The Great Lakes Rally by Rally North America
Location:GingerMan Raceway, South Haven, MI | Date: 7/22
GRASSROOTS RACING FUN WITH A CAUSE
Written by: Rex Roy
Some are born into it. Some find their way in through a friend. Others enter through business. The reality is that ANY way into the racing family is the right way.
Welcome to the fourth stop of the PRI Road Tour 2021. This stop is a little different from the others: our first stop showcased the professionals hurtling up Pikes Peak, and our second and third stops showcased the semi-pros and professionals who race on the dirt.
There are no $175,000 payouts at this event like at Eldora Speedway, and if you win, you will never be compared to anyone in the Unser family.
So, what’s the point?
To have fun and pay it forward, of course!
Part of a larger, distance road rally organized by Rally North America (RNA), the race is just one stop in a long-distance charity event.
The PRI Road Tour dropped in on the event as they visited GingerMan Raceway, a surprisingly challenging 2.14-mile, 11-corner road course in Southwest Michigan, tucked away six miles from the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan. The mature greenspaces and smooth asphalt welcome all—from seasoned pros to rank amateurs who have never turned a wheel in anger.
The track’s design emulates that of a country road, but without the risks of bikes, oncoming traffic, and cops. It’s a blast for drivers who bring a spectrum of vehicles to run from open wheel to stock production vehicles.
This reality makes GingerMan an excellent stop for the dozens of sports cars, muscle cars, and other unique rides participating in The Great Lakes Rally organized by RNA. The Rally combines the intensity of a time-speed-distance road rally with a 21st-century, internet-enabled scavenger hunt.
The Great Lakes Rally features 88 teams of two or more people, 36 stops at historical and scenic locations, and two tracks that bookend the action. The entries are as diverse as the last generation Pontiac GTO to a current Porsche 911, with plenty of older sports cars and Detroit muscle like a 1970 Plymouth AAR’ Cuda.
The ralliers started in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with a visit to Rock Falls Raceway before covering nearly 1,300 miles across the Great Lakes region to GingerMan, the event’s final stop.
So why is the PRI Road Tour doing a touch-and-go with this group? Because they are racers. They get behind the wheel to compete. This makes them PRI Family.
Here’s the backstory: established in 2009, Rally North America (RNA) is a not-for-profit charitable organization that unites North American automotive enthusiasts to rally, compete, and support a good cause.
RNA combines the love of the automotive lifestyle with a professional charity structure to do “good” through the automotive hobby. To date, RNA events have raised more than $1,400,000 in direct donations to the charities it supports. The worthy charity for this 2021 event is Race to Erase MS (Multiple Sclerosis).
While teams do get credit for winning individual legs and for their performance over the entire four-day event, the real champions are people like Bob, who drives a supercharged Dodge Challenger and raised over $14,500 to fight MS. Then there’s Jeff, the retired police officer who raised over $11,000… without writing a single ticket. And there’s Dana, who raised over $10,000 in her first run with RNA.
“The teams have no idea where they’re going to go on any day,” said Scott Spielman, co-creator of the Rally and president of Rally North America. He also explained that instead of an all-out race to see who gets to the finish first on each day, this event is more of a trivia contest and scavenger hunt to take pictures of roadside attractions and other sights along the way. Teams search the internet and Facebook for clues about upcoming locations and even ask locals for help. Since the clock is ticking, competitors must find the answers quickly and plan an efficient route to their next known destination.
“It’s challenging. It’s not an easy day,” Spielman said. When the driving is done each day, the organizers scrutinize each team’s photos to determine prizes for first, second, and third place based on reaching the correct checkpoints and other sites with points assigned to them.
If you think that four-day Rally North America is some Gumball Rally knock-off—an irresponsible on-road race for wealthy international playboys and their sycophant hanger-on-ers—you couldn’t be farther off. All RNA participants are rule-bound to conduct themselves professionally and respectfully, which means being courteous and following the rules of the road. “If you get a speeding ticket or drive recklessly, we disqualify you from the event,” Spielman said, who organized his first Rally just over a decade ago.
Tune in at a later date to see which team earned the most money for charity (the current overall tally was $220,000 total as of print time), as well as the competitors who achieved recognition for the most creative costumes (human and vehicular).
While racing is a business for many in the PRI family, it’s a hobby for most rally drivers at GingerMan Raceway. However, given the aftermarket upgrades seen on many Rally vehicles, these competitors are prime candidates to join PRI Membership. After all, racing is racing, whether it’s in a 900-horsepower World of Outlaw sprint car or a modified Chevy SUV combo family hauler and rally wagon.
Racing is a business, and becoming a member of PRI is the best way to protect our sport and our livelihoods. Check out PRI’s new membership options for individuals and businesses here. Plan to attend the 2021 PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis on December 9–11 to catch up with the latest products and services. To register as an attendee for the 2021 PRI Trade Show, visit here.