On January 24 I took my 2015 WRX ice racing on Lake DuBay, Wisconsin with the CWSCC. It was the first time I’ve competed on ice and the first time I’ve driven my car on a frozen lake!
The event is about four hours away from where I live, so the event started on Saturday afternoon, meeting up with some club mates to cruise up to a nearby town to stay for the night. The even started at 9 and we were some of the first ones there. This all paid off because I got #5 and had plenty of time to take my 4 practice runs before the timed event.
Since this is the second time I’ve competed in an event with my car (the first was regular auto-X) and my first time on ice, I was glad to have those practice runs. It very quickly became apparent that patience is the name of the game when it comes to ice racing (without studs).
You very rarely get to give the car more than 20% throttle. This is illustrated in the second half of the video, the camera is mounted on my front bumper cover so you can hear when the turbo spools, its only about three times in the run and only for a couple seconds.
You spend a lot of time feeling out the front tires when you need to corner. If they start to slip, you are not going to turn. Ice makes understeer far more obvious and far more punishing than it is on tarmac.
Braking is always the hardest and most important part. Finding the braking point is always challenging and it is made all the more difficult when ice racing by the fact that the surface is not homogeneous and ever changing.
The “line proper” is usually mostly ice with varying degrees of ruts from the studded competitors. The studded tire ruts can be useful but they can also disrupt the suspension. The ice is of course rather slippery though not as bad as you might think. The edges of the course have snow and that means there’s more traction there. All of this means picking a line is difficult and sticking to it is even harder!
As a result of this the pace is rather slow, it is a bit frustrating, but if you push it you’ll only slide off course and go even slower. I think that as a result of how slow this is it actually makes ice racing a really great way to learn car control, you have a lot more time to feel out the car and realize/understand what is going on with the tires.
The main event is set up into 2 heats of 4 runs, just like an auto cross the runs are solo and scoring is based on time. I got faster and faster with each in heat one. Then the 2wd cars went out and apparently though creative line selection threw snow all over the course, I was surprised on my first run of heat 2 with how much faster the course felt before having my fastest run in heat 2 run 2. After that the course cleared somewhat and the grip wasn’t as good on the last 2 runs.
I cannot recommend ice racing enough, I learned a lot during this event. I’m definitely going to be a better tarmac auto crosser, because of this experience and I’m looking forward to my next race.