Rally America Round 8: Lake Superior Performance Rally
Heralding the end of another Rally America season, the north woods of Upper Michigan came alive with the sounds of Subarus, anti-lag systems, spraying gravel, and cheering fans that turned out for the Lake Superior Performance Rally. Known as the oldest, meanest, and toughest rally on the circuit due to its rough and rocky terrain, LSPR would be the final hurdle for the Subaru Rally Team’s attempt at a perfect season. Its worth mentioning here that nobody has achieved a perfect season since John Buffum did it in one of those beautifully boxy Audi Quattros… 28 years ago! Even though David Higgins has already won the Open championship on points, he wouldn’t be able to casually cruise through the woods to take his final win. FY Racing has been determined to keep the pressure on with some close second place finishes, and with LSPR being their home event it would be their best opportunity to steal a win.
Although the weather in this part of the country is known for being indecisive and incredibly variable, it seems that this event is the exception. Without fail, the skies become overcast, the temperature hovers around freezing, and the occasional bit of rain or snow decides to make an appearance. There is definitely some sort of rally-curse at play. Long underwear and wool socks are mandatory equipment for enjoyable spectating. Fortunately the beautiful fall colors of a changing season make the chilly lulls in the action a bit more tolerable. But by Monday after the rally it was 65°F, go figure…
The event would kick off Friday morning with 48 cars starting, composed of your typical mix of Subarus, Mitsubishis, and Ford Fiestas but with some Hondas, Volkswagens, and a Volvo thrown in for some variety. It was impressive how undeterred fans and spectators were by the cold weather, as they showed up to watch stages by the hundreds! Rally fans truly are a different breed, the term “die hard” doesn’t even begin to describe them.
Although the 2WD championship had already been won by Troy Miller (who was absent at this event) Cameron Steeley and Preston Osborn were dominating the 2WD field on Friday with nearly a three minute lead. They kept it fast, smooth, and out of the ditches which made for some uneventful service stops for the crew. Cameron would say these were some of his best stages all year.
Matthew Conte and co-driver Zachary Jacques would push their Open class ’91 Legacy to the overall regional win on Friday’s Ottawa Rally, edging out the STi swapped GC8 Impreza RS of Jake and Dane Marsack. When they first arrived in Michigan Matthew noticed that their front right strut had been leaking fluid and wasn't holding pressure. Michael Engle of ManBearPig Motorsports was courteous enough to donate his spare set of HotBits front suspension to Conte for the duration of the event. US rally racing has a real grassroots connectedness to it, and this is a perfect example of that goodwill and generosity which permeates the sport. We’ll see Conte again next year in Missouri at his home event of the 100 Acre Wood Rally, but not before he adds some brake ducting to mitigate some boiling brake fluid issues he was having.