HOUGHTON - The Lake Superior Performance Rally is back to two days and full of teeth for the field of racers.
The event gets underway today in Houghton at the Country Inn and Suites, and there's a lot on the line. In addition to being the final event in the MaxAttack championship for two-wheel drive cars, it will also serve as the Regional Rally Cup for the top drivers in Rally America's four regional championships. Each day of the event (Friday's stages make up the Ottawa Rally and Saturday's the Lac Vieux Desert Rally) will also serve as a rally to kick off the regional schedule for 2012.
"It's kind of like having five rallies in one," LSPR media/press liaison Dallas Bond said.
Driver Mason Moyle and co-driver Gary Barton, both of Houghton, challenge the Green Acres stage during the 2010 Lake Superior Performance?Rally. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
The event will remain entirely below the Portage Lake Lift Bridge for the second straight year due to inability to secure permission from private landowners in Keweenaw County, but the event will still be chock-full of the terrain that gives it claim as "the oldest, toughest, meanest rally on the circuit."
"The stages, they are unbiasedly the best roads we've ever ran - everything about them is just what I love about rally," driver Mason Moyle of Houghton said.
Moyle noted that the challenges will be coming right off the bat, like Stage 3 at Beacon Hill near Freda.
"We haven't ran it for a couple years now, and with the rain, it's probably just going to turn to mud, and that one's a hairy one to begin with," he said.
He feels like things are coming together for this weekend's event.
"I feel really confident with how we've competed. Me and my co-driver Gary Barton (also of Houghton) have created a really good connection and I can drive committed to the notes he's given out."
Adam Yeoman of Hancock was Rally America's rookie of the year after a fifth-place finish in the national standings. He and co-driver Jordan Schulze of Lake Linden will be first on the road and will be focused on staying cool, calm and collected.
"We're going to have to go out a little bit cautiously and just see how it goes," he said. "I've got to keep a clear head and I can't let myself get worked up."
After running the national circuit, Yeoman's happy to be home in front of friends and family.
"It's a great time of year. It's a little bit cooler, the fall colors are always nice. It is a great location, and there are some fantastic roads, some cool scenery and that's a big part of it," he said.
The teams will go south from Houghton late Friday, finishing with several night stages in the Ottawa National Forest.
They'll regroup for Saturday, which begins with a 9:30 a.m. parc expose at the L'Anse Marina. The first car heads out at 10:30 a.m. for a day of racing throughout Baraga County with the champion crowned at an awards ceremony in Houghton Saturday night.
In addition to the Moyle-Barton and Yeoman-Schulze teams, the entry list includes North American co-driving champion Nathalie Richard, who will be directing Viorel Dibasu from downstate Michigan in the open class (instead of regular driver Antoine L'Estage).
State Representative Matt Huuki will be in the drivers' seat as well alongside co-driver Tom Immonen of Houghton.
The field has more than 40 entries.