainsworth, Elliot Garneau, Jesse Emerson, and Steve Marcotte; team managers Martin Headland and Chris Cyr; and team principal Tim O’Neil.

The Fiesta ST is equipped with safety and performance upgrades for rally competition, including beefy BFGoodrich tires, Mountune engine mapping and ancillary components, a Mishimoto cooling package, Vision X lighting, and top-of-the-line Recaro racing seats.

The team is uncertain of their 2015 program. “We hope to be back competing and defending our title,” said Comrie-Picard, “and we hear rumors of some great new competition coming in to the already super-competitive 2WD field. Nothing could be more exciting…bring it on!”

The Team O’Neil Rally School features Ford Fiestas as training cars and offers a great way for new competitors to learn the craft of rally driving and then compete in fast, reliable cars in North American rally events. ACP first trained at Team O’Neil (in Dalton, NH, Home of Rally Champions) 15 years ago, and still hones his technique there every year

Rally car racing is considered the extreme sport of automobile racing and is often described simply as "real cars, real roads, real fast." This all-season motorsport sees drivers and their co-drivers take modified road cars to the limit as they achieve blistering speeds over courses that cover hundreds of miles of gravel, dirt, or snow-covered roads.

The Rally America series is broadcast on NBCSports. Check local listings for air times.

Photo: Scott Rains