Drivers #JustSendIt Despite Snow At Rally America’s LSPR
Rally America’s National Championship Series held its 2018 season grand finale competition this past October 19-20. The Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR) takes place just as Houghton, Michigan, begins to teeter on the line between fall and winter, which results in unpredictable conditions. Slick corners, deep ruts and hidden boulders on the seasonal roads forced 19 out of 54 teams to forfeit.
This year began as a perfect fall weekend. Rain from the night before left Friday’s stages with soft, easily-rutted ground spotted with car-swallowing puddles. High winds brought sudden heavy snowfall by Saturday morning just in time for the Parc Expose. The thick wet flakes tapered off by noon, but not before leaving a generous layer of snow and slush behind. In rally, tire choice can make or break the competition. Will the sidewalls on snow tires be too thin to make it through the rocky areas? Will gravel tires made with a harder compound provide enough traction in the cold? Regardless of what the teams chose, everyone sent it through the stages.
Because Rally Car
The 2006 JRD Lancer Evolution’s wide body first caught our eye at Friday’s Parc Expose. Built to WRC specs, the platform is highly competitive in the Rally America Championship. Joseph Burke and Karen Jankowski piloted the car to first place overall and an Open Class win.
Matt Huuki and his daughter Adelinn Huuki weren’t far behind in their 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse. This 28-year-old race-prepped car raised eyebrows as it took on its role of a gravel machine gun through the corners. The team earned an impressive third place overall and second place in the Open Class.
River City Rally’s Michael Hooper and Claudia Barbara scored their first Rally America National Championship class victory at this year’s LSPR. This meant that they also won the 2WD SISU Challenge, an independently organized matchup designed to encourage 2WD participation in the Group 2, Group 5 and B-spec classes. As the first place winner in the challenge, the drivers won 40 percent of the prize fund collected from the 24 entry fees paid, a 50 percent discount on a two-day Rally America National Championship event, a $150 discount on their 2019 LSPR entry, high-resolution photos, $100 in labor and fabrication work, and free drinks to celebrate.
It was a real treat to see Ireland natives Seamus Burke and Martin Brady tear up the stages in their 1977 Ford Escort Mk2. The WRC driver and co-driver placed second in 2WD. “I don’t think we have ever seen this car so muddy,” Brady expressed.
Press on Regardless
Zack Rondeau and Dan Kelly had their fair share of challenges as they zipped through the woods in a 1991 Honda CRX. While the first day was incredible with perfect conditions, right as the team thought they couldn’t go much faster, they hit a tree on the rear passenger side, which in turn caused a flat tire. They finished the day by driving the last eight miles back to service on a wheel with no tire. In the spirit of rally, the team aligned the rear quarter of the car the best they could and duct taped the rear window so they could press on through to the second day.
“The first two stages were very slippery and rough. We saw about 10 cars in the ditches,” said Rondeau. He took it slow and easy to start, but the third stage was less slick, so he pushed the car harder in an attempt to make up for lost time. About a mile in, the rear fish-tailed too suddenly for correction, and the car tumbled onto its passenger side after sliding sideways into a bank. No injuries were sustained, and winning the 2WD SISU Challenge Spirit Award for “Pressing on Regardless” helped to ease the team’s disappointment. Even better yet, the team is rebuilding the car as we type. Now that’s rally!
Keep an eye out for the official release of the 2018 Rally America Championship’s final standings by visiting the official website. Most importantly, we froze our butts off to bring you these images from this year’s LSPR, so sit back in the comfort and warmth of the great indoors to enjoy the 99 featured photos in the gallery!