|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 14, 2023
American Rally Association
MARQUETTE, MI ~ When rally enthusiasts find difficulties on stage or in daily life, they have a way of fighting through the issues of the moment, often citing a simple phrase: Press on Regardless.
The American Rally Association's Green APU National Rally Championship headed to that phrases humble beginnings this weekend, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, home of the Lake Superior Performance Rally. LSPR has pressed on over the decades and, in recent years, has become a must-drive due to its signature stages, fall foliage, and a microclimate that can switch a person from flip-flops to winter boots with the snap of a finger.
The 2022 ARA National Championship wrapped up in Marquette, and Subaru Motorsports USA's Brandon Semenuk and co-driver Keaton Williams took home their first title after the late Ken Block slid off the road in a winner-takes-all thriller.
The suspense heading into the 2023 Green APU finale was less climactic. Semenuk and Williams have been dominant this season and in control of the championship from the first Sno*Drift stage in February. After their new car came to life for the Vermont Sports Car program in Ojibwe, and the defending champs were once again right at home with a dominant day one at LSPR.
Semenuk and Williams left Parc Expose with a plan of patience and performance, as they had already clinched the 2023 title at Ojibwe. They held pace on all eight of the opening day's stages, controlling each run by an average of more than 34 seconds ahead of the field. Eight stage wins and a 4min 38sec lead leave the Subaru duo in line for their eighth win of the season.
Patrick Gruszka teamed up with Florian Barral for the sixth time this season, and the RC2 class leaders were locked in on Friday. They pushed their Hyundai i20 to a second-place finish on all eight stages as they look to win their fourth RC2 race of the year. Gruszka had wrapped up second overall in the national championship earlier this year and both he and Barral had locked down the 2023 RC2 title.
The rally started tightening up behind the two front runners. 2023 ARA Open 2WD champions Lia Block and co-driver Rhianon Gelsomino were making waves behind the wheel of Ken Block's 1994 Ford Escort Cosworth V2. They had the iconic car sitting in fourth, just 12secs behind Javier Olivares (co-driver KJ Miller), but engine problems forced them to withdraw from the rally.
Olivares, meanwhile, is in a season-long fight with Matt Dickinson (Chris Kremer) for the LN4 championship, as the two drivers came into LSPR separated by only six points in class. Olivares ran faster stage times than Dickinson on all eight stages on Friday and ended the day with a 56.2sec lead over the El Diablo driver while sitting third overall. But stuck between the two contenders was 2022 LSPR LN4 winner Grzegorz Bugaj (Elizabeth Dziubanski), who was faster on the final two stages than both Olivares and Dickinson to sit fifth overall.
Pat Moro (Ole Holter) found a ton of speed on SS4 to jump from seventh to fourth overall. Moro was in a groove after that and went from 26.7 seconds behind Olivares to 8.3 at the end of SS8.
Arek Bialobrzeski (Aris Mantopoulos) is seventh overall and first in NA4WD. Enda and Sean. McCormack is eighth overall and second in RC2, only 10.3secs behind Bialobrzeski. Michael Hooper (Michael Hordijk) is ninth overall and leading Open 2WD and holds a 6min 11sec lead over Nick Allen as the two battle it out for second overall in the 2023 O2WD ARA National championship. Lucy Block (Alex Gelsomino) is tenth overall and fourth in Limited 4WD.
Chris Sladek (John Sharps) is pushing their new 2023 Acura Integra through the paces at LSPR, leading the Limited 2WD class. Sladek came into the weekend second in points behind Sean Donnelly (Zach Pfeil), who is third in class and 17th overall on the national scorecard.
ARA East Regional Update
It took until October for 2022 Bristol overall winner Zach and Ron Jacques to hit an ARA stage this season, but they are making up for lost time. Jacques won six of the eight stages on Friday, arriving at service at the end of the day with a 2min 29.4sec lead over Mike and Morgan Engle.
With wins this season at Ojibwe and Hardwood Cup, Engle is looking for his best ARA finish at LSPR. Engle had a roller coaster drive on Friday. He started fourth, dropped to sixth on SS4 before moving into second on SS7, and is leading L4WD.
Dylan Gondyke (Ben Chuong) is fresh off last month's regional win at STPR and was in a podium-finishing spot all day. The ARA East Regional points leader is only 1.6 seconds behind Engle for second (first in NA4WD).
Levi Johnson (Griffin Johnson) continues his upward trend as the current Central Regional O2WD points leader and is the fourth-fastest regional driver at LSPR. Johnson made his rally debut at LSPR in 2022, and this marks just his sixth rally. But Johnson has won the O2WD class in his last three events, including a third overall at this Headwaters in May, and has his 1986 BMW 325 only 2.9secs behind Gondyke.
Silas and Charlotte Himes are fifth overall, thanks to a stage win on SS2. Himes is second in L4WD but only 4.3 seconds behind Johnson. Chris Cyr (Glen Ray) leads L2WD and is ninth overall.
The Lake Superior Performance Rally will conclude the ARA's Green APU National Rally Championship on Saturday, October 14, in Marquette, Mich. All 2023 ARA Regional championships will conclude with the Super Regional Show-Me Rally on November 3-4. Drivers and Co-Drivers may still earn points at LSPR and Show-Me for their regional championship. For more information on the American Rally Association and the Green APU National Rally Championship, go to www.americanrallyassociation.org.