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Rally America’s Sno*Drift Slides To a Finish

Rally hangover is a real ailment that should be recorded in medical books. Symptoms include boredom, ghost rally car sounds echoing through eardrums, exceedingly low adrenaline levels, constant reminiscing about the prior competition and a deep, soul-gripping longing for the next race. Today, we have an acute case of rally hangover.

Sno*Drift at night

Rally America’s Championship series begins each year with Sno*Drift, but no year is exactly the same. This year was exceptionally challenging. Where there are typically large snowbanks to offer teams protection from sliding off into the trees, the unusually warm 45-degree weather caused massive meltdowns, which left behind ice-slated roads bordered by dense woodland.

The Challenge of Sno*Drift

Not knowing what challenges the unwonted conditions might bring, the teams came prepared for anything. Most brought mud and snow tires, and some used tractionized tires in hopes of better gripping the ice. To further prove driver and vehicle capabilities (and to prevent road damage), no studded tires are allowed at Rally America events. Everyone shared a similar goal: to finish the race with minimal to no damage incurred on their car. Alas, eight vehicles out of 30 were forced to drop out of the race.  

Sneak Attack Rally Team at Sno*Drift before the race

Driver Nathan Usher of the Sneak Attack Rally team reached speeds of 90 mph and beat Ford pro-driver Piotr Fetela’s time on the first two stages by 3.6 and 4.9 seconds before his Rally Blue Subaru wagon lost traction and rolled over into submission. The Fetela Rally Team, piloting a 2017 Ford Fiesta FRT Prototype, flew off the course and into a bank on the fifth stage. Due to suspension damages, the team was unable to complete the 16 stage rally, but will be back for Rally America’s 100 Acre Wood in Salem, Missouri.

Piotr Fetela 2017 Ford Fiesta FRT Prototype

Flat Out Racing was one of many that fell victim to the treacherous conditions. On day one, the handsome black Subaru Impreza RS was high-centered after catching a ride on a sheet of ice. The second and third stages were canceled due to an unrelated incident, and then on stage four, a tire popped after hitting a rock-filled snow bank. A small oil fire ended their day at stage six, but the team worked overnight and had the car ready to roll for the second day. Unfortunately, day two ended early for the team when the slick road forced the Impreza into a tree, which resulted in frame and engine damage.

Understeer R&D Photo: Matt Wolfe

Several teams pulled all-nighters for repairs after the first race day. Fervor Rally Sport was no exception. Their ’97 Subaru Impreza wagon first suffered a bent left rear strut, then the front right tire was jammed under the fender well after sliding into a dirt bank. Driver Steven Stewart and co-driver Derek VandenBroek still managed to limp the car to the finish, but that wasn’t the end of the battle.

Fervor Rally Sport team on final stage, Bonfire Alley

The Spirit of Rally

The Subaru was still on jack stands Saturday morning after team mechanics Jacob Bryant and Jonah Rosselot spent the entire night repairing suspension damage. Meanwhile, three heroic friends took a 7-hour round trip to Grand Rapids to fetch a strut and a knuckle off of another car. The clock was ticking, and the trio arrived with the parts 30 minutes before the team was scheduled to leave. Steve and Derek strapped themselves into the car while the mechanics expelled every last ounce of energy to finish bolting it back together.

“Thanks to the immense efforts of our team, we ended up finishing the event 15th overall and sixth in class,” Steven said. “Surprisingly, it’s not the results that matter to me. Despite the hardship endured, we pulled together and finished the rally as a team, and that is really remarkable.”

Fervor Rally Sport friends and family

Despite the outs and damages, retired teams kept their spirits up and joined spectators on the sidelines to cheer for the remaining competitors, and there was much to celebrate. Adam VanDamme and Jacob Carlson took first place in the 2WD class in their trusty 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit. Mike Erickson and Jacob Good landed second place in a 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer, and third place went to Keanna Erickson-Chang and Preston Osborn with their 2016 Ford Fiesta. Finishing with power to only two wheels in such challenging conditions is a testament to each team’s determination and skill.

Adam VanDamme and Jacob Carlson 1981 Volkswagen Rabbit

Congratulations to 2018 Sno*Drift Winners

For the naturally-aspirated Open Light class, Dave and Michael Brown took first place in a 2001 Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS, followed by second place winners Chris Barribeau and Scott Rhudy in their 2001 Impreza and third place winners Jimmy Pelizzari and Kate Stevens in their freshly-built 2000 Impreza.

Jimmy Pelizzari and Kate Stevens 2000 Subaru Impreza

Keanna Erickson-Chang and Preston Osborn earned first place in the B-Spec class, followed by second place winners Colin Robinson and Alex Schum in a 2015 Honda Fit, and Doug Gekiere and Matthew Hoffman slid their 2012 Chevy Sonic in at third. The Super Production winners were Timothy Rooney and Rachelle Kaltak in a 2015 PMR Motorsports SR009, and Zachary Whitebread and Allen Piper took second with their 2003 Subaru WRX.

Keanna Erickson-Chang and Preston Osborn  B-Spec class

Dave and Mike Brown were the overall championship winners of the 2018 Sno*Drift rally. Chris Baribeau and Scott Rhudy kept the pedal down and earned second place, and third place went to Timothy Rooney and Rachelle Kaltak. On behalf of Driving Line, congratulations to all of the podium winners and to those who made it out to battle their way through the wintery luge-like stages.

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