HOUGHTON - After 29 years of racing at the Lake Superior Performance Rally and the local POR (Press On Regardless rally) that preceded it, the husband-and-wife team of Henry and Cynthia Krolikowski understand exactly what it takes to drive away with the LSPR crown.
You need skill, experience, a strong car and excellent communication between driver and co-driver.
And then top it all off with a gallon of luck.
The team of Henry (driver)?and Cynthia (co-driver)?Krolikowski of Wyandotte, Mich. race through the Green Acres stage of the Lake Superior Performance Rally Friday in Portage Township. The pair won the event though their car broke down after the last stage. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
The Krolikowskis have been running in the Houghton and Baraga county rally for nearly three decades uninterrupted, but never before have the Wyandotte, Mich. natives come close to winning the LSPR overall title.
Saturday, after successfully completing the final stage in L'Anse, the team best known for their longevity knew they were finally victorious on their annual Copper Country trip. All that was left was driving the 2000 Subaru Impreza back to inspection in Houghton.
And they broke down in Baraga.
"We finished the whole race in L'Anse, and we were driving to Houghton (for the award ceremony) where we have to get to Houghton to check in. And the car dies," Henry said. "It completely breaks down in Baraga. But our fellow competitor, (Jim Scray and Colin Vickman), stopped, got out a cable and towed us 30 miles back to Houghton. And that is the spirit of this race. The rules allowed it, but these guys didn't have to tow us back. It was wonderful. We have been here 30 years and never finished better than fourth. We know we have won, all we have to do is turn in the car, and it breaks down. ... so he towed us all the way, and then because the rules require it, Cindy and I had to push the car up hill across the line.
"I never thought I would ever win it. And like any endeavor, you need some luck."
Luck and 29 years worth of experience.
With snow falling early Saturday morning, Henry and Cynthia felt sure they would have an advantage in the adverse conditions.
After all, they had seen it before.
"I would have loved to see 6 inches. I thought it was great," Henry said. "Driving in the snow, up here, is just a magical thing.
"Based on experience, we made a lot of good tire choices at the start," Henry added. "We knew the nature of lot of the roads we were going to run on, and age has given us a really good sense of pace. We've crashed out six or seven times before, so we know how hard it is."
In celebration of their victory, the Krolikowskis planned on spending their time the way they always do in Houghton, for the main reason they keep coming back year after year - with friends made over the course of many trips from downstate.
"We have made lifelong friends in Houghton and Hancock," Cynthia said. "We come out early every year to this race so we can visit with our friends. We have a lot of great experiences."
ack in Wyandotte, Cynthia works at Wayne State University as an academic librarian, proving that rally racers come from all corners.
She can look forward to the next story she gets to tell her class.
"I teach a lot of library structure class. And all I have to do is tell the folks that I race cars, and they are Googling me right away," Cynthia said. "I always say to them, 'You can't judge a book by its cover.' That's a little librarian humor right there."
The Krolikowskis were also given the "Bragging Rights in the North," award in the all-wheel drive division for their combined finishes in the LSPR and Minnesota's Ojibwe Forests Rally.
Houghton native Mason Moyle and his co-driver, John A. Hall, finished in second place overall. According to specialstage.com, defending champs Adam Yeoman of Hancock and co-driver Jordan Schulze of Lake Linden suffered a fire on-stage Friday night and were unable to start Saturday.
David Grenwis and Drew Burkholder won in the front-wheel drive division and Robert LaFavor and Derek Beyer have bragging rights for rear-wheel vehicles.
In other rally class victors, Samir and Rachelle Kaltak won the Open Light Class, Jordan Guitar and Daniel McCarron in P-Stock, Tim O'Neil and John Dillon in G2 and Doug Shepard and Karen Jankowski in G5.
For complete results, visit rally-america.com.