ProRally: Lake Superior: MTU alumni return for final rally

Rally U. It's homecoming weekend for those who found rally at Michigan Tech University HOUGHTON, Mich. (Oct. 21, 2004) -- This week is homecoming week for a group of past Michigan Tech University students. But this homecoming is ...

Rally U.
It's homecoming weekend for those who found rally at Michigan Tech University

HOUGHTON, Mich. (Oct. 21, 2004) -- This week is homecoming week for a group of past Michigan Tech University students. But this homecoming is different.

It is Rally U. homecoming weekend.

Unlike the traditional homecoming settings, there won't be any bands, unless one happens to be playing in one of the local fraternities or bars. There won't be any kings and queens at this homecoming, unless you consider the podium finishers royalty. There will be pads, however they won't be the shoulder and leg versions used by Michigan Tech's currently undefeated Husky football squad. Nope, the only pads found in this bunch will be on the brakes.

A lot of thought goes into which game or event should be the homecoming event. It's the time for alums to come back and mingle with the new kids. It's the time that pride is at its highest. It's the time where traditions are passed down. All of those things happen at this weekend's Lake Superior ProRally.

"This event is homecoming," said Eric Burmeister, who attended MTU from 1989-91. "This and the original Sno*Drift, out of Grayling, were rallying to me. I had no idea when I was a kid that there was a whole national series, that they ran in the desert or that they ran in Maine. I had no real comprehension of a National or World Championship."

Burmeister's love for the Press on Regardless (POR) rally, hosted then by SCCA's Detroit Region (before being later renamed LSPR and run by Lake Superior Region), was something he packed into boxes and took with him to MTU.

"My choice to go to MTU was based primarily on POR," Burmeister said. "Not the female population."

With that kind of attitude, it shouldn't be surprising that Burmeister sprang the sport on Chris Whiteman (1989-93), his then unsuspecting roommate who had no idea what his new friend was getting him into.

"We both happened to mention we were into motocross and they put us together," Burmeister said. "I introduced Chris to POR in 1989 that following fall and he hasn't been right since."

Apparently, things turned out okay for Whiteman. Since his introduction to the sport 15 years ago, Whiteman managed to work his way through the SCCA ProRally ranks, topped off by the Group 2 point championship he won last year.

Whiteman is only a piece of the storied history that MTU has given to the sport of rally. The exact number of competitors the NCAA Division II school has supplied over the years is impossible to count, but many inside rally circles share a belief.

"I think it's safe to say that MTU has graduated more rally drivers and co-drivers than any other single learning institution in the United States," said SCCA Open class competitor Dennis Martin (1994-98). "I missed my first POR because I didn't know what it was. After that, I was hooked."

For Jay Efting (1982-87), it's personal.

"POR/LSPR is my Michigan Tech homecoming," Efting said. "I started as a marshal in the '82 event and have attended it in one form or another almost every year since then."

Efting got a huge poster from a local beer vendor after he traded some space in his roommate's truck (and its heat) during a cold and windy '82 event, and nearly two decades since, "that poster is on my garage wall 22 years later," Efting said.

A couple of current MTU students will hold up their end of tradition, as two seniors, Matt Himes and Josh VanDenHeuvel, both co-drive this weekend. It's a weekend that Himes said he looks forward to all year.

"Being a Tech student is great," Himes said. "There is not better time to be here than during the rally. I get so jacked when I hear my first ripping, popping, gargling rally car coming down the street behind me. That's when homework ends for the week and the official rally fun starts."

Actually, Matt, the fun started when every one of your MTU brethren in this year's 72-car field decided to take part in Rally U.'s homecoming.

-scca pro rally-

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Series SCCA
Drivers Eric Burmeister , Jay Efting