by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Ben Newburn (1); Blind Deer Rallysport (2)

Jimmy Pelizzari // Traverse City, Michigan // #887 Open Light

The Open Light class has quickly become one of the most exciting to follow in the Rally America National Championship, and a closely matched field is the key to it. With all of the drivers pedaling lightly modified vehicles to their absolute limit, driver skill, rather than the fastest or most powerful car, can make all the difference in determining who makes it to the podium and who goes home happy to finish.

Blind Deer Rallysport’s Jimmy Pelizzari has proven himself to be not only one of the top drivers in the Open Light class, but in the series as a whole, as he enters the second half of the season sixth in the driver’s championship and fourth in class. The Michigan native and Autoweek writer took a few minutes away from his day job to let us know what got him into the sport and what makes him tick at an event:

What made you want to start rallying?

I grew up hearing stories about my cousin and family friend rallying or co-driving in Press on Regardless. Stories about glowing brakes in the woods really captured my imagination. Even when I got to do a bit of driving on the track, rally was always the form of motorsport that I always really wanted to do.

When was your first event and how did you do?

Sno*Drift 2014. We finished the rally and were ninth in class. My friends and I (mostly my skilled friends, I have no skills) worked all month to get the car up to spec. Even then... it needed some work.

When was your first really memorable result—win or podium—and how did you get there?

We were third regionally for Sno*Drift in 2016. We put a huge amount of work into the old 323 GTX to give it a little power to make it more driveable and really began to trust the notes.

Who is your usual co-driver, and when did you two start rallying together?

Kate Stevens, my girlfriend. We started 2014 at LSPR because i couldn't find a co-driver and she had talked me into signing up. She had never even seen a rally or really knew what a rally was but she learned really quickly.

What’s your favorite event on the Rally America schedule?

LSPR. No other rally beats the landscape, roads, challenge, and overall atmosphere.

Do you have any pre-event routines?

Not really. I just relax.

Which other drivers in your class do you respect the most?

Nathan Usher and Jon Kramer. Really, anyone in the Open Light class. Teams are hauling ass with low horsepower, low torque, and relatively low-cost, stockish rally cars. They’re sticking it to much higher horsepower cars.

Stay tuned tomorrow to meet Jimmy’s co-driver, Kate Stevens!