The atmosphere in the service park this year felt... off.

Apart from the healthy layer of snow that had graced Bancroft this year, a stark departure from the bare gravel last year, there was a lot of empty space where the park was once packed with rally cars. This was for a variety of reasons, from the pulling out of Subaru Canada from the series meaning the complete lack of presence from Rocket Rally and the theft of Crazy Leo / Can-Jam Motorsports production class car mere weeks ago.

As the quiet service park slowly became lively with crew, pits were erected and cars spluttered to life. With the temperature rising throughout the day and a chance of precipitation expected during the second loop of stages, there was a difficult day in store.

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Tire choice is always a major player here, with most teams having a healthy stack of snow tires at their disposal. Yokohama A034 seemed to be the popular choice but there were a few Pirelli, DMACK, and Hoosiers scattered around the paddock.

The unicorn of Canadian Rally makes an appearance. After writing off the previous car (read: took a swim in a frozen pond Whoops, wrong Subaru! It was eaten by a snowbank in Perce-Neige in 2016), Jeremy Norris’ new-ish Impreza has only made a handful of appearances in the public eye. Like a wise man once said, “Sometimes you just have to lick the stamp and send it.” And well... this man does that to the tee, so I made sure to grab a few more snaps.

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With park ferme mere moments away, dedicated fans flocked in from every direction to take in the machinery. It did feel a bit odd not seeing any of the big factory support I’ve become accustomed to, but getting back into the grassroots of stage rally with relatively small budgets was a nice change of pace.

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Snow rallies even the playing field between new and old machinery, with Imprezas of all years on pretty even footing. The splattering of Evos would have made for a fun rivalry in the forest, with an Evo IV entered from New Jersey and the Evo VI of Ian Crerar (another new car, but it never ran a stage).

Making the most of that early winter morning sun.

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With so little running, this RPR car is basically still brand new and would have made for a fierce battle with the Beast from Can-Jam. But alas, we have to wait another year to see that.

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The ceremonial start was hectic, with so little time between these cars I didn’t have nearly enough time to reposition. Little did I know, these would be my last shots of the day for these two crews.

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Yep. Norris out on the third stage, Martin out on the fourth, and the fifth stage being the first spectator run. Hard to say I’m not disappointed being I had trekked halfway into Old Detlor for a shot but glad to hear the safety gear did their job and kept these boys safe.

Such a good set of stages but unforgiving to say the least.