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What Does It Take to Race In A Rally Race Like This?

Lake Superior Performance Rally, the Oldest, Toughest and Meanest Rally on the Rally Circuit is based in Houghton, Michigan and happens every year in October. Design Engine being very interested in any form of racing decided to go and spectate LSPR. We researched past years results and found that the attrition rate was low.
This year was no different, with tough conditions and lots of teams not finishing the rally due to poor road conditions. In rally there are different classes of cars that compete from all wheel drive fully modified cars to almost stock 2wd machines. This year there was a total of thirteen teams in the all wheel drive class and an impressive two wheel drive field of twenty two cars.

Day 1 of LSPR kicked off with Parc Expose’ in Houghton, MI where fans had the opportunity to check out the cars and chat with the teams. Weather was once again a hot topic for discussion, as the cloudy skies began to spit snow and the gusts of wind rolled through. The drivers seem optimistic about the weather, but word of muddy and wet roads awaited them out in the woods.

After Parc Expose, the teams headed out to their first stages and most teams didn’t have any issues. However, problems started early for Car #425 of Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze. They had a prop shaft pop out on one pass and lost a few seconds. But the worst of their troubles was their service rig unable to get out of Houghton. They borrowed some fuel to run the next leg, but the team faced trouble as they headed into the first night stage leg with no light pod and the wrong tires since they swapped to harder tires as to not wear them out on the transit.

In stage rally, a team will have time between stages to do service on their car. However, the stages could be miles apart, and the service truck needs to be be ready and in place at the right time to intercept the car between the stages. If the truck isn’t in place then the car needs to keep going and continue the stages.

An aggressive crest on the stage, which was more of a jump, caught car #121 of Nathan and Aaron Usher off guard. They thought they had some damage from the jump, but the car checked out OK.

At the end of the second service in Convington and the competition heated up!….literally! Car fires, overheating, deer, porcupines, mud and rocks. Everyone was doing their best to cope with the conditions and make it to the end.

Yeoman/Schulze – The team was leading the rally coming out of the final service of the day, but the other teams reported seeing them off on the side of the road on the penultimate stage of the evening. The team was displaying the OK sign but no word on the cause for the DNF.

Dobasu/Atkinson – The team was looking good, starting off 2nd in overall, but gear box issues on stage 3 forced the team to call it a night and were towed into service.

Fetela/Vambuts – An overheated header caused a small engine fire at the end of stage three. The team got the flames put out, but called it a night. The team was disappointed as they set the 2nd fastest time on stage three and were contenders for the rally win.

Shepherd/Jankowski – Always cheerful at the service, Doug Shepherd said, “It’s like we’re on an extended beer run, having a good time.” The local wild life tried to join the good times as a deer ran into the side of the car on the transit between 4 and 5, no major damage.

Topor/Boczek – The team hit a tree stump on the first outing of Bob Lake. The car spun around to face the wrong direction on the stage. They were able to pull the car out of the road and got to the end of the stage, but the damage is too much to continue. This was unfortunate because John and his co-driver were running in second at the time of the off. Which would mean that they would take the lead in the rally with Yeoman’s car catching on fire later in the rally.
Damage done to the Subaru of John Topor after hitting a tree stump.

Steely/Irvin – The team had one small off but nothing serious and they had a close call with a porcupine on stage.

LaFavor/Beyer- The team lost all coolant and oil pressure on stage. The team emptied their drinking water supply in the car, which was not much. The team was able to get generous water donations from fellow competitors to continue on.

Czyzio / Secor – The team had the engine die on stage and their crew was heading out from the service area to pick them up on stage.

Brockelman/Masters – The Sonoma’s rear end started making noise but they did not have enough time to swap it at the service. It did hold out at the end of the evening and they are looking to swap it overnight. Another wildlife experience came with a close call with a porcupine on stage.

Grenwis/Burkholder – The team found a failing clunking front right strut at the last service. The condition got worse as the day went on with the strut failing on the last stage, but still able to finish. The team has a spare strut to swap for the start of the next day.

Martynov/Tinsey – With their DNF from a broken axle earlier in the day, the team is running last leg for fun.

Roberts/Judkins – Another team who made it to the end of their first rally. No close calls with the car or driving, but a local porcupine wanted to claim space to the inside of a turn.

Hill/Van Den Elzen – The team came in after the first evening leg with alternator issues. The team tried to nurse it to the finish, but the alternator gave out on the last leg. The team is looking to repair it or find a replacement overnight and hopes to start the day tomorrow.

Day 2 of LSPR started with 31 entries back on the road for the start. Four teams who DNF on Friday were able to re-enter under Super Rally to continue. The big disappointment last night was local team FY Racing. A loose catch can spilled oil on the engine and the team had a large fire on stage. The on board fire system was able to lower the flames, but they were out of extinguishers and thought they were going to lose the car. Luckily, the Krolikowski’s came in time to lend their extinguishers and they were able to put out the flames. Although the team worked into the night, and early hours of the morning replacing their engine, they were not able to get their car in good running order to re-enter the field for Day 2.

The midday report after the first two services of Day 2 received many positives from the teams. The roads were dry, and fast. The only retirement after two services was the car of Hurst/Bohn who came in with “Too many issues” before the second service. The car had experienced a tire blow out at high speed, clutch disengagement issues, the temperature gauge was pegged and the power steering went out.

The Smigowski team hit a bank on the co-driver side on Menge Creek and ripped out the front inner fender liner exposing the intercooler as well. They were able to get out most of the mud pushed into the tires before the next stage but the car was still loose in a couple spots.

Brockelman/Master were on a good pace but had a big off on the second stage of the day losing almost 30 minutes to competitors. “We hit a Right-4 and it was loose outside. The front caught and sent us off the road,” said co-driver Dustin Master. The team got back into sequence after cutting their service time short and is back running the stages.

Kelly/Ritthaler did a quick re-tune in the morning to clear up their engine running rich, which seemed to solve problems. However, issues came back as the car went into limp mode and they’ve been struggling with it at the second service.

Steely/Irvin are having alternator issues of their own. Co-driver Billy Irvin demonstrated how they fixed the problem. Imagine a “wax-on” motion while holding an engine harness. Problem solved!

The Mallot team had a scare at the end of the stage with smoke under the hood. After inspection, a rock was found jammed between the skid plate and serpentine belt. “It ate three of the five ribs,” said driver Ron Mallot, “it will hold for the rest of the event.”

The Sandford brothers missed a deer within inches on Menge Creek. They came into the second service with blown front struts. “We’re still getting airborn, we don’t care!” Said driver Scott.

Just about every team expected the worst from the stages. But keeping the cars on the road is giving a rally typically known for a high attrition rate a good finish rate this year.

Car #540 of Tim and Christina Smigowski were another team with an unfortunate exit from the rally after the second service. On the second running of Menge, while going over a sequence of crests the transmission popped out of gear. The driver Tim put it back in gear but only found a box full of neutrals.

Open Light

Turbo all wheel drive cars are not the only ones who can have fun over the weekend. Four teams came to Houghton to battle it out over great roads all weekend. The teams were in a close battle all weekend, swapping Open Light stage wins between each other.

In his debut event, car #267 driver Dylan Helferich with verteran co-driver Elliot Sherwood definitely had the spirit to press on regardless in their Subaru Impreza. The team battled severe overheating issues on the first day, but they were fixed and the the team finished the rally. An accomplishment that many first time drivers cannot admit. “Dylan is doing well, he’s keeping it on the road and listening to the notes,” said co-driver Sherwood. The team came through with a 4th place finish in Open Light.

After troubles with rolling the car at 100AW, car #326 of Chad Haines and Erica Meier came through with a 3rd place finish in Open Light. Their JB Weld transmission patch held up all weekend and the team was just looking to finish, but they did so nabbing some class stage wins along the way and an impressive second day effort.

Another new team of driver and co-driver, Nick Roberts and Nick Judkins drove their #202 2012 Subaru Impreza to an impressive 2nd place finish in Open Light. “We just wanted to finish,” said Roberts. The team drove with no issues all weekend as their plan is to build coefficients through 2013 to graduate from their novice license. While conservative, the team was still charging hard and even managed to pull of a class stage win on the last stage.

In their debut season, the team #636 of Samir and Rachelle Kaltak have made another appearance on the top step of the podium. Samir said the Saturday stages some of his favorites the whole year. No major issues all weekend the team drove a solid race to finish 1st in Open Light.

Most stage rallies consist of stages that take place during the day which are challenging, but some ,including LSPR, consist of stages that take place in the night. This makes them a lot more dangerous and exciting at the same time.

Two Wheel Drive

There were many battles in two wheel drive on day to. The biggest rivalry was between the old school drivers of Doug Shepherd and Tim O’Neil. As stated earlier Mike Hurst and Robert Bohn came into a stage early before the second service with “too many issues” on the car to continue which was unfortunate because they had upped the pace for competiton.

The Sandford brothers of Scott and Joel were having a good run on Saturday, even though they were running on blown front struts. Always a smile in service and having a blast on the roads this weekend. They were up to 4th in Group 2 and 5th overall in two wheel drive until they had an off on the last stage. The team was a little shaken up by the impact, but they checked out OK by the medical team.

Robert LaFavor and Derek Beyer still had a coolant leak troubling them all day. They were able to consistently add water to keep it level. An exhaust hanger issue caused a concern with ground clearance, but was not anything to stop the team. This was a special weekend for the team, as they were able to finish 2nd in Group 5 which gave them claim to the “Bragging Rights” trophy for rear wheel drive AND they were able to take the Central Region G5 championship as well!

The car was working well for Ian Seppanen and Dexter Clark. A strong Friday effort helped keep them ahead on Saturday. The team made it to the finish, but the trouble started after. On the transit, the crank pulley bolts sheared off leaving the team without power. They were pulled back to MTC which allowed them to take the final step on the podium on the weekend for 3rd in G2 and 4th overall in two wheel drive.

In a weekend of newfound speed, the Datsun 510 of Jim Scray and Colin Vickman were flying setting personal bests all day. With no mistakes and fast stage times, the team was able to make the charge and ended the weekend with a very respective 2nd in G2 and 3rd overall for two wheel drive.

Doug Shepherd and Karen Jankowski had an interesting story about their #52 car. The Dodge shadow was originally built by Doug himself. He sold the car to the Krolikowskis sometime later, who then sold it to father/son team of the Woodsides and then Doug recently bought the car back. They were more concered with a cross-class battle in two wheel drive with their G5 car against Tim O’Neil in his G2 Fiesta. Tim had buit around a minute lead on the first day. Car #52 team was able to claw back time on the second day, but in the end it was not enough which mean they ended the day 2nd overall in two wheel drive. But it was not without loss as the team did step out on top with a 1st in class win for G5.

Tim O’Neil said he had one reason to come to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I came here to beat Doug.” And that he did! Tim and Doug were trading times all weekend. Tim credited Doug for keeping the pressure on. Tim with co-driver John Dillon was able to claim the G2 and two wheel drive win for the weekend, which is impressive considering his several year absence from competition.

Article Written by: Andrzej Bunda and Billy Elliot Mann.

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