Welcome to our new series “Mad Mike’s Musings” by Mike Halley. For those of you that have been involved in North American rallying for a long while, you’ll recognize the name. Mike has been involved in rallying in one form or another since 1972 and can still be found at events today. With all those years of experience, Mike has many stories to tell and opinions to share.
This Installment: Speed Meets the Snowbank
With Sno*Drift soon to launch the 2020 season of the ARA National Championship it seems a good time for teams to consider whether their goals are seasonal or just event based. If a solid points finish is more important than just going fast and hoping you’ll win a trophy or get blasted with ice cold sparkling wine, then maybe you should pay close attention to a story of how one team’s marching orders led to a pair of Group 5 (Open 2WD in ARA parlance) regional podiums in a stock, 115hp New Beetle. Yes, it was some years ago, but thanks to Sno*Drift’s typical slippery conditions, the lessons learned then are still valid today.
Since I missed the very first SCCA Pro Rally in 1973, I was keen to not miss Rally America’s inaugural event in Michigan 32 years later. Kala Rounds (Aelfwyn) flew in from the Pacific Northwest to share the challenge and help the driver stick to the weekend’s “find all the Finish Time Controls but no snowbanks” team paradigm. The plan as it turned out, worked far better than expected.
The StudBug as it came to be known, only stopped once on the weekend’s icy stages and that was thanks to a Subaru that was blocking part of the road. Unfortunately, the team decided to place their warning triangles on the left side of the road when the car was on the right, so it wasn’t until the Subaru’s true position came into view that the gravity of the situation became apparent. A little bit of driver over-reaction ended with whacking the bank along with a collision-avoiding spin. We came to a halt with the front bumper pushed against the opposite bank and the drive wheels stuck in a small, icy ditch.
The rescue that ensued is best described by watching the video of the incident below. Kala’s comments about spectators are words that will live with me forever! Rally organizers the world over had been cracking down on the dangers of spectators getting involved with car recovery during an active stage, so I told Kala we were likely on our own to get moving again. We were secretly thankful that a couple hardy souls went against the rules and slid down the embankment to give us a shove just before Kala tried to get out and do the task herself. Once back on stage we completed the event adhering to team orders and claimed two runner-up finishes in the open, big power, Group 5 Regional class. As you can see by the results, we were probably the most outgunned rally car in the entire competition (https://rallyracingnews.com/ra/snodrift05-regres.html).
So the question every Sno*Drift team should ask themselves is, will driving flat out garner a better result than remaining under control just enough to avoid digging out of a snowbank or three? Keep in mind that rally is about spending the least amount of time getting to the finish controls and not speed alone.
M.E. “Mad Mike” Halley has been involved in rallying in one form or another since 1972. With experience as a driver, factory sponsored car builder, sanctioning body steward, organizer, volunteer, and driver/co-driver coach, Halley still embraces his life long rally affliction to this day.