Monday, March 9, 2015

Ice Lapping in Muskoka

For a couple years I've been seeing pictures of cars doing timed runs on a frozen lake in Muskoka. On Sunday I finally got around to checking it out, and wow, what a fantastic event! The organizers plow out a very fun and well-designed track just under 1km in length. It features a straight, a couple technical chicanes, and a tight hairpin that gets extremely difficult to manage as the ice gets polished by the cars.

Danil wasn't able to make it, as he was still recovering from our last weekend. However I did convince another Subaru friend to come along. We were the first to arrive, and after a quick chat with Marcel who just finished plowing, we were told that the track is ours!

This event gave me exactly what I've been missing at RallyCross events - practice. A typical RallyCross gives you about 6 timed runs, a minute or two each, for a grand total of about 15 minutes of seat time per event. Here, we were on the ice from 10am to 4pm burning a tank of gas and covering about 100km. It gave me time to play with tire pressures, practice my left-foot-braking, play with different mounting options for the GoPros, play with data logging, grab the camera and snap some photos of people on the track... all things I'd love to do at a RallyCross, and ones I typically don't have time for. Don't get me wrong, I love the competition aspect of RallyCross and the variety of surfaces, but for sheer seat time this can't be beat.

As is most often the case for grassroots motorsports, the event was attended by a fantastic group of people. Despite a lack of a formal driver's meeting or course marshals no one was being unsafe or doing anything stupid. If a car went into a snowbank everyone stopped and offered to help. The organizers even drilled the ice to be sure it had a safe thickness - it was at 2 feet.

The track was very fast when snow-covered, but by the end of the day some corners got so polished I only managed to crawl along at about 25 km/h through them, according to my data logger. The first time I got out of the car to pull someone out of a bank, I realized why I couldn't get more speed - the ice was so slippery it was close to impossible to walk on! As frustrating as the lack of grip was, it was an amazing opportunity to practice car control. Thank you Muskoka, we'll definitely be back for more.

p.s. Special thanks to my old man for coming out and taking some photos of my runs. In fact they turned out so good, I forgive you for putting our car into the snowbank. :)

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