Granville, Ohio, USA – Justin Pritchard and Rachelle Kaltak win the 2017 Lake Superior Performance Rally, their first overall national victory. Their last race together was over two years ago at the Ojibwe Forests Rally in August 2015, where they won the regional event in Justin’s Open-Light class Subaru. A lot has changed since then.

In August 2016 Rachelle, and fellow rallier Samir Kaltak, welcomed their first child. Only a few months later Justin sold his winning Open-Light Subaru and purchased a turbo powered Open-Class Subaru. The pair hoped to debut the new car at the 2017 Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in Salem, Missouri, but that was not to be.

Only 5 days after purchasing his new rally car, Justin was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML), a slowly progressing and uncommon type of blood-cell cancer that begins in the bone marrow and typically affects adults. The unanticipated diagnosis was discovered during routine blood work. The news was shocking and required Justin to begin immediate treatment. In August, Justin received good news from his doctor that his latest blood tests confirmed his prescribed daily Chemo pill was effectively treating his CML. Today Justin’s CML remains under control and his future prognosis for management of it is highly positive.

With his Leukemia under control, Justin and Rachelle were excited to get back into the car together at LSPR. They started off the Friday stages enjoying the unseasonably warm weather, learning the new car and getting back into the groove of racing together. Unfortunately the team incurred a 1 minute time penalty for moving through a control too early, on Friday evening. They began Saturday morning’s stages with a significant amount of time to gain back in order to remain at the front of the field and even reach the podium at all.

“After I’d read our score card incorrectly and had us enter stage 7 early on Friday night, I was bound and determined to push our hardest on Saturday, to make up the lost time” said Rachelle. “We starting learning our limits on Saturday”, said Justin. “We had an off road excursion three corners into a 10 mile stage, as we went wide and hit a large rock. The rock took a sizeable chuck out of our wheel, but the tire held up, allowing us to finish the stage at full pace. The car and I didn’t seem to mind the bent suspension!” Despite getting caught in another cars dust, the team managed to gather back enough time over Saturday’s 8 stages to push past the 1st position car of Gruszka/Wronski, the current 2017 Rally America National Champions, and 2nd position Rooney/Holter to win the 2017 Lake Superior Performance Rally.

“A few months ago racing was the last thing on my mind, but my family and friends encouraged me to return, and the overall win was completely unexpected”, said Justin. “I’d like to thank my wife, Meredith for all her support because without her this wouldn’t have been possible, and also Rachelle who was awesome in the car and really helped manage and support me during the event. My crew did a great job as well, two of them never having crewed before”.

Photo Credit: Scott Rains