On a crisp Sunday morning at the end of February I was fortunate enough to have finally amassed the right set of items/abilities to be able to participate in one of the Adirondack Motor Enthusiast Club's fabled ice races. If you know me personally you would know that I have been trying to attend one of these ice races for a few months now. Life, a cross-country trip, and other inconveniences kept interfering with my plans to get some frozen lake action. However that Sunday… oh that Sunday was the day. I had an eligible car, my 2001 Mazda Miata, a set of snow tires (more on that later…), an AMEC Membership, 50 dollars for the entry fee, and last but definitely not least, a lack of concern for wrecking my ride back home and over-confidence in my driving skills in a set of conditions I have never encountered. As you can probably imagine from the title to this post it didn't really go so well! Today I am going to outline the steps you can take to add an extra element of challenge to your fellow ice racers!
Pick the right car. It's a well known fact across the internet that what you want for the snow is a very light RWD car with almost no weight over the driven axle. Add to the fact that my Miata is only equipped with the "Safety-First" minded soft top, and it makes for a great choice in a series where multiple cars have been towed off the lake destroyed.
Pick the right tires. Another weird fact that my friends know about me is that I will try my darnedest to not buy a new set of tires and wheels. My Craigslist addiction has taught me that I can easily score a set of good wheels with some usable tires on them for about 250 dollars. So when it came time to buy a set of winter tires for my excellent ice-racing vehicle, Craigslist was my first destination. To the detriment of my friends this was definitely the biggest roadblock between me and the frozen lake. It took me weeks to find a suitable set and when I did I literally had less than 12 hours to go and get them, and a three hour drive between New York City where I live and Albany where these tires were and where I was planning on crashing for the night at my friend Brian Silvestro's dorm. These tires were mounted on some "tuner" 4x100 wheels, perfect for my Miata. So off I went, to the lake with Mr. Silvestro, and when I try to put on my "new" set of wheels I discover that my only lug nut set isn't compatible. Much to my dismay I left that day without ice-racing and it may have been for the better because my friend left the lake with his car in much worse shape than mine. Not to mention that when I actually did get on the ice I discovered that my tires were rather garbage, extremely wide, and rubbed like HELL.
Be an excellent driver. By excellent, I mean someone who has never attended a driving school, regularly places last at autocrosses and rallycrosses, but can get from 96th street on the FDR to the Brooklyn Bridge in about eight minutes. I wish I wasn't describing myself in this part of this post, but unfortunately I am.
With these three steps you should be ready to hit the lake. You'll get introduced to the foreign realm of racing on something that is literally a liquid in warmer temperatures by completing a practice round. As I hit the ice it became startlingly evident that that I was not well equipped for this kind of race. I couldn't put power down, cars were passing me at speeds seemingly double mine and I was driving at nearly the limit of the car (or so I thought.) I spun out. I ate snowbank. I slid, and stalled, and all of those bad things you're not supposed to do during an ice race with limited traction.
After the practice round I was stuck in a bind. I was 100% sure I was not competitive and that there was no real point for me to run the first race after the practice round. Skipping the race, calling it a day, and going home could save me my car and a bruised ego. But I did what any person in that situation would do and raced anyways. Amazingly I walked off of the ice with no injuries to my car but my ego, rather injured indeed.
There it is, that should be exactly what you need to do to become your next local Ice Racing track hazard! In all seriousness though, I had a great time, and ice racing is one of the easiest ways to get into wheel-to-wheel racing an experience you just do not get with the other forms of budget motorsport. I plan to return to an ice race next year when I have a proper car (*cough cough* Subaru) and some better driving skills. I'd like to give a shoutout to everyone who was so nice to me despite the fact that I was by far the worst car there. Sorry for messing your race up!
Here is the full video, and yes, there are many spins. Make sure to turn the volume up, because the commentary is hilarious.
Photo, Gif, and Video Production Credit: Brian Silvestro