HOUGHTON - As the Lake Superior Performance Rally begins a new chapter, organizers are remembering one of the chief authors of the event's history.
Jon Davis, who passed away in January, brought what was then known as Press On Regardless to the Copper Country in 1977. In addition to several years of exceptional driving, Davis was the chief organizer for the event and helped turn the Copper Country into the rally hotbed it has become by coordinating the support of the public, local business and the rallying community.
"He's the guy that did a lot of the legwork to make it happen," current LSPR chairperson Scott Carlborn said.
Houghton native Mason Moyle darts through the forest of the Keweenaw during last year’s Lake Superior Performance Rally. Moyle and a field of 40 cars are ready for this year’s event, a one-day race throughout Houghton and Baraga counties. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Carlborn, who has been involved with local rallying since 1983, said Davis was always the source for questions, whether it meant driving a stage road or doing public relations tasks.
"He was like my guru," Carlborn said. "You're always thinking about him as you're doing stuff and you remember doing stuff with him throughout the years."
This year's event, which begins Saturday in Portage Township, will be different from recent Lake Superior Pro Rallies in that it is a regional event and one day instead of two.
Instead of national figures like recent champions Travis Pastrana and Ken Block, this year's event will have a more local flavor.
Rally America, the national sanctioning body, shortened its schedule this year to accomodate head-to-head 'Rallycross' events as a means of increasing revenue generation.
A field of 40 cars is entered and includes Mason Moyle of Houghton and State House of Representatives candidate Matt Huuki of Atlantic Mine.
This year's event is the culmination of the MaxAttack! series for two-wheel drive cars.
Another difference is that this year's event will not cross the Portage Lake Lift Bridge. Officials said owners of private lands on which many of north-end stages are held denied permission to use the area too late to devise alternatives.
However, the less-ballyhooed stages through Baraga County and the Ottawa National Forest have proven to be some of the most testing. Last year's Menge Creek stage (the third on this year's slate) featured a 'right 3' corner that vexed even the top competitors and left an assortment of busted parts in the road leading from the corner.
These stages include a wide variety of conditions, from rough gravel in the Green Acres road section to smoother runs, and daylight to night, not to mention the always-chaotic weather of the Copper Country in the late fall.
"The rough stuff takes a certain type of driver and the fast stuff takes a certain type of driver, so it's a good mix of everything in this rally," Carlborn said.
Fans can meet the drivers and see the cars at the Parc Expos, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Country Inn and Suites in Houghton.
The event begins at noon behind the hotel. Stages then resume in Baraga County with a service area scheduled for L'Anse at 4:24 p.m.
The race will continue through southern Baraga County and the Ottawa National Forest, with drivers arriving at the finish near U.P. Chuck's in Kenton around 11 p.m.
An awards banquet will follow Sunday morning in Houghton.
Volunteers are still needed for the event. To find out more about the event or how to volunteer, visit the LSPR website at www.lsprorally.com.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.