Word on the street: “ice”
As competitors head out to the night stages on Friday, everybody at Sno*Drift is talking about the ice. And while front-runners like Travis Pastrana admit that this is one of the craziest, iciest events of his career, the cars at the back of the pack have even more to worry about.
The little snow that covered the ice-packed roads earlier today is all but swept away after the first few cars slide through, and what remains is more like an ice rink than a road.
“It’s very icy; not enough 'slippy' notes in the notes!” said co-driver Ryan Scott who was running 17th in the Sno regional rally alongside driver Andrew Frick in a 2001 Ford Focus. Drivers and co-drivers often use the word "slippy" to indicate a particularly slick patch on the course.
“I took out a stop sign!” said driver Jeremiah Johnson who was in 14th in the regional in his '94 Impreza, after four stages.
Not only do teams have to contend with icy roads, but the risk of flat tires has become a real issue throughout the field.
Cars that slide into the unusually hard-packed snowbanks risk knocking their soft winter tires off the bead —and that tends to kick up jagged ice boulders that puncture the tires of the teams that follow.
Matt Bushore said after four stages that he was having a tough time. "Crappy…. two flats, one spare.”
Snow events around the world typically feature cars equipped with studded tires, but the competition vehicles in the US series are required to be street legal – and the studs aren't allowed in this part of Michigan.
Teams use a range of ice and snow tires, and employ a whole range of techniques to prepare them for each winter surface. Among the techniques are tractionizing -- like ice racers do to increase grip on ice – or selectively cutting blocks to keep snow from packing up the treads.
As is often the case, this rally is as much about competition with the elements as other teams and the community spirit emerges particularly when conditions are tough..
“I just came out to help the guy,” said Bryan Goudy, who was working deep in the engine bay of Billy Mann's 20-year-old Volkswagen. The two met for the first time just today.
(Story by Aaron Pierce)