Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 Sno*Drift Report

"In my 20 years of rally, this was the most difficult", David Higgins (Isle of Man) overall winner.

That might be an understatement.  A combination of lack of snow and freeze-thaw cycles in the days before the rally, left the roads covered with ice.  There's always some amount of ice, but this was beyond anything anyone had seen.  Treacherous and unyielding.  To make matters worse for us as the Safety Sweep car (last car to complete each stage), the 65 cars ahead of us polished the ice down even more ... it became so bad as the temperatures dropped that during a night stage, the Rally Wabbit was simply unable to climb one of the longest, steepest roads in the rally.  Even one of the 4-wheel drive Heavy Sweep trucks was stopped and spinning right alongside us. You couldn't stand on the hill without holding onto the car. Luckily, one of the 4WD trucks had studded tires.  Even he struggled to get to the top and after several attempts, was able to pull us and the heavy sweep truck to the top.  Thanks!

For Day 2 we decided to switch to Tim's 4WD truck.  The roads were very slightly better thanks to light snow that at least gave a hint of traction.  To top it all off, the rally ended in a white-out blizzard that forced the cancellation of the last stage due to zero visibility.  But we all still had to transit several miles through the blizzard to the awards banquet.  I'm friggin' exhausted.  And having recurring nightmares of blind, over crest, off camber, downhill turns lined with large trees ....

Thanks to Tim for a fantastic job behind the wheel.  I don't think we went off all weekend.  Well, except for a freak electrical fire inside the car while we were on Stage that caused us to quickly exit the vehicle!  At first, I thought we were going to watch the car burn to the ground in the middle of the forest.  By the time I got the extinguisher, the smoke was gone. After a few minutes of checking things, we were able to jump back in and 'press on regardless' :)

Some on-board footage in Chris Duplessis' Ford R2 Fiesta, 2WD winner. You can see him searching for traction, mainly by running along the very edge of the road where some snow and gravel was visible in spots.

An aerial shot by Matt Johnston* of Chris Duplessis testing the R2 (click here for full wallpaper size):

*How'd he do that? Go here: Aerial Camera Platform