/Reporter gets behind the wheel at ice races
Darren Lum waits to head out to the ice track. /Photo by Darby Bayly

Reporter gets behind the wheel at ice races

By Darren Lum

Published Feb. 15 2018

There’s nothing like the real thing. Forget about any of the incarnations of the popular video game Gran Turismo or any driving simulators. Forget even about virtual reality. Driving at the Minden Fairgrounds this past weekend I didn’t need any high tech set of goggles to experience the thrills of racing in a controlled environment.

Thanks to an CASC-OR (Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs – Ontario Region) ice racing trial licence offered this year and the help from the Minden Kin Club’s Jim Carrell and Tom Prentice who provided his Subaru Forester on street studded tires I was one of 11 drivers on the starting grid for the SS4 race near the back of the pack waiting for the green flag to start the race.

I never thought a Forester could ever sound so enthralling as it did when it zoomed down the front stretch of the ice track at close to 90 kilometres an hour.

With three practice laps behind the wheel and one race (and a driver’s meeting) as a passenger with Carrell an experienced ice racer I was racing the little Subie down the inside line lining up three-wide looking to pass what looked like a Lexus IS 300 from the early 2000s. The driver of the Lexus spun around on the first turn with his car pointing at me leaving me nowhere to go except sliding into a collision. The car moved out of the way and I was off again in a second.

Carrell who has some 20 years of racing experience was beside me helping me drive. I cannot imagine driving without him. Having an experienced ice racer is a requirement for new drivers. From his direction he had me sliding around the next corner transitioning to the next one before I could say yee haw – in my head.

I hadn’t even completed my first lap and I was already running high with adrenaline and focusing intently on keeping my borrowed Subie from smashing into a snowbank or hitting other vehicles all while trying to drive the best line.

In ice racing there is a constant battle for traction to go fast. It comes down to a balance of constant steering and throttle whether it is to initiate a slide or to come out of one with speed. There is a fine execution of technique and a constant adaptation to the conditions of the track not apparent when you watch from the snowbanks. The ideal line changes as does the ice track.

It was a literal exercise in driving to a goal. For me that goal was to hold my place (I ignored the several cars lapping me because they were beyond my skill level) and to finish in one piece. “Mission accomplished” went through my head as I held my line onto the front stretch and then hammered the accelerator to speed past the waving checkered flag to maintain my seventh place in front of a pesky driver in a small grey car that had threatened to take away my glory of holding my position.

When it comes to experiences sometimes people say things like it’s the best thing you can do with your clothes on. Ice racing easily falls under this category.

Thanks to the Minden Kin Club this ice racing course has been going for more than 40 years. They build and maintain it every season. Clubs all over southern Ontario such as the Toronto Autosport Club rent the ice and cover liability costs for each weekend during the Subaru Ice Racing Championship season which is from January and the entire month of February (possibly March for a rain date).

The series includes a variety of classes for all kinds of vehicles from hatchbacks to pickups with two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive on non-studded and studded tires.

Carrell said he loves racing and encourages others to take up the sport. It is “grassroots” racing at its best where everybody is supportive of one another and interested in having a great time. The more participation he said the better it is for the community.

All of this fun is only a short drive away from anywhere you may live in Haliburton County.

It only costs about $200 for the weekend. This will include your trial licence track fees for each day and get you an opportunity to race wheel-to-wheel and bumper-to-bumper with other like-minded people who have a passion for cars and a yearning for speed in a controlled environment.

If you’re a motorcyclist like me and have a Snell-rated helmet bring it along. Otherwise Carrell said a helmet could be sourced.

However when it comes right down to it all you really need to bring is an open mind a desire to have fun and your driver’s licence. The rest will take care of itself.

For more information related to finding a car or the trial licence contact the ice race director Jonathan Rashleigh at iceracedir@casc.on.ca. Information on racing can be found at www.casc.on.ca/iceracing_about.