Rally America Sno*Drift 2010 – Click above for high-res image gallery
snow settling from the inaugural event of Rally America's 2010 season, four things are certain. This year's Sno*Drift will go down as one of the slickest events in the history of U.S. rally racing. It will also be remembered as one of the highest-attended Sno*Drifts in the event's 24-year history. More than a few people are questioning Ken Block's new Fiesta
after it broke less than halfway through the event. And with four Sno*Drift trophies since 2006, Travis Pastrana now officially owns winter time rally racing.
Based in Atlanta, Michigan, the Sno*Drift is actually three events in one. There is of course the Sno*Drift national rally, spanning two days and 20 stages. Running simultaneously, however, is the Sno Regional on Friday, followed by – wait for it – the Drift Regional on Saturday. Thirty three cars were signed up for the whole enchilada, but factor in the regional events and the car count swelled to 55 entries. And lest you think these are all high-dollar race teams – grassroots racing doesn't get more grassroots than the likes of '80s Volkswagens
, or pretty much any turbocharged Chrysler
front-wheel-drive machine. Sure, it's cool to watch Evos and Subies in four-wheel power slides, blow-off valves chattering like steam locomotives. But then a bright yellow Acura
Integra Type-R comes screaming around the corner, followed by a mint condition 1980 Volvo
242, and suddenly everything is right with the world.
Photos by Christopher Smith / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
Fiesta images by Mike Prouix/www.worldrallysport.com/Rally America
The uniqueness isn't strictly limited to the competitors, however. Aside from every Sno*Drift becoming an unofficial Subaru
convention, the racing atmosphere never fails to deliver some cool cars you may have forgotten about over the years, like the string of Toyota Celica
All-Tracs that made the journey from Ohio. Or the pair – yes pair – of vintage Audi
Quattros that looked early '80s fresh and ready to race. Even the lifted Subaru Legacy
wagon that frequented the stages was a sight to behold.
Car show not withstanding, Sno*Drift 2010 was all about Pastrana (lower left) and Block (lower right), and of course the mega-icy conditions that all drivers had to face without the benefit of studded tires. Pastrana actually entered the event fresh from surgery, thanks to a biking accident that left him with a broken collar bone just days before the race. Meanwhile, Block's Monster World Rally Team was operating in full PR mode, pushing the new Fiesta in preparation for its Rally America debut. Once all the pomp and circumstance of the Friday afternoon Parc Exposé was wrapped, Block and co-driver Alessandro Gelsomino drew first blood by setting the quickest time on Stage 1. Even Block would later say that he was surprised at how well he did, considering it was his first race with the Fiesta and that he'd been driving "on the conservative side." His lead was short-lived, however; Pastrana struck back on Stage 2 and 3, moving into the overall top spot where he would stay for the rest of the event.
As for Block, the details of his breakdown are something of a mystery. Ford
Racing reported that Block's Fiesta broke a suspension component "after taking a few minor impacts" in Stage 7. Stage results at Rally America, however, show Block as DNF from Stage 4 on out. As far as what specifically happened to the Fiesta, nobody outside the team knows – the car was packed up and the team shipped out before the Saturday events.
Despite the cold weather and icy road conditions, crowds flooded spectator stages well into Friday night and all day Saturday to get in on the action. For the second year in a row, two Super Special stages were organized in a sprawling gravel pit approximately 10 miles outside the Saturday service area in Atlanta. Like the stadium-based Super Special stages in the WRC or X Games, the Rally America Super Specials offered spectators a chance to watch the cars race on a closed course – albeit it one at a time as opposed to the head-to-head action in the stadiums. The Super Specials were also the only stages that demanded a monetary donation – $5 per person and $10 to park – but the droves of people who braved the elements suggests the racing action was worth the price. Either that or a whole bunch of people hiked in from the woods and hopped the fence.
With Block out of the running, the Rockstar team of Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard gave Pastrana a run in their 2009 Mitsubishi Lancer
Evo X, claiming victory in Stages 7, 9, 15, 18 and 20. Their efforts landed them in second place overall, approximately a minute and a half behind Pastrana and co-driver Christian Edstrom. Third place went to William Bacon and Peter Watt, who clocked in at six and a half minutes off the lead with their 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer
Evo IX. Other winners included Travis and Terry Hanson, who took top honors in the Super Production category with their 2007 Subaru Impreza
WRX STI. The two-wheel-drive victory went to Christopher Duplessis and Catherine Woods, who took no prisoners in their 1990 Volkswagen GTi.
Next up for the Rally America series is the 100 Acre Wood on February 26 and 27, based in the Ozarks of Missouri.