Frozen Beer and Rally Cars: Sno*Drift 2014

by Connor Harrison

Swarms of rally fans and competitors converged on northern Michigan last weekend for the first and most exciting event in the 2014 Rally America National Championship.  This was the 48th running of the Sno*Drift rally which takes place around Atlanta, MI and features over 130 miles of snow and ice covered roads broken up into 20 stages over two days.


Friday morning saw 58 teams assemble at Parc Expose in Lewiston, MI.  It was bitterly cold with blowing snow, but the unpleasant weather conditions certainly didn’t do much to deter fans from swarming all over the cars and snowbanks! 

This event is very unique, as it’s the only stop in the national championship on snow and ice.  The incredibly slippery surface can cause entrants to slide off and get stuck in a snowbank with relative ease, not to mention that past the snowbanks are walls of trees.  Getting stuck once can add minutes to your time, which is the difference between a podium finish and not finishing at all.  This causes a love/hate relationship with the event for many of the competitors.


I’m a bit partial to Porsches, so I was pretty excited when I saw this Braid Wheels 911 rally car, but was pretty bummed when I realized it wasn’t competing.  I was so rushed getting to and from most of the stages that I missed it going by as the final sweep before the first competitor would run.  I would love to see this thing sideways with a spray of snow behind it!
Not surprisingly, there was a continuous crowd of people surrounding the #75 Subaru STi of David Higgins and Craig Drew.  The duo has won the Rally America championship for the past three years straight, and are hoping to make this year the fourth.
I spent my downtime with the Relentless Rally team, made up of Dylan Helferich (driver), Drew Rosek (co-driver), and a Subaru Impreza 2.5RS.  This was Dylan’s second time competing at Sno*Drift and Drew’s first time as co-driver. 
Unfortunately the Dirtfish/Budweiser STi of Brenton Kelly was taken out on the first stage when they got sucked into a snowbank resulting in the car striking a tree.  Both Brenton and co-driver Billy Irvin were unharmed and have already begun repairing the car.  Thanks again for the beers on Saturday night guys!  They weren’t the only car to have an accident on the first stage, driver Piotr Fetela and his 1998 Subaru Impreza STi also struck a tree and was unable to continue.
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Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:35 AM
Not the first time someone drove to first place with their hood or hatch floped up in the air. I remember seeing something similar on a special stage for rim of the world.

And I saw hardly any mention of frozen beer...very misleading title.
Connor Harrison
Connor Harrisonlink
Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:51 AM
Although I'm glad that Brenton Kelly has a beer sponsor, nature's refrigerator was turned a little too cold this weekend. Shot gunning a slushy beer is a little tricky.
Thursday, January 30, 2014 2:10 PM
Its bad when you need to put your Hamm's next to the fire to stay warm. I hope no one suffered from #Frozendick
Pablo Mazlumian
Pablo Mazlumianlink
Thursday, January 30, 2014 2:34 PM
That first night shot is great! Very curious as to what tires these guys are using for the most part (unless I missed it).
Connor Harrison
Connor Harrisonlink
Thursday, January 30, 2014 2:49 PM
Studded tires aren't allowed, so everyone is limited to snow tires. Yokohama AO34s are quite popular.
Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:31 PM
any underhood shots?
Connor Harrison
Connor Harrisonlink
Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:40 PM
Not of Higgins car specifically. I can try and dig some up of Lasek's GRC Subaru...
Thursday, January 30, 2014 10:59 PM
Curious about how L'Estrage covered up over half his front-end.... I'm guessing he didn't have a thermostat on the coolant system. Unfortunate because he could have made more power by not covering up the intercooler.
Connor Harrison
Connor Harrisonlink
Thursday, January 30, 2014 11:04 PM
I had noticed a few of the Open Lights cars doing the same thing, and I would assume that they still have thermostats as the cars are essentially stock? With the slick surface that weekend I'm not sure that more would necessarily have been the solution a second place finish.
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Friday, January 31, 2014 7:00 AM
That Braid Wheels Porsche 911 has a pretty comprehensive build thread over on GRM.
Connor Harrison
Connor Harrisonlink
Friday, January 31, 2014 9:18 AM
I will have to check that out!
Friday, January 31, 2014 5:26 PM
The vuvuzela was not blown at "every opportunity" in fact I dont think I blew it at any fords all weekend.
Saturday, February 01, 2014 3:38 PM
We thought about yanking that Sentra into the street. It's not very considerate to park in front of someone else's lodge ALL WEEKEND. At least your moonroof was open the whole time.

The guys that had to park in front of your door.
Sunday, February 02, 2014 2:04 PM
I would really like to see what types of tire set ups they were running.
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