Freezing in the Woods has never been so Fun
“You are going to stand in the middle of a forest, in the dead of winter, for hours on end, to catch a glimpse of 30 cars driving by?”
Yup. This is winter rally racing and to those not involved in the automotive culture, spectating at such events sounds downright insane.
Earlier this year Subaru Canada contact me and wanted to know if I would be interested in attending the Rally of the Tall Pines in Bancroft, Ontario with them. Tripping over myself to say yes, I began putting on my snowsuit immediately even though it was still August and the rally was months away.
Rally of the Tall Pines is the final round of the Canadian Rally Championship (CRC). Having been around for decades, the it’s steeped in history and a favorite of North American rally fans. What makes this rally unique is the unpredictable weather. Some years it is sunny and dry, causing the roads to be dusty gravel trails, while other years, like this year, it is the complete opposite and the roads are a gruesome snow/ice mix. Cold weather, slippery roads and bad luck would prove to take their toll as the 2013 Rally of the Tall Pines became a war of attrition; only 15 of the 36 entrants would cross the finish line.
Friday Night, Pre-Rally Shakedown
We arrived at the makeshift paddock area set up on a snow-covered frozen field. Car haulers of various sizes and budgets litter the grounds and we make our way to one of larger trailers there; the one containing Subaru Canada’s cars. The lead driver for Subaru is Pat Richard, a rally racer from Western Canada who has found a ton of success rallying all over North America. Sharing a stall with him is Max Riddle, an up-and-coming rallier also from Western Canada. While most other competitors take advantage of this night to perform shakedown runs and experiment with set-ups, these Subaru drivers are providing rides for both VIPs and some good hearted charity cases. But that isn’t to say these ride-alongs are not also data collecting journeys.
The CRC is made up of different racing groups that include open (modified) and stock classes for both two-wheel drive vehicles and all-wheel drive vehicles. We wander around to scope out the hardware and spot many different cars that will compete including a few older Volkswagen Golfs, a Toyota Echo hatchback, a Nissan 240SX, a Ford Fiesta front-wheel drive and an imported all-wheel drive Ford Focus. Of course, there are also plenty of Subarus.