Sno*Drift: The Best Way to Get Through the Winter
The winter can be a hard time for car enthusiasts. There are no car meets, track days and certainly no racing to follow, at least locally. The snow makes the weather too cold and ground too slick to do anything fun. Unless you follow rally racing, that is. For those drivers crazy enough, and fans hardcore enough, the snow and cold just add to the fun. Thus is the case at the Sno*Drift rally.
You may be thinking that it's too cold out to really enjoy the racing. Freezing cold temperatures don't often make for fun outdoor activities. But trust us, stage rally involvement, even as a fan cheering the teams on from behind the yellow caution tape, gives us all the feels. So many feels, in fact, that it’s near impossible to describe with words, but we’re about to try.
The fiery burn of anticipation deep in our guts before each event makes us feel alive. Being at one with nature and racecars is enchanting. The connections made with kindred spirits are humbling. Enduring the most challenging climates as one big motorsports family and pressing on regardless gives a perception of invincibility. The level of dedication and support from fans, competitors, organizers and volunteers compared to other motorsports niches is unparalleled.
The rally community experiences races in all conditions, rain or shine, sleet or snow. Even the races held in single-digit temperatures are rewarding. Take our most recent experience at the American Rally Association’s opening event, Sno*Drift, for example. We may have had to spend a half-hour layering on clothing and activating heat packs before heading out, but the extra efforts were rewarded by the crisp, rich smell of fuel that’s only present in frigid temperatures and the majestic exhaust notes echoing through winter's stone-cold silence. And yes, fans and competitors earn bragging rights for sticking it out through extreme bone-numbing conditions.
Words From Rally Heads
Alex Berger dedicates much of his time to support stage rallies so the sport will be around for years to come. “I love rally because of the people and the culture. It’s a real family mentality and is much more than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle,” he said. He is currently the Operations Chairman for the American Rally Association’s Sno*Drift. Next year he will celebrate his 25th anniversary of volunteerdom.
Stage rallies host a plethora of different vehicles, from budget racecars to open class monsters, and rally always welcomes new competitors. Even as a beginner, the odds can be in your favor. Varying driving conditions break up the competition and allow the less power hungry builds to dominate the stages. Kevin Schmidt had a blast piloting his first-gen Mazda RX7 in even the most challenging conditions. “My favorite part about rally is driving like a madman without worrying about lawyer fees associated with a reckless driving charge,” he joked. “But that perk still doesn’t compare to being a part of the rally community; it’s truly about friends helping friends.”
Unlike most motorsports niches, it is common to see rally racers risk their place in the ranks by pausing to pull a competitor out of a sticky spot.
Rally racing opens up new doors to eye-opening experiences that most people didn’t realize existed. Kelsey Stephens, Rallycross driver and Stage Rally Co-driver, states that the first time she saw women in race suites competing was during the 100 Acre Woods Rally. “The diversity between competitors and cars, and all the passion the teams display with their ‘press on regardless’ attitude had me instantly hooked,” she said.
Autobody Technician Megan Farrand quickly fell in love with the feeling of being on the verge of control. She focused on building a tough naturally aspirated rally car instead of dealing with the mechanical headaches involved with fabricating a fast vehicle for Autocross.
After spectating at a rally for the very first time during Sno*Drift 2018, Jimmy Flathau is now a lifelong fan. “Before the race even began, upon my arrival to the Parc Expose, I immediately knew I had been missing out on something great for years. The atmosphere surrounding rally culture is special; it’s like no other race on the planet.” He continued, “The drivers are friendly, social and ready to have fun, and the fans are by far what makes this sport so great. Where else can you walk into the middle of nowhere, have a bonfire and break bread with complete strangers, and then leave having made lifelong friends?”
If there happens to be any winter rally events around you, you need to get out to them. It's a whole different breed of racing. It will scratch your itch for automotive enthusiasm, and then some.