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GridLife IceBattle 2018

by Connor Harrison

 

Are you slowly going insane from sitting in your garage staring at your car? Wishing for warmer weather so you can actually go out and do car stuff with your car friends? Just go ice racing instead; it's essentially an autocross on a frozen lake and is a nice way to keep your sanity while shredding fresh powder with your buds. Just like an autocross, these events happen all over the place, and odds are good that a local club near you is doing something pretty similar. I decided to take a break from my thoroughly half-assed attempts at getting my Sentra off of jack stands for the first time in two years to go see what GridLife IceBattle was all about.

 

The wonderful people of GridLife teamed up with the Central Wisconsin Sports Car Club to make this ice battle take place, and it all went off without a hitch.

As a Wisconsin resident my entire life, I’m pretty familiar with what these kinds of events entail, but for some of you southern folks, we can do a little explaining of what goes on here. Once it gets cold enough for the lakes to freeze over, some of the clubs in the area will host these ice autocross events. Cost is usually $30-$40 and you get 6-8 runs split into two heats. Unlike an autocross, you typically don't need to work a heat picking up cones, but if you DO volunteer to help on course, you get to sit in your nice warm car anyways so it's a pretty good deal.

 

Hitting a cone isn't a one second penalty, it's an instant DNF because the cones are cold enough to explode on impact into a million little pieces. Don't hit a cone.

They take a truck out on the lake and plow a course, set up a few cones to call out some corners and slaloms, then time the whole the whole thing with lasers so we can see who is fastest. I’m sure some of you are saying, “Hold up! Won’t the cars break through the ice!?” Sure, sometimes that happens, but pretty much 99% of the time it mostly doesn’t happen, so it's not really a big deal. Seriously, it's fine.

 

The field was dominated by Subaru, with a sprinkling of Evos, a couple of Porsches, a few fully caged stage rally cars, and a surprising amount of Miatas. But, I guess Miata is always the answer...

Anyone and everyone is welcome at these events, same thing goes for the cars. There are plenty of casual ice drivers that just bring their daily driver (like me), and there are some people that take it a bit more seriously and spend dozens of hours, as well as hundreds of dollars, building their own sets of studded tires using sharpened bolts, nuts, washers, and butyl sealant. The majority of what you’ll find are Subarus on snow tires (like me), but there are usually some non-traditional entries that do pretty well too.

 

Rusty fenders, misaligned body panels, ripped up soft top, and a front bumper so flaky it needs prescription strength dandruff shampoo. This thing is as rough around the edges as it is fast.

365Racing’s all-but-famous “Ice2K” is one of those non-traditional entries. It's an impressively haggard S2000 on studded tires that is almost always the fastest in attendance, in no small part to the driving of Andy Smedegard.

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Comments
spdracerut
spdracerutlink
Friday, February 16, 2018 12:20 PM
If I can force myself to survive that cold, I definitely want to try this one day!
nissannx
nissannxlink
Sunday, February 18, 2018 8:56 AM
This is literally so 'cool'! Being in Canada you would have thought that I'd have participated in ice racing, but that has yet to be added to my resume. Maybe soon. Thank you for sharing this sport with us!
Ryze
Ryzelink
Sunday, February 18, 2018 10:56 AM
As a avid Ice racer, easiest way to stop tires from leaking from the studs, is use 3m butyl (comes in a caulk like tube) and put a dab of it on each bolt before screwing them in. We did this to all our tires and the hold air for years!
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