Cold and Damp: The Lake Superior Performance Rally

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Known as the “oldest, meanest and toughest rally on the circuit,” the Lake Superior Performance Rally storms into Houghton, Michigan for the 8th and final round of the 2014 Rally America championship, marking the 20th anniversary of this event in the process.

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Friday morning greeted the teams and fans with cold and damp conditions. Rain had moved in overnight bringing with it wind and wet roads; the weather had settled in for the day with no signs of letting up. It was perfect conditions for a rally. With parc exposé finished the cars headed out to the first stage.

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The stage started without delay. David Higgins and Travis Pastrana were the first ones out.

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They were followed soon after by FY Racing’s Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze. Being based out of Houghton they were clearly fan favorites with the loud cheers and cowbells as they came by. Watching the cars throw mud and rocks made standing in the rain well worth it.

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Having already secured the championship for 2014 one would think David Higgins and Craig Drew would take it a tad easier this weekend, but no. Higgins was driving all out and after the first two stages at Green Acres and he only had a two-second lead over Subaru teammate Travis Pastrana. Both cars looked strong and their drivers equally as strong.

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The cars would run this stage twice before heading in for service.

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The cars finished the stages and proceeded to Covington for the first service of the rally.

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It was the first chance for teams and drivers to make any adjustments and fix morning gremlins in preparation for the early evening stages.

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After service I followed Wong to the Teepee Tower Long stage, or Stage 3. The rain was still coming down and the drivers were making the most out of the tricky conditions. Dillon Van Way came through looking completely unfazed by the wet gravel roads. He was out of his Subaru and back in a 2WD Ford.

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2014 two wheel class champion Andrew Comrie-Picard looked equally as strong. Like fellow 2014 champion David Higgins, ACP showed no signs of taking this event easy as he rocketed through the tunnel of trees.

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As the sun set, the rain showed no sign of letting up. Darkness was setting in, making the conditions that much more treacherous than they already were.

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That didn’t deter the drivers from pushing as hard as they could before heading in for the final service of the day.

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At service the wear of the rally and the weather was beginning to show on the cars and the drivers.

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David Sterckx was suffering from fuel pressure issues and Adam Yeoman suffered a blown motor. This moment of a Subaru Rally Team crew member cleaning mud off wheels summed up the feel of the evening.

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After service and with three stages to go in day one, the teams soldiered on into the cold and wet night.

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Parc Exposé started off day two in L’Anse, and before the cars left I made my way to Stage 11, known as Dakota Farm, to stake out a spot to shoot.

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It was a cold and damp morning and it wasn’t raining anymore, but conditions remained tricky due to the stages still being very wet and with standing water in some spots.

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David Higgins had a 22.3 second lead over Travis Pastrana going into the day and he was driving like he didn’t want to lose any more time to his Subaru Rally teammate.

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Pastrana was driving at a tremendous pace in order to cut into the lead Higgins had built.

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It was good to see Adam Yeoman and Jordan Schulze back out after the team at FY Racing spent the night refitting the car with a new engine.

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One of the best aspects of the weekend so far were the great fall colors, making shooting conditions more scenic than they already were.

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Pastrana would report an off on Stage 13 but meanwhile throughout the rest of the field Nick Roberts and co-driver Rhianan Gelsomino were leading the Super Production class and Andrew Comrie-Picard and co-driver Ole Holter were leading the 2WD class.

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This also meant Roberts would move to third overall and ACP taking third overall.

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Mid-day of day two was met with another round of service.

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This was the only service of the day so teams were working harder than ever to fix issues and make adjustments; the speed in which the teams service the cars is pretty incredible.

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The drivers were even pitching in.

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After service Wong and I planned to go Stage 15 and shoot the jump, as we made our way to the location we encountered this puddle…

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…He decided that this would be the better shot and boy was he right.

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After the first car barreled through it was clear Wong made the right call…

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…One by one they filed through. Sending water shooting 15-20 feet in the air.

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Watching every car go through was awesome…

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…dragging mud and water further and further down the stage.

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Watching this scene unfold over and over could never get old. It was awesome.

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Not everyone made it through unscathed. Joshua Kramer and Michael Gebrian in their 2008 Honda Civic Si got too close to the edge and got sucked into the ditch, leaving them stranded.

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Cars began to file past them with one stopping and, in a show of sportsmanship, attempting to free them. With no luck they continued on.

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One last car would join them in the ditch…

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…now all they could do is wait for stage sweep to pull them out. Both were able to get their cars started and continue on with the stage.

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With the rally winding down and with only two stages left we headed back to Houghton for the podium celebrations.

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When the cars returned they were caked with mud. David Higgins was sporting the #1 instead of his normal #75 for the weekend. Very fitting after a dominating season.

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Champagne was sprayed for the final time of the season…

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…Higgins and Drew winning overall and for the 7th time this season, Roberts/Gelsomino behind them in second, and Comrie-Picard/Holter in third with both Roberts and ACP winning their respective classes.

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This was Higgins and Drew’s third championship in a row and going into 2015 they seem like the team to beat again.

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It has surely been a long and taxing season for all competitors and the preparation for 2015 will surely begin soon, after all the Sno* Drift Rally which kicks off the 2015 season is only a few short months away. If the 2014 season is any indication 2015 should just as exciting.

Lapinski

Photos by Lapinski and Wong.
Instagram: @lifeblasters, @peter_laps, and @emotiveimage

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