I've always wanted to ice race since Triple C Racing turned me onto the sport. The Adirondack Motor Enthusiast Club's Ice Racing championship season opener was this weekend, and since I was only an hour and a half away, I knew I had to be there.
I arrived quite early, around 8:30am. Being a rookie, I felt quite intimidated by all of the other early birds, because they were all seasoned veterans with trailers and all. However, like most other people you meet at motorsports events, everyone was very friendly and extremely helpful towards all of us newbies who had no idea what we were doing.
I was extremely surprised by the various types of cars that had shown up that day. So many different makes that you'd never expect to be ice racing. Cars such as a first-gen MR2, E39 540i, and a Porsche 924S were all in attendance.
The brand that stood out most was Saab, of all cars. There must have been at least 6 or 7 Saabs entered in the Street Legal and Menard classes. When I asked an experienced racer why they were so popular amongst the drivers, he told me that it was because the engine was mounted so far in front of the car. This apparently helped with being able to rotate and maintain a line through the corner, as well as having more front-wheel grip.
Now, onto the actual racing.
44 Street legal-class cars showed up, consisting of both 2WD and 4WD cars. We were split into two run groups depending on how many driven wheels our cars had. So once the driver meeting was completed and the run groups were established, each of the groups were sent out on a practice run before the actual races began.
I was very happy they gave everyone a practice run, because it gave me an idea of the grip level I was going to be dealing with. It also introduced me to the concept of wheel-to-wheel racing, something I've never done before.
Since our run group, 2WD, was the first scheduled race, we all lined up and headed out onto the course side by side. I was placed near the rear of the pack since I was a beginner, along with all of the other first-timers. (now that I think about it, I don't think that was the best idea)
Everything was going well in the first race, I was holding my position amongst the drivers around me, and I was having a battle between the Accord in directly ahead of me. I'd say about six laps in, we were both coming down into the first turn on the front straight, I was on the inside preparing to pass, while he was on the outside. I assumed that he would stay on the outside of the track because he knew I was on the inside slightly behind him, but he probably didn't see me because I was in his blind spot. He cuts into the inside to get a better line to the turn, right where I was preparing to enter the turn at the exact same time. I was carrying a bit of speed at this moment, and didn't want to slam the brakes for fear of losing control of the car. So I made the split-second decision to drive into the snowbank to avoid him.
Looking back at the video, there might've been some room to brake and follow through into the turn, but it was just a little too close for me. Luckily, the snowbank was fairly low and the snow was very soft. I came to a stop and initially tried to get right back into the race. However, my car was already stuck in the snow, and no amount of throttle or steering input was going to free me. I was stuck for the rest of the race.
I had a great view though!
After the checkered flag waved, the very polite corner worker brought his very capable truck to pull me out of the snow. The first thing he asked was where my tow hook was. I explained to him that my car (Fiesta ST) does not come equipped with a tow hook, nor does it have any sort of mounting point. (wtf Ford North America? Why does the euro version get one but we don't?) we cautiously mounted the hook onto one of my rear suspension pieces and pulled my car out without incident. There were two other stranded cars on the track so at least I wasn't alone.
After that whole incident, two more rounds of racing were held, and they went very smoothly. I didn't have anymore offs, and much fun was had. It is open passing, and the track was very short (about 0.7 miles), so there was a lot of mirror checking. Here's some video I shot of the other run groups pushing it to the limit on ice.
Ice racing is a very fun and cost effective way to have fun with your car. All you need (for AMEC anyway) is a membership to the club ($20), winter tires (for me this was around $500 for a set of WS80 Blizzaks), and the $50 entry fee. If you're already in possession of winter tires (which you should be if you live in a place where ice racing is held), then this is a very cheap way to break into racing. It is also a valuable learning experience in terms of car control and grasping the concept of wheel-to-wheel racing. I recommend that everyone try ice racing at least once, it's fantastic.