Eating Dirt At Rally America

I’m a car gal to the core with an appreciation for every niche in the hobby, but my love for the adrenaline, grit, and action of motorsports photography keeps me coming back to stage rallies. It’s the perfect combination of exploring the great outdoors in my Jeep, and challenging myself to capture the next best shot. I walk away with a wide grin full of dirt every time.

Stage rallies may be the most difficult events to cover; it’s all about scouting the best location on each stage – which are at most times miles apart – and being in the right place at the right time. The best shots that come out of these races can be chalked up to sheer luck.

It is also the most challenging motorsports niche for drivers: the cars race no matter what the conditions may be, whether rain or shine, or even snow. The road surfaces are heavily varied throughout each stage, and everything from mud, to gravel, to concrete, and rutted, unmaintained seasonal areas are battled through each course. Drivers depend on their co-drivers to accurately lead them through each obstacle, and teams put countless hours and dollars at stake for a chance to come out on top in their class, or better yet, earn the best time overall.


Rally America is host to the best national championship stage rallies in the United States, and the eighth and final round of 2016 championship came to Houghton, Michigan, on October 14, during the peak fall color show. Varying course conditions were fought throughout the Lake Superior Performance Rally’s 15 stages, and several teams were forced to forfeit. Others held on until the end despite failing mechanical components, such as the Relentless Rally Team’s blown steering rack.


Before the event began, fans excitedly gathered for the Parc Expose at the Country Inn to meet the teams and surround themselves with rally cars – everything from a 2016 Toyota RAV4 to a 1990 Ford Mustang, and yes, Subarus. Glorious Subarus. The rumbling exhausts notes reverberating through the ground made me salivate.


When Subaru America pro drivers Travis Pastrana and David Higgins with co-drivers Robbie Durant and Craig Drew rolled in, the crowd swarmed like bees on a honeycomb. Then, as soon as the rally cars began to fire back up, sending that warm, tickly feeling of excitement up my spine, I knew it was time to leave for the first stage.


The cars got dirty early on the Fairground for Stage 1 where a muddy .23-mile course was roped off. It was like a mud bog for rally cars, but thankfully no one got stuck, and my lenses remained splatter-free. The two-wheel drive cars made it through full throttle, and those with all-wheel drive, such as Pastrana, simply split the muck in two.


From there, spectators scattered to find the best backwoods viewing locations; some, such as myself, trekked down two-tracks in search of the most action-packed corners. The worst fear upon arriving to a new stage is hearing the roaring of engines, signaling a late arrival. Fortunately, I arrived to silence at almost every vantage point, eagerly awaiting the first faint rev.


Saturday was kicked off at the Parc Expose near the waterfront in L’Anse, and the crowd doubled. While the teams mingled with their fans, a line of nostalgic vintage rally cars nestled on the lawn caught my eye. Just imagine how they look in action.


Light overnight rains and random sprinkles throughout the day left the stages slightly muddy but no worse for the wear: perfect conditions for rally. Even so, several drivers found themselves out of the race, whether from mechanical failures or running off the course.


The city of Houghton gave rally fans an extra-special treat for the final stage. Lakeshore Drive was shut down, and a course built of concrete barriers forced the teams into technical, risky driving. Hoards of people occupied every possible viewing area, some resorting to balconies and rooftops.


Sneak Attack Rally was one of the lucky teams to make it to this point of the rally, and co-driver Marianna Longosch said she was confident going into the barrier-lined stage as driver Nathan Usher had autocross experience in the car. They came out unscathed.


After a tough and challenging weekend, Team Subaru’s David Higgins and Craig Drew boosted ahead to first place with an overall time of one hour, 32 minutes, and 6.8 seconds. Travis Pastrana and Robbie Durant kept a steady pace in second, trailing only one minute and 32.5 seconds behind. Team Subaru remains the sport’s top competitor until competitors and fans bundle up for Sno*Drift 2017 in Atlanta, Michigan.

Tara Hurlin
Instagram: reallyrottenturbo
Facebook: tara.rottenhurlin



Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest

I'm blown away that a single mom able to get paid $7181 

in 1 month on the internet .


Tara, your photos are always top-notch!! You should be so proud of yourself, especially since you're now taking photos for the almighty Speedhunters :)


Love the photos! Thanks for sharing your perspective on this event.


great  coverage and photos, look forward to more  articles from this writer


Great article and amazing pictures- thanks for broadening my horizons into another niche!


Thanks for making it to another rally.  Great write up and photos.


Thank you for posting speedhunters!


Wow first article in years that isn't bombastic!!


I MADE IT INTO A SPEEDHUNTERS PHOTO! 4th picture down meeting Pastrana in the orange jacket. Thanks for the awesome shots and solid coverage!


my Aunty Anna just got an awesome blue Infiniti G Convertible IPL just by part time work from a computer.


my co-worker's ex-wife makes $75 an hour on the computer .


Thank you for the great write up and photos! We had a fantastic event despite our misfortune, thanks again!


That Mk2 Escort looks sick


I want to see this 1990 Fox mustang rally car.  You mention it but don't show it...what?


What happened to the Top 3 over all? Any other classes worth mentioning?


@DatBoi results can be found  this event had over 80   entries probably hard to cover everything in a short article


@moldy  lots of  peoples photos and albums  on LSPR's facebook
or here


Great article Tara, it was a pleasure meeting you at Saturday's parc expose even it if was a brief 30 seconds. Fantastic read and awesome photos!


I had a blast, it was my first time at a Rally and I helped out with team Unhinged with sservice. Imy hooked I'll definitely be attending more in the future! U0001f600


Grassroots rallying is the best sport. Hope to see more of this. As usual, massive swarms of Subarus, with a few odd ducks.


Thanks for sharing, I've commented enough recently about WRC recently so I won't bring that here. The drivers seem to be really hurlin these cars about don't they ;)


VERY happy to see rally coverage here on Speed Hunters! Thanks Tara!


This is the kind of post I wish I saw more on here. Rally and Subarus FTW!


Yea I think all of us rally guys can't take WRC too seriously any longer. They have it where the European makes are the only guys that can win often. Sorry but none of them can claim to be anything without having to beat a Subaru. Or a mitsu but mostly the Subarus, everyone knows the baddest rally cars have stars on the badge and a big scoop on the hood


Lol, if you wanna win in rally and do so repetitively a Subaru is the ONLY option


Lol last one I went to a guy brought a EG hatch. Hahaha thing didn't make it through the first stage before it lost a wheel with the spindle still attached! Lmao


In the US anyway. European WRC is too scared of em


My Uncle David got a fantastic gold Kia Cadenza Sedan from only workin on a home computer.


I am a Subaru fan boy and absolutely love my Scoob, but the era of the Subaru in the WRC is, sadly, long gone. 
The last couple of years of SWRT were painful to watch as a Subaru fan: the preparation undertaken by Citroen (and similarly by VW with their efforts) show the kind of commitment you need to win in the WRC now. The current crop of cars are the fastest stage cars to date and the forthcoming regulation changes are likely to push average stage speeds even higher. 
Brand loyalty is a wonderful thing, but don't let it blind you to the realities of the sport you enjoy!


At a grassroot level, yes Therealstig. Beyond that there are a lot more options now. Many of the current R5 specification cars seem to be running faster times than the older generation WRCars.


Part timen jobs.......>>>>

My Uncle David got a fantastic gold Kia Cadenza Sedan 

from only workin on a home computer...........


There is something about picture 8 of the GMC pickup that I love. Pictures like that make me realise my love for anything automotive. I can just sit and look at it for stupid amounts of time taking it all in.


Nathan Usher brings that blue hatch to our car club meets all the time.


my Aunty Lauren got a six-month old Infiniti FX SUV only from working part time off a laptop
ONLY ▒▒ ...➥➥➥


tbtstt I know you from DIRally. You shoot a lot of great photos. As I do agree with your points on everything especially what it takes money wise and prep-wise to run WRC, Subaru and Mitsubishi did have one thing those last years that all the other manufactured didn't.

A street car that was more closely related to the rallye car than any of their competitors. The 4cyl. turbo charged AWD cars for the street were only a few steps away from being rallye cars. Cage, other safety equp and suspension(im counting wheels and brakes in that) were all it took to be able to run Group N. And feel like you were one of the WRC teams. Does't mean you could win though. But the sells pitch was definitely there. Lol


just as Nathan explained I'm stunned that a mother able to make $6500 in a few weeks on the computer . 


My Uncle Jake recently got an almost new blue Land Rover LR2 

by working from a home computer................


Dumb comment. You don't own an R5 car. Normal people can't afford any 'real' rally cars in the U.S. except Subaru. I don't care that some rich kid somewhere in a kit car with Citroen logos is fast. I don't want to snap photos of someone else living the life. I like to race my own races. Subaru is the only choice.


I didnt know that a stay at home mom able to profit $9772 

in one month on the computer .


I am taken by surprise that anybody can earn $6330 

in 1 month on the computer .


My Uncle Tyler recently got a stunning cream Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe 

by working part time online.


my mother recently bought a very nice BMW M6 Coupe 

by working parttime off of a macbook.


If clubman 4WD is all you want to compete in, then yeah a Subaru is the obvious choice bakayaru, but there are other classes to rally... 
...don't get me wrong. I love my Subaru and, despite some brand decisions I disagree with, how they continue to bring affordable AWD performance cars to the market when many other manufacturers have stopped bothering. 
What I don't like to read is the blinkered comments - which seem to be mainly from US Subaru owners - denouncing all other marques as rubbish. Subaru aren't the only other manufacturer with a history in rallying, but reading some comments, some people seem to think they invented the sport!


Hi Moby45, yeah, that's me from DIRally!
Yeah, that's a fair point. As I have said elsewhere, I would love nothing more than a return to the Group A era, as the divide between the showroom and competition was at it's slimmest at the point. There were so many great affordable performance cars as a result of that era; Impreza, LanEvo, EscCos, Celica Gt4, Pulsar GTi-R... but we live in a different time now and, sadly, most  manufacturers just don't have the interest these days. 
The connection between the showroom model and the stage car became increasingly distant in the World Rally Car era (1997 onwards) but, as you rightly say, as a Group N car the Impreza was always there. At a clubman level Subaru is really unsurpassed but, at the top level, there are other dominant forces now. 
As I have also stated elsewhere, I love the brand and love my Scoob, but statements concerning the current WRC teams like "none of them can claim to be anything without having to beat a Subaru" are massively ignorant in my eyes and display a woeful lack of appreciation for both the history of rally and where its at now.


Makes me happy seeing a GMC S15 like the one I own bombing through a rally course, gives me wonderful ideas!


my Aunty Ruby just got a year old Acura ILX Hybrid ........................

see more details


The Fox Mustang is mine. I run on a very slim budget but probably have the most per dollar! Look up STANG rally on FB. You'll find us there.