paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/27/19 9:05 p.m.

This weekend was a pretty cool one for me.  The planets aligned just right, and put a good friend of mine in SE MI (my neck of the woods) on business the week before the Sno*Drift rally.  So arrangements were made for the two of us to rendezvous in Atlanta, MI and take in a rally as spectators.  Neither of us had been to the event before, so it was sure to be an adventure.

Since he had to work Friday, I drove up to Gaylord early in the day to check in to the hotel and figure out where things were.  The drive was largely uneventful, despite being cold and winter storm warnings posted on the driver information billboards-

After checking into the hotel and going shopping for the stuff I forgot at home, it was time to leave home base (Gaylord) and head toward Parc Expose in Lewiston, MI.  At least there was a good amount of snow on the ground, and more was falling.

 

Safely in Lewiston, a quick check of the temperature gauge indicated this was going to be a cold weekend-

Here is a selfie of me with all my winter gear on:

****

Parc Expose, Friday, Lewiston, MI

I'll let the images speak for themselves.  Unfortunately I learned iPhones get very flaky in these cold temperatures, so getting good images was tricky as I didn't know what state my phone would be in when it came out of my pocket.

That is half of Parc Expose, I have more to post but am out of time.  I'll post more tomorrow!

xflowgolf
xflowgolf SuperDork
1/27/19 9:54 p.m.

Love rally, but it was too damn cold for me to want to venture north this weekend.  

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
1/28/19 8:25 a.m.

In for more!

JmfnB
JmfnB MegaDork
1/28/19 9:29 a.m.

Joey48442 was there as well but his seat was bouncing on the track. Apparently they drove most of Saturday with a stick in the radiator!

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/28/19 11:34 a.m.

In reply to JmfnB :

Rally Jeep of awesomeness?  I saw an image of the stick in the rad after the event.

 

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/28/19 5:04 p.m.

Ok, here we go.  I'll try to get everything else posted tonight.

****

Parc Expose, Friday, Lewiston, MI  CONTINUED

This is about the point my phone started freaking out from the cold, so I started scrambling to get images of the rest of the cars-

With little time left before the start, I tried to make the rounds and chat with the drivers, starting with the MK1 Rabbit.  His name is Adam, and very kindly answered the 100 dumb questions I asked him about the car.  Turns out he is one of the organizers for the Central UP Rally, formerly known as Magnum Opus.  Probably a volunteer opportunity there.

As I was making my way over to the RX7 (I missed them on the first pass through), engines were starting and drivers and codrivers were getting in their cars.  So I stopped over at the Team Illuminata booth and had a nice chat with the owner Paul as he was packing up his wares.  A future stop at his shop is well in order for me, it sounds like he has some very cool stuff there.

With my new TIM swag in my pocket, I headed back to my car to go find the first spectator area.

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/28/19 6:48 p.m.

Special Stages, Friday, Lewiston-ish

From Parc Expose I decided to head for the spectator area for Avery Trail, Special Stage #3 (orange arrow below).  I got there in plenty of time to see the cars, but was informed as I was walking up that people were being turned away.  What the heck!  Ok, guess I'll head off to service to see what's shaking there.

*Note- we later figured out that the Avery Trail stage was being run "in" and then later "out."  So for the stage I went to see, the spectator area was effectively the runoff area, so it all made sense that folks were being turned away.

Arriving at the service area at Atlanta Community Schools, I pulled into the only entrance I saw- which rather quickly put me in front of a parked vehicle with an LED clock perched atop a stand next to it.  Oops!  I had found time control, and in short order the Service Steward John.  So I moved my car to the right parking spot, grabbed my HT and walked back toward the entrance.

Service Steward John turned out to be a good guy who took his job very seriously.  After several questions, I guess he was convinced I was not there to secretly work on cars, or sell drugs or anything like that.  It was pretty cool to see such a varied range of service setups-

There was more than one team I watched pull in to their service spot, driver and codriver climbed out of the car, took off their helmets and went straight to work on the car.  Holy E36 M3, they were hard core!  Nothing but respect for them from me.

While I was at service looking like a drug dealer (apparently), I got a call on my frozen phone with crappy service from my partner in crime for the rest of the event.  He stated he was an hour out still, we decided we should meet somewhere back in Lewiston, and he rented a sports car but wouldn't tell me what it was...

So we found each other in Lewiston, and over a nice Lake Perch dinner at the Redwood Steakhouse we started to figure out what to do with the rest of the weekend.  But before we headed back to Gaylord for the hotel, we jumped back in the cars to try to catch a night stage where I had tried earlier.  This time Avery Trail paid off-

 

Here is a link to a clip I took.  No can embed currently...

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/28/19 7:40 p.m.

Parc Expose and Special Stages, Atlanta-ish MI

Saturday morning found us at the hotel breakfast in Gaylord.  The first topic of discussion was the weather.  Our actual temp seemed to be -10 F with reports of -24 F in Atlanta.  At that point the actual numbers didn't really matter, it was berkeleying cold.  So we decided not to be in a hurry, drink some more crappy coffee and make a very important decision- what car will we drive.

Our choices were my really boring Subaru, or the really exciting car my comrade rented and drove up.  For those reading along, which would you choose?

Yes, dear reader, we agreed.  The only choice here was...

We arrived at Parc Expose as the cars were starting to roll out-

In case anyone missed it, the CRZ was painted with chalkboard paint.  They had chalk with them so anyone could draw on the car that wanted to.  Very cool idea.

There was one car left at Parc after the field moved out.  When we got to them the crew seemed to be chasing a fuel pump problem.  They drove the car to Atlanta and parked it, and it ran fine until then.  Then no joy-

Chris offered them a few suggestions that quickly yielded results, so his help was readily welcomed by the crew.  Troubleshooting led to a power problem for the fuel pump, which they corrected and got the fuel pump to run.  But the car still would not start.  After a few more tries the fuel pump refused to come to life again, so they resorted to towing the car back to service.  This turned out to be the end of their race.

******

One of the things that really struck me about Sno*Drift compared some of the other rallies I've been to is how well attended it was everywhere we went.  Parking at each spectator area led at times to a mile long walk because of all the people.  And each area we saw was full of people and bonfires.

As an example-

 

On to the super special stage.  This was set in an active gravel pit in Lewiston, with the course being in the bottom and the spectator areas up above about its perimeter-

A second YouTube clip- love the rotary!

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
1/28/19 7:42 p.m.

It's so cool when there is proper snow at Snodrift. 

 

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/28/19 7:52 p.m.

The rally drew to a close, and we were freezing.  So we stopped in Lewiston for dinner again, this time at a BBQ place for brisket sammiches.  Then back to the hotel to thaw out and relax before the drive home the next day.

That drive home was, you guessed it, snowy and cold-

But eventually the sun peeked out and a snow-bow, or snow rain bow, or something like that could be seen-

And in case anyone is reading along who has never been in the rust belt, this is why we can't have nice things.  Road salt-

#rustbeltlife!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
1/30/19 7:57 a.m.

I guess I'll fill in my side of the story- Brian's account of the rally itself is pretty accurate, and it was a fun and laid back time for us.  Spectating is incredibly easy compared to crewing, volunteering, or racing, and my main takeaway was that this is a fantastically well attended rally given how cold and remote it is.

Friday- I spent all day doing important top secret work related things around Detroit.  Then my coworkers dropped me off at the rental car place, where I was informed by the attendant that I could pick any small car.  "There's a Camaro over there, is that small enough?"  I asked, doing a poor job of feigning innocence, and was met with "Dude, you want the Camaro?! I'll give you the Camaro, it's 20 degrees and snowing nobody's gonna rent that thing!"

So.  Here's my review of a V6 Camaro in the snow:

Tires- Goodyear all season somethingorother.  Not good, but I've driven on worse.
Traction control- Slow to respond and downright intrusive when cornering.  With the open diff it's best to leave it on for parking, though.  The rest of the time I had it off, and had to hold the button for 10sec to disable the stability management along with it, otherwise it would kick in constantly and try to put the car in a snowbank for me.
Drive mode- The car has Touring, Sport, and Snow modes available.  Touring is fine on the highway but the laggy shifts make it very difficult to tell if the wheels are spinning, and at what speed.  Snow mode is unmitigated garbage and should not be used by anybody who actually knows what they're doing.  Sport mode, traction and stability control off, and the shifter in manual was surprisingly good and kept things controllable despite the annoying amounts of single wheelspin produced by the open diff.
Suspension/steering- Remarkably good.  Sufficient travel, good feel, the stock suspension could actually be a solid snow rally setup.
General feeling- A new Camaro is a perfectly viable snow car up to about 6" of coverage, at which point it begins forming an iceberg on the front bumper.  Replace the OEM tires unless you like having to maintain a 1/4 mile following distance.

I made my way up to meet Brian, missing most of day one, then had a fun time keeping up with his Subaru through zero-visibility whiteout conditions back to the hotel.  The hotel itself was really something, a relic of the 80s with much wood paneling, a stuffed bear, and an enclosed courtyard area containing a pool, hot tub, sauna, arcade cabinets, and a grand piano.  The majority of the hotel's other guests were somewhat rowdy snowmobilers who seemed to be having a pretty good time.  Actually, snowmobiles were everywhere throughout the entire weekend- every spectating point had a group parked nearby, and every road had either snowmobile tracks next to it or directly on it.  Neat.

Saturday- Late start, some spectating, lots of sliding the Camaro around on the spectator roads.  Laid back, good time, very cold though.  At one point had to bump into a couple snowbanks to get turned around on a road only as wide as the car's length.  Again, amazed by the amount of turnout for this event.  Guy at the BBQ place that night told us all about a number of his interesting theories, including how Zoolander is actually about the differences between rally and Nascar (!) and how only certain parts of the moon landing were faked but the rest was real.  Back at the hotel, one of the other guests is wandering around drunk singing Bohemian Rhapsody- his performance was just barely good enough to make up for how much noise he was making.

Sunday-  Back to Detroit to fly home.  The first hour on the highway was quite snowy, making for an interesting time since I was intent on being on time for my flight and therefore did some passing.  Returned the Camaro with a large amount of snow still packed into the grille and frozen to the wheelwells and bumper, which got a bit of a reaction from the attendant but he noted no damage.  Mission success!

pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
1/30/19 8:04 a.m.

Excuse me, I'm gonna need a minute.  

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
1/30/19 8:06 a.m.

In reply to pinchvalve :

Calm down, one of them DNF'd with a transmission failure and therefore lost to a bunch of crusty old Subarus and VWs so they're not that great cheeky

paranoid_android
paranoid_android UltraDork
1/30/19 3:42 p.m.

I forgot about Bohemian Rhapsody guy!  Despite being quite loud, he did a pretty good job in most parts of the song.  If only it hadn't been 11:00 pm when the Queen spirit struck him...

Forgot to mention too, I have it on good authority snow donuts in a Camaro are more fun than AWD donuts in a Subaru wink

DeadSkunk
DeadSkunk PowerDork
2/19/19 10:17 a.m.
pinchvalve said:

Excuse me, I'm gonna need a minute.  

 

 

 

o

One of those Fiestas (the Polish one) was largely a Mitsubishi drive train. The other is a proper WRC car.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
2/19/19 10:30 a.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk :

Are you sure you're not thinking of the other ridiculously legit Mitsubishi rally car run by a Polish team in the US?  Genuinely curious since I don't know what's under the Fiesta bodywork.

DeadSkunk
DeadSkunk PowerDork
2/19/19 2:43 p.m.

In reply to ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ :

I'll see if I can find the article on it, but I'm 99% sure it was one of the Sno*Drift entries.

DeadSkunk
DeadSkunk PowerDork
2/19/19 3:03 p.m.

https://autoweek.com/article/rally/snodrift-rally-kicks-most-anticipated-us-rally-season-yet

Read this article..... it's a Polish built Fiesta with Evo power.......

 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ UberDork
2/19/19 3:15 p.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk :

Neat!  Thanks for the link, I had no idea.

artur1808
artur1808 Reader
2/21/19 2:07 p.m.

In reply to DeadSkunk :

Correct. The black one is an R5 wrc car, and the white one is a "proto" car which is an evo engine/drivetrain. 

ebelements
ebelements New Reader
2/21/19 2:37 p.m.

Not sure how I missed this thread. Awesome. Looks like you got the full experience!

Myself and a rotating group of sometimes up to 15 guys rent a cabin up that way for Sno*Drift every year. Started out kind of the same way your trip did—trying to figure out what the whole thing was all about—and now it's a pilgrimmage. I even bought a sub $1000 volvo wagon just for the trip this year (it didn't LOVE starting that one morning that it was -20 but somehow it did). 

Sno*Drift pro tips™

-Use a hand warmer in the pocket you keep your phone in. 
-Buy military "mickey mouse" boots at a surplus store or on eBay. They're cheap and good down to something like -20... your feet won't ever know you're not indoors. They run almost 2 sizes big BTW.
-If you want a good spot at "bonfire alley" you need to show up at maybe 2-3pm. Then you can stake your claim and gather firewood...

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