The field for the LN4 class at Lake Superior Performance Rally this year was stacked.
Battling for the title in the final round of the American Rally Association Presented by DirtFish National Championship was 2021 Champion Mark Piatkowski, points leader Chris Sladek, crowd favorite “Texas Dave” Carapetyan, and road-racing star Dylan Murcott.
On top of that, to play spoiler was multi-time class champion Jeff Seehorn, as well as ERA Motorsport’s Tim Whitteridge.
You’d be forgiven then if you weren’t familiar with the team that stood atop the podium at the end of the rally, the duo of Grzegorz Bugaj and Elizabeth Dziubanski.
You might not have heard of them, because in the past two years, the duo has only made it to two rallies, both LSPR. Don’t let that fool you though, despite not being around much, this team is one of the most impressive on stage every time they enter.
“I’ve been rallying since 2012,” Bugaj explains to DirtFish. “In recent years we’ve been doing one or two rallies a year, and we never miss LSPR.
“So every year we’re at LSPR, and every year we try to kick ass, that’s our goal.”
Well, safe to say that a class win and fourth overall in the rally means that goal was achieved, but what’s even more amazing is that a team that has been off stage for a full year managed to hop in the car and be dominant without any testing, and having prepped the car themselves prior to the rally.
“We have a lot of practice in slick conditions from running LSPR so many years. We also do a lot of ice racing in the winter, so we’re used to the slick stuff,” Bugaj explains as a reason for the team’s stellar performance in the extremely slippery conditions this year.
Being that LSPR is usually the end of the ARA Championship schedule, Bugaj and Dziubanski are well aware of the power they hold as a potential spoiler to the championship battle each year.
“[Playing spoiler is] our goal. Every year we’re here in this class, that’s our goal,” Bugaj confirms. “People don’t know us, and we like to, you know, throw a monkey wrench into the whole thing.”
And this year? This year went exactly according to plan.
“It was amazing,” Bugaj says of the rally. “This is one of the first times in a few years that it’s been a real LSPR, you know? We had mud, snow, all the changing weather. We had an amazing time.
“We came here for a dogfight with Seehorn and Dave, unfortunately, we didn’t get that dog fight, but we just stuck to our plan and pushed on Friday. Today, we cut back a little bit with the rough stages just to make it to the finish. And here we are.”
It’s not just a one-off thing this finish though, if you go back and look at the past eight rallies the team have completed, they have retired from two, but won their class on the other six. This means that since the beginning of 2018, every rally they’ve finished, they’ve taken home a gold medal from.
Even more amazing, they are out of the rally car the rest of the year when they aren’t racing, no additional seat time in their N14 STI.
[Playing championship spoiler is] our goal. People don’t know us, and we like to throw a monkey wrench into the whole thingGrzegorz Bugaj
“Literally, no testing. It’s just us two doing all the work on the car, we prep everything, and we test on stage one,” Bugaj says. “So, it’s hectic. There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears but it pays off at the end.
“It works. We make it work.”
Dziubanski adds: “[There’s] a lot of long nights, no sleep for like two months straight before the event.”
Of course, there is a little bit of rally practice in the offseason, but not the type you might be expecting.
“We have a Can-Am X3 that we rip around the woods,” Bugaj notes. “You know, we practice notes. That’s about it.”
Though Bugaj rightly says people don’t really know who their team is in the world of rally, they definitely should, as if Bugaj and Dziubanski ever make it out to a few more national events, they’d be a massive threat to the LN4 Championship battle.
And of course, as they are still, at heart, a grassroots team, Dziubanski wants to throw out a huge shout out to the people who help them make finishes like this possible.
“Just a huge thank you to our crew and our families,” she says, “because without them being here, helping us it wouldn’t be possible.
“All their help, all their support, you know, they feed us, they take care of us at service, and we get to concentrate on driving while we’re here. We’re obviously still doing our own service and stuff, but if it wasn’t for them just to be a lot harder.”