Maxxis renewed its partnership with Honda Performance Development to continue campaigning the 2015 B-Spec Fit and the 2017 2WD Honda Civic Sport at the penultimate round of the 2017 Rally America National Championship, the Lake Superior Pro Rally (LSPR). This two-day rally is one of the toughest and oldest rallies in North America, with a mixture of fast, smooth stages and rough, technical stages.
“We’re really excited to be here at LSPR!” said driver James Robinson. “We have a very large lead in the 2WD National Championship, and all we really need to do is finish this race to clinch the title.” This championship situation was also mirrored by the current B-Spec team of Dan McCarron and Matt Blake. “We’re in a situation where we need to get the B-Spec car across the finish line to win the B-Spec Championship”
The event kicked off just outside Houghton, Michigan, with 50 cars at Parc Expose. The first day of the rally was broken into three separate legs, with seven competitive stages. The unique aspect of the first day of LSPR is the super-fast and smooth rally stages. This meant that the team would have to run quickly, but conservatively, to maximize the potential championship points earned.
After the first leg of competition, the HPD/Maxxis Civic and Fit were running well and setting fast times. “I can’t believe how smooth these stages are,” Robinson noted at service. “Even with our mass production suspension, we’re within a few seconds of the front running 2WD cars!”
The bad luck for James’ main competition, Cameron Steely, struck again. After Stage 1, Cameron’s Fiesta ran into trouble. “This is very bittersweet for me,” observed Robinson before the start of the second stage. “With his DNF today, we’ve officially won the 2WD National Championship. We’d rather be battling for the championship on the stages, but his terrible luck this season has made this a battle for consistency more than speed.”
In addition to the Civic, the HPD / Maxxis Fit was also running strongly and staying in touch with the B-Spec competition. “We’re trying to just run conservatively and make sure we finish the event,” said driver Dan McCarron. “We’d hate to throw away our chance at the championship by pushing for outright stage wins”
Moving into the final leg of Day-1, the HPD / Maxxis Civic was sitting solidly in 3rd place. “We’re very pleased with our finish position today, and with our winning of the Championship,” said James at the second service. “I think this result really speaks to the competitiveness and reliability of the Honda Civic! We’ve thrown a lot of tough terrain at the car over the course of the year, and it has always gotten us to the finish.”
Dan McCarron and Matt Blake were also sitting in an excellent position at the end of Day 1.“We made it to the end of the day, with a solid 2nd place in B-Spec,” stated McCarron following Stage 7. “We’ve now clinched the Championship in B-Spec and can have a good time tomorrow!”
Day 2 of the rally consisted of seven challenging stages, plus one final street stage in downtown Houghton. The Civic team was sitting in a great position to finish up the event with a 3rd place, but got too aggressive on a slippery turn at the beginning of Stage 11. Fortunately, no damage occurred to the car but the off cost the team 11 minutes and a shot at the 2WD podium. Thankfully, the team of Adam Short and Daniel Norkus stopped and helped the stuck Civic get free and back in the race.
The Fit team also was not free from trouble on day 2. After holding together with no trouble for 3 years of championship racing, the right rear suspension mount failed and the suspension collapsed into the interior of the car. “This failure was very surprising and also put us into a limp mode,” said Dan at the end of the event. “Thankfully, we were able to patch the car together enough to get us to the final stage in Houghton.”
Moving into the final street stage, the Maxxis / HPD teams were ready to attack, despite the challenges they faced during the previous bad luck. The street stage was very short, and would be in front of a huge crowd… so the Civic and Fit needed to do their best to represent Honda and Maxxis. They did not disappoint, because the Civic set the fastest 2WD time overall, and the Fit set the fastest B-Spec time despite having broken suspension.
“We’re ecstatic with this finish, and for the dual Championship we’ve getting, but we’re mostly just thankful that we’ve had such amazing partners with HPD and with Maxxis!” said Robinson at the finish of the Rally. The 2WD Championship was a historic win for Honda, as the last time this prestigious award was won by a Honda team was in 1993, by Peter Cunningham. In addition, the rookie co-driver John “J” Sharps was able to clinch the overall 2WD National Co-Driver Championship! “I’m so excited and thankful to have gotten this opportunity to co-drive for the Honda / Maxxis team,” J stated at the awards ceremony. “This is a fantastic way to start my co-driving career!”
In addition, the B-Spec National Championship that Dan McCarron and Matt Blake won would mark the 5th season in a row that Honda has won the B-Spec Championship. “With this championship, I think we’ve sealed the dominance of the Honda Fit as the best B-Spec platform,” said Dan McCarron at the awards ceremony. “We’re very proud to have been able to deliver this 5th consecutive championship for Honda, and for Maxxis.”
Look for the THR B-Spec Fit, CR-Z and the new THR Rally Civic next year in the 2018 Rally America National Championship, the Lake Superior Pro Rally.