Last month’s Sno*Drift Rally proved as a success for the all-women rally team of Amanda Skelly and Amy Feistel of Noble Star Rally. The event took place during some of the toughest weather conditions the 2019 American Rally Association (ARA) Championship will see.
With 34 competitors starting, only 23 had completed the entire rally, comprised of two days worth of stages. Temperatures reached an all time low of -25 degrees fahrenheit on day two of the event, putting teams and their vehicles to the test. Michigan state law does not allow for the use of studded tires, which presents an even higher challenge during this particular winter rally. Over top of the thick layer of ice covered roads, fresh snow lined the stages and allowed for (mostly) soft snow banks for cars to get stuck in and on, or bounce off of. Batteries of handheld tools struggled to maintain power in the cold, fluids had to be stored inside a running vehicle, and gloves lined the in car dash heater as teams battled the brutal cold.
“I have to admit that I was quite apprehensive about competing in this particular event because of the many challenges winter driving presents, and with it being the first event of the season. We made a last minute decision to purchase a set of budget friendly winter tires based on trusted advice, and I can say I was very impressed with the overall performance of them in combination with the Spiider controller from DCCDpro.com,” says Skelly.
On day 1, teams made their way through the first 6 stages of the event, totalling 44 stage miles. Most of the cars began the event with their light pods attached as the start of the rally launched near sundown, hindering one’s visibility and confidence behind the wheel. Stage 2 presented the particular challenge of safely navigating through various cars off of the narrow road, causing many delays for teams.
While the stages presented their own challenges to competitors, service crew encountered their own difficulties. For Skelly’s crew, they began experiencing the harshness of winter when their jack failed, and Skelly’s brakes froze. After a 45 minute service in subzero temperatures, Skelly and Feistel received a 1.30 minute penalty for arriving late to a regroup control due to ice and snow packed around the rear brakes, which caused them to freeze. The ladies were encountered with the issue when trying to leave their service space.
Day 2 was comprised of 74 stages miles from the last 10 stages, including two runnings of the Super Special stage and the infamous Bonfire Alley stage. The ladies had their first encounter with the support of spectators when they nose dived into a large snowbank on tight right corner on SS10, resulting in a group of spectators pushing them back out in a matter of seconds.
“That was a first for me. In all the years I have been competing, I have only ever seen videos of spectators jumping in to help competitors in desperate moments. I have to say it was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had! Massive thanks goes out to the group that pushed us out of that snowbank!” says Skelly.
Consistency, focus and steadiness lead the all-female team to the finish unscathed from two days of racing through the snow covered forests or northern Michigan. The duo finished 4th in class and 11th overall in Nationals- a great start to Skelly’s first year competing Nationally.
“Despite living in Michigan, the most practice I've had on snow in the last 3 years has been playing in open parking lots and I also struggle with night time driving, so I was honestly quite nervous going into this event. Amy and I went in with the goal to gain more seat time and experience with car control, and of course to finish. I drove Stitch to the event, and needed to make sure I could drive him back home, not only to my house, but then back to TurboTime in North Carolina the following weekend! So overall, I would say we had a great event, we accomplished all the goals we set out for, and have a lot of room for growth this season!” Skelly adds.
This year’s calendar is loaded with a variety of events for the team, including 6 more eastern National ARA events. At the end of this month, Skelly will be joined by her new co-driver Sarah Freeze in attendance during a two-day training at OzRallyPro; followed by the 2019 Sandblast Rally in Cheraw, SC on 2nd March.
You can stay up-to-date with the team and see what is in store for the 2019 season by visiting their website at: www.RalyGrl.com