— Doug Shepherd and Karen Wagner win the Lake Superior round in Michigan
— Eric Burmeister and Dave Shindle clinch the Jake Himes Cup for the 2008 Series Win

The arrival of Autumn means many things on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the horn that juts out into Lake Superior at the top of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The trees turn brilliant colors, the roads get lined with tall switches to direct the inevitable snow plows, and the sounds of rally cars cut through the forest air. The penultimate round of the MaxAttack! Triple Crown Rally Series came to the Lake Superior Performance Rally in Houghton, Michigan, putting an exclamation point on the second successful season of the rally series for two-wheel-drive cars. Over 50 rally teams competed in the three-event “series within series” for two-wheel-drive rally cars, featuring a generous prize fund, as well as the season-long championship battle for the Jake Himes Cup.

Lake Superior (“LSPR”), normally known for changeable and inclement weather, was unusually warm and dry, leading to higher-than-normal speeds on the stages. The dry conditions definitely favored the high-horsepower cars, and that played into the hands of pre-event favorites such as the Doug Shepherd/Karen Wagner Dodge Neon SRT-4, the Mazdaspeed3 of Eric Burmeister/Dave Shindle, and the Ford Mustang of Mark Utecht/Rob Bohn.

The rally turned into a duel between the Shepherd/Wagner Dodge and the Utecht/Bohn, with these two teams trading times throughout the rally. Both drivers are intimately familiar with the Upper Peninsula roads used in the Lake Superior Rally, and the driving was right on the edge. Some of the faster stages favored the thundering Mustang, the twistier stages favored the more nimble SRT-4. By the end of the rally, Doug Shepherd and Karen Wagner took the MaxAttack! win, and with it a check for $1500. Mark Utecht and Rob Bohn finished second, and pocketed $1200.


With his second place finish in Oregon, and victory in West Virginia, Eric Burmeister just needed a safe finish to clinch the season championship, although in rallying these things are never easy. Some tire problems and a rough jump landing that broke an axle cost Eric and co-driver Dave Shindle a bit of time, but they persevered to finish third at Lake Superior, clinching the coveted Jake Himes Cup. “This is the trophy that means the most to me in all of rallying,” said an obviously jubilant Burmeister. “I am a firm believer in the MaxAttack! program, and I look forward to seeing it grow in the future.”

The top Group 2 finisher was the VW Golf team of brothers Josh and Jeremy Wimpey, which was good for fourth in the final round of MaxAttack! The team had a torrid battle with Burmeister and Shindle at West Virginia, where a mechanical DNF laid waste to their championship aspirations. But with less horsepower than the cars around them, the brothers had a very good run in Michigan.

A tip of the helmet must be given to the team of Greg and Tom Woodside, who placed fifth in the Lake Superior MaxAttack! round in a Dodge Shadow. Despite years of experience, they elected not to use the detailed stage notes that are utilized by most of the teams against whom they were competing to navigate the racing stages. They instead chose to use the organizer-supplied routebook, which contains substantially less information about what the roads do. Truly an impressive drive.

Novice co-driver Jeff Miller won a special award at Lake Superior for being the top-finishing first-time co-driver. He was presented a co-driver bag full of goodies from Subaru Rally Team USA co-driver Alex Gelsomino. Miller navigated Zach Babcock to a sixth place finish in the team’s Dodge Neon SRT-4.

For more information about the MaxAttack! Triple Challenge and the Rallysports Group of America, please visit http://www.max-attack.com. For additional information about the Lake Superior Performance Rally, please visit http://www.lsprorally.com or http://www.rally-america.com.

Plans for the 2009 MaxAttack! program will be announced soon, and the board members of the Rallysports Group of America are excited about prospects for the program’s third season.

About Rallysports Group of America
Rallysports Group of America, Inc. (RSGA) was formed as an organization in 2006 to advance the sport of performance stage rally in the United States. By providing education on performance driving, car preparation and safety, and by fostering the growth of meaningful competition, RSGA seeks to provide a sustainable and competitive arena for the advancement of North American performance rally that promotes increased value for rally competitors, organizers, and sponsors alike. For more information, please visit http://www.max-attack.com.

Photos courtesy of Lorne Trezise.

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