Summer Sno*Drift Rally: No Recce, No Notes, No Problem [Gallery]
Everyone says that time flies. It seems like just yesterday we were slipping and sliding our way through the Rally America Championship’s Sno*Drift in Montmorency County, Michigan, but that was six months ago. Just recently, we found ourselves on the same dirt roads caked in an uncomfortable muddy dust-sweat mixture, cheering for the competitors and capturing spectacular images during the Summer Sno*Drift rally.
This year’s Summer Rally may have brought 28 teams to Atlanta and Lewiston, Michigan, but only 22 made it through the eighth and final stage. The prior winter season’s snow, slush and ice laden roads were long replaced by suspension-snapping gravel over soft, sinking sand. Hidden boulders bashed against skid plates so aggressively that teams had to pound out the dents during service. Adding to the challenge was the rally’s usual old school twist: There’s no recce or notes to aid the teams in navigating their way through the zigzagging stages, only a generic route book.
Despite the heat and their gritty teeth, the spectators were all smiles. Watching (and hearing) a rally car rip through the woodland canopies is an experience that can’t be explained with words. We can only imagine how hot it must have been for the drivers in those race suits. The smoldering humidity made the air heavy. It was the kind of heaviness that never seems to move no matter how strong the breeze. When the air was still, billowing dust clouds acted as a partial blindfold to the competitors.
Braving the conditions is well worth it. Where else can you witness your favorite rally cars tearing through untamed terrain? Take the Fetela Rally Team’s 2017 Ford Fiesta FRT Prototype, for example. This turbocharged AWD 2.0L is built to battle through the most severe conditions. Piotr Fetela and Dominik Jozwiak dominated the first four stages of the event, then maintained their lead until the finish. They earned first place overall, but it wasn’t an easy win. “We were setting top times and built up almost a one-minute lead, but the car developed fuel pressure issues mid-race and we were forced to back off,” Fetela said.
Dave and Mike Brown returned to compete for their spot on the Open Light class podium, but Sneak Attack Rally’s Nathan Usher and Mariana Langosch amped up the challenge. It was a close race. “Stage 1 started amazing,” Dave said. “Mike and I were in the groove”. However, two-thirds of the way through, the engine began misfiring. The team was able to limp the car to the finish once they realized that restarting the car would temporarily resolve the issue. For the remainder of the race, Dave would restart the car while in motion through the stages. The Browns drifted in just 53.9 seconds ahead of Sneak Attack Rally.
Mike Hurst’s nostalgic Ford Capri was freshly rebuilt after enduring a crash’n’roll last season. At sixth place overall, Mike and his daughter, Katherine Hurst, were the top two-wheel drive crew in the event, more than a minute ahead of Michael Ryba and Burke Davis in their ’93 Honda Civic. The Hursts were also the winners of this year’s Daddy-Daughter Challenge, completing the event five minutes faster than runners-up Eric and Camille Carlson.
The top two B-spec competitors came to claim the class lead. Doug Gekiere and Matthew Hoffman maintained their position going into service piloting their 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, but Honda’s Chris Sladek and John Sharps pressed ahead in the second half of the race and finished just over two minutes ahead.
If you can’t get enough of the rally car photos, you’re in luck! Scroll through the Summer Sno*Drift gallery above to get your fill.