ARA Driver Spotlight: Jimmy Pelizzari
Photos via: David Cosseboom
If you’ve been around the Michigan rally scene for a while you’ve definitely taken note of Regional competitor Jimmy Pelizzari and his team, Blind Deer Rallysport.
Pelizzari, who typically has his girlfriend Kate Stevens in the navigator’s seat, has been rallying for seven years. In that time he has racked up multiple regional wins, upsets over high-dollar cars, and a speed factor of 80.5, placing him in the top 20 drivers based on speed factor in the entire American Rally Association.
We caught up with Pelizzari at Southern Ohio Forest Rally earlier this year where he was debuting a new turbo motor in his trusty Subaru Impreza RS and working out some teething pains to learn about his history rallying.
A former music student who spent a few years in New York hopping between various jobs, Pelizzari got interested in rally when he started doing rallycross events in an old Volvo he owned.
Despite living in New York, Pelizzari was lucky enough to find a few jobs that would help him build the driving skills he would one day use in the ARA.
“I just got a lot of experience working at Classic Car Club Manhattan, they had track cars and fast cars and super cars so I got a lot of seat time, but didn’t get to do a lot of wrenching!” Pelizzari recalls.
“[Also] driving cargo vans!” he added. “I delivered groceries in New York out of a panel van, that’ll give you some really good quick reactions!”
When he decided to move back to his home state of Michigan he dove in and bought a Mazda 323 GTX and finally start learning stage rally.
“It was a big, what is called a ‘learning experience,’” he laughed.
With his music school background, and relative lack of mechanical knowledge, driving wouldn’t be the hardest thing for Pelizzari to learn, but rather how to work on and repair his car after racing was done.
“I was never a mechanic and never had any engineering background, so just learning that stuff and just having people to teach how to do that stuff, that’s the hardest thing is just not being an idiot,” he joked.
Pelizzari hit the stages for the first time in 2014, and slowly started gaining experience and skills necessary for rally.
After some time in the Mazda, Pelizzari wanted to start racing something a bit easier to drive and work on, so he moved into his current car, a Subaru Impreza RS, halfway through the 2017 season.
Around this time is when Pelizzari started to have things “click.”
“[The best part was] just starting to actually finish well, competing with guys like Jon Kramer, probably being on the podium with Henry and Cynthia Krolikowski at Sno*Drift was a big one, that was very cool”
Fast forward to today, Pelizzari has multiple wins under his belt, a regional championship, and even finishes that would put him on National podiums had he been registered for them.
At SOFR when we talked to Pelizzari, he was running his first event with a new turbo motor build in his Impreza RS, bumping it up to O4WD, and he was seventh in the running order out of 72 competitors.
“[Being seventh on stage] was awesome, it was super cool!” Pellizari said.
“It’s fun being up there with the big guys, and kind of funny when they give your car a second look like, ‘what the hell is that?’”
Of course, as with any new build, teething pains reared their ugly head for Pelizzari and the Blind Deer Rallysport team.
“[Friday] night we had some issues with the tune, and then we resolved those at a sketchy gas station at 1am in downtown Portsmouth,” Pelizzari explained. “Today, this morning we had really, really bad overheating, bad air intake temps.”
“[It] turned out the light-bar placement we had had for NA completely blocks the intake for the turbo car.”
“It would have been nice to come out of the gate with a little bit better car, but it is what it is. The engine’s still in one piece and the car’s still in one piece.”
Pelizzari was able to pull off a class win at SOFR regardless, as well as 11th regional overall.
At last weekend’s Sno*Drift Summer Rally, Pelizzari continued to get his car dialed in, running top three for most of the event, before winning SS9. Unfortunately a fuel leak and exhaust issue would cause him to have to retire from the rally with only one stage to go, but it’s clear that Blind Deer Rallysport has gotten the car pretty well figured out, and will be a threat in the coming Midwest ARA events.