October means it’s time to visit the Great Lakes region as the American Rally Association National Championship makes its way to Michigan in the fall.
This is my sixth time at Lake Superior Performance Rally aka “LSPR” and it is always a great adventure, very picturesque as we hurtle through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula while the leaves turn bronze, and it begins to feel like the end of the season in every sense of the words.
For my driver Seamus Burke and I, our season reached a very acceptable conclusion when, with the Ford Escort MK2, regained the two-wheel-drive championship title with some stage miles still to spare at the last round in Minnesota.
So what better way to bookend the season than to take out the trusty Burke Mitsubishi Evo IX that we used to start our year way back in February, also in Michigan?
For us, it will be a more relaxed rally I am sure as we head out just for fun and to test some new improvements that found their way into the Evo since its last outing.
It is however just a slight return to four-wheel drive as once we get this rally safely complete, then all of our attention and energy will very much turn back to two-wheel-drive efforts as we will tackle the Roger Albert Clark Rally in November.
That is scheduled to be five fun, yet arguably gruelling, days traversing British forests in the spirit of the old RAC days. So a quick trip to Michigan in the Evo is bound to be a good shakedown for a historic event in an old school Escort!
But, that is not to say that LSPR isn’t a rally of great historical significance itself. When we think of the World Rally Championship in the USA (in the past tense at least) it is always Washington and Group B monsters that first come to mind, but the upper peninsula of Michigan was the North American connection to international rallying even before that – as you can read about via the link below.
The 2021 rally will be quite the fresh battle as the Subaru Motorsports USA entries of new champion Travis Pastrana and his team-mate Brandon Semenuk are both due to schedule conflicts.
McKenna Motorsport team members such as Barry McKenna, Ryan Booth and John Coyne are also otherwise engaged.
This is absolutely the chance to see some new crews claim podium places and class wins. Indeed, let’s not forget that Seamus Burke is stepping out of the two-wheel drive class…
Ken Block of course will be unashamedly expected to set the pace, but Tom Williams on his second foray into the American series is right behind Block and then former event winner Joseph Burke is there in his R5 Fiesta.
Williams has the newer Fiesta Rally2 at his disposal but Burke has prior success at this event so it will be a hard race to predict. But if both can finish it is odds on for a podium and they will be fast enough that Block can’t afford to coast anywhere or drop concentration.
I hope we can replicate some of the Press On Regardless spirit!Martin Brady
The Lakeshore proximity means the weather is often a variable here; heavy rain is never far away and on recent occasions, heavy hail showers can really throw a huge challenge for the crews.
This weekend’s rally will feature stages from both the modern era and the past, with three of the four stages on Friday having previously been part of the 1974 route.
The one I will look forward to the most is the Mount Marquette stage. It was the opening stage in 1974 and although it’s a short stage of just over 1.3 miles there is certainly a lot happening.
The start-line is 800ft [243.8m] above sea level and we quickly climb to 1088ft [331.6m] and then drop 480ft [146.3m] to the finish line, all in 1.3 miles. So expect it to be a busy stage for co-drivers and braking systems!
I wonder how maximum attack the flying Finns and the French factory cars took to the stage in the ‘70s and I hope we can replicate some of their Press On Regardless spirit!