by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter

Images via Tower City Race Team

Rallying is often a family affair, and that’s no different for Tower City Race Team’s Brandon Snyder. After growing up in the American rally hotbed of Michigan, Snyder and his cousin, Al Dantes Jr., would daydream about getting to race themselves someday. Now, they’re frequent competitors in “Rexine,” their popular Mazda RX-7. You met Al yesterday—today, it’s Brandon’s turn to speak:

What made you want to start rallying? 

Prior to being called the Lake Superior Performance Rally, the rally in the L'Anse / Copper Country area was named the P.O.R. or Press On Regardless. As a youngster, I would walk down to the L'Anse service and watch the cars leave.  Then Jim Bertagnoli, longtime LSPR Chief of Controls, invited me to tag along with his family to work start/finish controls… I was hooked. At age 16 I had worked my way up to Stage Captain and had enlisted my own group of volunteers to help. This group included my dad, sister, friends, and cousin (Al Dantes). As we would lay out stage crews, the current roles were reversed, I was the driver, Al the navigator. Needless to say, I wasn't the best driver and Al wasn't the best navigator. But during those rides, we would dream about having our own team. This was only amplified by meeting the greats, such as John Buffum, Paul Choiniere, and Rod Millen to name a few, and the flames of Tower City Race Team - Rally Division were ignited.

When was your first event and how did you do?

My first event was the LSPR Mini in 2007. This event was organized by the late Jeff Moyle. Al and I rented a VW GTI from Paul Koll. The deal was, Al would pay for the rental, and I would pay for anything we wrecked or broke. We started the day a little slow, trying to find our rhythm. As we entered a left 3 with a large drop off on the outside, I called a right....oops. I quickly corrected my mistake, but the car didn't, we skidded towards the drop off and I basically saw the money flying out of my wallet for the wreckage that would ensue. Luckily the car stopped, teetering on the edge. Some quick maneuvering and swearing from Al and we were back on our way. Due to a mechanical issue that we were unaware of, the car would get really squirrely at speeds over 60mph. We managed to make it to the finish and thankfully we weren't last.

When was your first really memorable result—win or podium—and how did you get there?

We had had several regional podiums prior to the 2017 Lake Superior Performance Rally, but standing on a National Rally America podium at our local event was absolutely my most memorable result. We had a tough go of the rally that weekend due to an on stage tire failure and a leaky radiator. Some great work by our crew Marty Passuello, and Chris Woodry helped keep us in the running the entire weekend. As we finished the street stage beneath the parking decks in downtown Houghton, we congratulated each other on a successful finish and had no idea where we were in the standings...it didn't matter... we had finished. We walked up to the concrete jersey barriers to watch the remainder of the field finish. Rally America's Bob Nielsen was standing near us with score sheets. Bob leaned over and said, "As long are there are no huge changes, you guys are on the National podium." We were elated! Standing on the National podium in front of our hometown fans was an incredible feeling.

Do you prefer to work with a single driver or multiple drivers?

So far, I have only had the opportunity to work with one driver. My work schedule, as a public safety officer (police and fire), makes it a challenge to get time off to attend other events with other drivers. I have been asked a few times, but normally it is a last-minute request that I have been unable to make work. Due to my work issues, Al has had the opportunity to have several guest co-drivers sit in my seat and, so far, he keeps asking me back. I must be doing something right? I do hope that someday I get to experience riding with other drivers because I feel it makes us better to learn bits and pieces from each other.

What’s your favorite event on the Rally America schedule?

Well as you have probably figured out from my other stories, the Lake Superior Performance Rally is by far my favorite event on any rally schedule. It is the event that inspired me to get in a car, it is an event filled with hometown fans and sponsors. The fall colors enhanced by the ever-changing weather make this event a real challenge. The first day it can be 80 degrees and sunny and the second day can be 20 degrees and snowing. 

Do you have any pre-event routines?

After an unfortunate incident during a rally, I always check to make sure my route book and stage notes have all of their pages and that they are in the proper order. I also sort through all my tools, ensure the expiration dates are valid on my safety gear, and arrange for adult beverages to be available after the finish of the event. 

Due to horrific motion sickness, which I discovered about 30 miles into a 2 day rally, I also ensure I have my scopolamine patch intact. I also have a deadly allergy to bee stings so I ensure I have epi-pens stashed throughout my gear.

Which other co-drivers in the sport do you respect the most?

There are several co-drivers that have been very helpful not only to me but to most newbies that enter the sport. The first one that comes to mind is the Jimmy Brandt. His snarky sense of humor covers the fact that he truly cares about the sport and especially the grassroots nature of most regional teams. Besides his incredible mental library of hilarious rally stories, he also is always willing to explain procedures, rules, and the reasons for them. Another co-driver that taught me a lot about rallying in general was Dave Parps, he was always the guy who recruited teams that had DNF’d to come out in the woods and volunteer as control workers, marshals, spectator point helpers and commentators, etc. Dave has a very blunt way of explaining things and has always been helpful to me and others.