A few weeks ago I got a call from Toyota, asking if I’d l like to hang with them at the Lake Superior Performance Rally - the final round of the Rally America championship located in the far northern reaches of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Seems they are aware that I’m something of a rally fan.
The full story of this whole rally adventure will be coming soon, complete with photos and a play-by-play of what it was like to ride shotgun in the co-driver seat for some proper rally hot laps. For now here’s what you need to know: Toyota’s driver is Ryan Millen, and yes, he’s part of the Millen clan that includes legendary racers Rod Millen (his dad) and Rhys Millen (his brother). He’s had a rather successful year in Rally America’s 2WD category, and as I type this, he’s in a winner-take-all battle for the 2WD championship with a day’s worth of stages still to go.
That may not be all that extraordinary, but here’s the thing. You know Toyota’s neat-but-not-exciting RAV4 sport-ute? Turns out it can be pretty exciting - Ryan and co-driver Christina Fate have been winning races with it all year, and aside from some obvious suspension tweaks, it’s pretty much a factory-stock RAV4. That includes stock brakes, stock 180bhp engine, and yes, the stock automatic transmission. Meanwhile, his competition is fielding a Ford Fiesta with a turbo, a manual gearbox, and roughly 350kg less mass.
I’ve been spending the weekend with Toyota watching this all unfold. Look for the full story coming soon.