Lake Superior Performance Rally 2017

By Steve Gingras

Can you tell that my daughter Gabby has named some of the rally stories? Earlier this year we had Woody’s Rally Round Up, Take Me Home Rally Roads and What Snow Does in Summer. Now, Gabby has come up with Rally with all the Colors of the Wind. Who can argue with that name? Rallying through the UP amongst the brilliant reds and bright golds of the fall colors with the temp in the 80’s can only be described as inspiring!
The final round of the Rally America Championship started off with the workers scrambling for sun screen instead of the usual water proof boots and down coats. Mike Hurst reminded me what happened at the Rally In The 100 Acre Wood 2 years ago when the weather was perfect. We had several severe incidents calumniating with Fetela/Jozwiak’s spectacular high speed roll. I discussed this at the drivers meeting and reminded everyone to be safe. We didn’t know it at the time but Mike’s comments would prove to be very prophetic.

Overall – First Time for Everything

With perfect weather, firm roads and some dust the racing was close. Fetela/Jozwiak were very fast in their new AWD Ford Fiesta FRT Proto. They built a 45 second lead in only 2 stages before teething problems forced them out of the rally with fuel pressure issues. The newly crowned 2017 Rally America National Overall Champion Gruszka/Wronski would finish out the day leading the event. Behind them Rooney/Holter and Pritchard/Kaltak were locked in a heated battle with Rooney/Holter taking day 1 by 8.5 seconds. On Day 2 the Rooney/Holter and Pritchard/Kaltak battle resumed with Pritchard/Kaltak slowly overtaking them going into the last stage of the event.
The final stage of the event was the Lakeshore Drive street stage in downtown Houghton. The drama started early as Gruszka/Wronski checked into a control early and incurred a 3 minute penalty that dropped them from 1st overall down to 6th. That put Pritchard/Kaltak in 1st and promoted Rooney/Holter to 2nd only 30 seconds back and Millen/R. Gelsomino were now in 3rd. Congratulations to Pritchard/Kaltak for their first national overall win. I guess they do need their stinking turbo!

SP/OL – The Break Up

The SP/OL class started off with 10 entries 9 of which were OL and a lone SP car for Rooney/Holter. The OL teams are looking forward to a level playing field next year when they get their own championship and the SP cars get to be the underdogs.
Usher/Langosch started off beating Rooney/Holter by 3 seconds with Surdyke/Kremer another 2 seconds back. After the first loop Rooney/Holter were leading Usher/Langosch by 13 seconds with Surdyke/Kremer in third about a minute and half back. The teams would mostly hold their respective positions until the start of the downtown street stage – Lakeshore Drive. Surdyke/Kremer were at the start line - 3-2-1 Go! They let the clutch out and the transmission said NO with BANG. They were pushed out of the way and on to the DNF list. Ellis/Sherwood and the Whiskey Throttle team would get the 3rd spot on the podium. Congratulations to Tim Rooney and Ole Holter for capturing the Rally America SP National Championship.

2wd – A Millen back on top

The race started off very tight. Burke/Brady took their 1977 Escort to an early lead by beating Steely/Osborn by 12 seconds on Stage 1. Hurst/Hoche-Mong in their 1974 Capri were 3rd 1.4 seconds back and Millen/R. Gelsomino were sitting in 4th another 1 second back.
The next loop of stages did not favor the Fords. First to get caught out was the clairvoyant Mike Hurst and Michel Hoche-Mong. Going too fast into a corner they slid wide and rolled the car into several trees and out of the race. On the next stage Burke/Brady were caught ditch hooking a little too much and were sucked into a swamp and held there by a swamp monster. Next to be added to the rapidly growing DNF list was Steely/Osborn who lost a turbo hose. Throw Fetela/Jozwiak into the mix and the Fords were not fairing so well.
Hooper/Barbera traded stage wins with Millen/R. Gelsomino for the rest of the night. At the end of the day new daddy Ryan Millen would have a well-earned 35 second lead over Michael Hooper in the new Lexus. Robinson/Sharps were in 3rd over a minute back.
The newly crowned Rally America 2wd National Champions of James Robinson and John Sharps were running 3rd looking to put the Honda on the podium when they went off the road. They managed to miss all the trees but were hopelessly mired until Short/Norkus stopped and pulled them out. They lost over 11 minutes and dropped to the back of the field.
Stage 13 saw the end of a great drive by Hooper/Barbera. They had just fought their way into 5th overall and were closing the gap with Millen/R. Gelsomino when according to Claudia Barbera “We had a silly off and got stuck.” I hope we get to see more the Lexus next year.
At the end Millen/R. Gelsomino would put their Rav4 on the overall podium with an impressive drive and take the 2wd race by over 8 minutes from Erickson/Good. The Local team of Dantes/Snyder brought their RX-7 Turbo home in 3rd. There is something wrong with a Millen and a Mazda on the podium but not together(Ask an old guy if you don’t get it!) Great drive Ryan and congratulations on your new teammate!


With 10 teams entered this was the largest NLO field of the season. The carnage started even before the cars left the first MTC. The practice stage claimed 2 of the top teams that had expected to challenge for the class win. Kaltak/Dorman rolled their car and damaged the engine. The other bad luck team was Bugaj/Dziubanski; they threw a piston and caught the car on fire. End of the Rally!
Reamer/Slocum were the early leaders with the team of Williams/Cosner only 12 seconds back and the LaRoza’s in 3rd by 42 seconds. The results after the last stage of day 1 would show that Whitebread/Piper were getting used to the power of their new NLO car. They jumped into first and were leading Williams/Cosner by 9.2 seconds. Reamer/Slocum had slid to 3rd with LaRoza’s still in the hunt in 4th.
The Menge Creek Stage is a fast, fun bobsled ride of a stage and proved to be the undoing of several teams this year. Reamer/Slocum are not fans of Menge Creek anymore, as they were having a little too much fun and rolled their car right out of the event. Williams/Cosner were charging hard and would take the lead back from Whitebread/Piper. The LaRoza’s put together an impressive charge winning 5 of 8 stages and moved up the leader board until they were only 14 seconds out of 2nd. On the 2nd running of Menge Creek Williams/Cosner’s good luck appeared to run out when they rolled. However, they were able to continue and with 1 stage left they would hold on and take the win with Whitebread/Piper in 2nd with LaRoza/LaRoza in 3rd and 4th would go to Draganov/Yanev. Congratulations to Steve and Alison LaRoza on capturing the Rally America NLO National Championship.


Going into the race Keanna Erickson-Chang had a mathematical chance to overtake Daniel McCarron for the B-Spec championship. In order to try and win, she enlisted the help of Alex-Gelsomino to co-drive. Yes I had to hyphenate his name to keep the tradition going.
Erickson-Chang/A. Gelsomino started fast and took the early lead but McCarron/Blake would battle back and take over the lead. Their lead was short lived as Erickson-Chang/A. Gelsomino would wrestle it back and hold it to the end of the day. McCarron would finish the day 15 seconds back with Gardiner/Hall in third. On Day 2 McCarron/Blake charged hard and tried to close the gap to first but could get no closer than 23 seconds. Erickson-Chang/A. Gelsomino took the win with McCarron/Blake in 2nd and Gardiner/Hall in 3rd. Congratulations to Daniel McCarron for winning the Rally America B-Spec National Championship.

Notable Notes

Rebecca Hall – First year of co-driving wins the Rally America B-Spec National Co-Drivers Championship!
Local team of Matt and Janell Huuki brought out their 28 year old Mitsubishi Eclipse and drove it to a 6th Overall and 3rd in Open Class Finish. Pretty good for a car that is older than many of the competitors.
The Over-Hyphenated Rally team of Keanna Erickson-Chang and Claudia Barbera-Pullen announced that they will be running the Rallye Aïcha des Gazelles du Maroc. The ladies-only rally raid takes place over a two week period in the Moroccan Sahara next spring.
Former WRC Champion and 1983 Winner of the Press On Regardless - Hannu Mikkola drove the Baraga Plains, Silver Arvon and the Lake Shore Drive Stages as a Zero Car.
After rolling on the practice stage, Sam Kaltak crewed for his wife Rachelle Kaltak and friend Justin Pritchard who ended up winning the event overall. If you can’t beat them join them?
Gruszka capped off a championship season by doing donuts down the Lakeshore Drive Stage. The Police were not happy! But the crowd approved.
Fetela/Jozwiak were really learning their new car and demonstrated the fact by winning all of the forest stages on day 2. Could this be a preview of what to expect next year?
Sorry Kim it is the best way to end the story – TTFN.