About Ice Racing

Ice Racing

What is Ice Racing?

Ice racing is exactly what it sounds like - cars racing wheel to wheel on a track of glare ice. As winter sets in, a track layout is plowed into a field, over and over, until the track is bordered by banks of snow several feet high and ten to fifteen feet deep. Then, the track is flooded with water repeatedly until a layer of ice a foot or more thick is built up. Bring out the cars and we're ice racing!

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Cars Used In Ice Racing

In ice racing, there are four basic groups of cars divided by their size and their driven wheels.

The cars are typically cars which have been taken off the road for reasons of cosmetics (rust) or age that are still mechanically sound. They are generally smaller cars, because they are easier to locate and usually more competitive.

Each of these groups is used to determine rubber-to-ice classes, second driver classes, street stud classes, and racing stud classes.

The groups are;

Rubber To Ice Classes

The basic classes in ice racing (and the ones with the largest number of competitors) are the "rubber-to-ice" classes.

These classes are restricted to winter tires with no studs or other materials in the tires - hence the name given to the classes.

High performance winter radials from many manufacturers are used in these classes.

Other than an approved helmet, no other specialized safety equipment is required for rubber-to-ice classes - the manufacturer’s original three-point safety harness is acceptable.

Street Stud Classes

The street stud classes are a relatively new thing to ice racing. One of the intricacies of ice racing is that as the rubber-to-ice cars have more races the ice becomes polished by all the wheels spinning on it and the track becomes slower and more difficult to drive on with each successive lap.

The street stud tires are all the same brand of tire, and they contain a short rounded stud in the tread. This doesn't give the traction of a full racing stud, but it does ensure that there is a moderate and consistent level of traction through the entire race which many drivers prefer.

For the 2011 season, the number of interested competitors in the street stud class has risen to the point where there will be a second driver class for these tires as well for the first time.

Studded Tire Classes

For drivers who want to go faster there are metal-to-ice classes. Essentially these classes are grouped the same way as the "rubber-to-ice" classes regarding engine location, displacement and driven wheels, but the regular tires are replaced with studded tires.

Menard brand studded tires are specified, providing close competition while helping maintain Minden's ice surface.

The driving skills required in metal-to-ice racing are quite different from those needed in the rubber-to-ice classes, because the additional traction provides tremendous improvements in acceleration, turning, and braking.

With the increase in speed comes a need for additional safety equipment in the form of a roll bar and a four-point harness. It is also in these classes that horsepower becomes a significant factor in the success of the car.

Second Driver Classes

In order to increase competitor participation and to further reduce the costs, there is also a ‘second driver’ series for each of the rubber-to-ice classes.

This allows a second driver to share each race car, with a complete separate series of races each weekend for second drivers.

(The second driver doesn't have to be a different driver, though - if they wish, the same driver may race twice as often during the weekend by entering the second driver class!).

Tires Are The Key

Probably the single most important element of ice racing is tires. There is a fine balance between the weight carried over the tire, the power being transferred, and the co-efficient of friction of the contact patch. The co-efficient of friction is a combination of the tire’s rubber compound, the tread design, the surface area of the tire, inflation pressures, and the surface condition and temperature of the ice. As the condition of the ice can change from lap to lap, it’s a challenge to get maximum power down while maintaining traction.

In rubber-to-ice classes, the tire surface can be improved by tractionizing, a process which mechanically chews up the surface of the tire to improve its grip. Many clubs own a tractionizing machine, or you can get it done trackside for a small charge per tire. To stay competitive, a top competitor can spend between five hundred and a thousand dollars a year on tires, repairs and maintenance and improvements.

Getting Involved

In order to participate in ice racing in Ontario, you must be a member of a CASC Ontario Region affiliated club.

There are six of them that organize ice race events and several others who have members competing in the ice racing series. Contact them - they’ll be glad to hear from you. Ask about their club’s philosophy, experience, number of active racing members, and try to attend one of their meetings. Once you’ve identified the club you’d like to join, do so - it will prove to be your biggest source of information and ongoing help as you get started.

You can also get all manner of information and help getting involved with ice racing through the CASC-OR forums.

Buying Your Ice Racer

As noted prevously, any car with an engine capacity of less than 3.0 litres is eligible to compete for a Class Championship. It doesn’t matter whether the car is a sedan, coupe, station wagon or small pick-up, equipped with an automatic or standard transmission, front wheel, rear wheel or all wheel drive, just as long as it is mechanically sound - and within your budget.

A competitor can spend as little as three or four hundred dollars on a car, or as much as five thousand or more. Most ice race cars are older models which no longer meet highway safety standards, but are still mechanically sound.

A well prepared ice racer can be expected to last at least three or four years, and in Ontario there are quite a few cars which have been ice raced for more than a decade!

Preparing Your Ice Racer

For the rubber-to-ice classes, the minimum car preparation would involve the removal of headlights, tail lights and any exterior plastic trim that could break in a collision. Bumpers must be modified so that they cannot 'hook up' with another car and cause a crash.. This is usually accomplished by bridging the area between the bumper and the fender with sheet metal or a strip of tire tread. The brakes, steering and safety equipment must be in proper working order.

The only safety equipment that a rubber-to-ice driver is required to buy is a helmet that meets the standards outlined in the CASC Ontario Ice Racing Rules. These rules also provide information on roll bar construction, seat belt anchor points and other modifications necessary to compete in the metal-to-ice classes.

If you wish to improve the car there are many simple things you can do. The most common is to remove as much weight as possible from the car, particularly in the area of the non-driven wheels. This usually involves the removal of the rear seats, all upholstery panels, and anything else that is not necessary in a racing car!

Weight can be added in the area of the driving wheels to improve traction. The amount of weight necessary might be small in the case of a front wheel drive car, up to hundreds of pounds for a rear wheel drive car.

History Of Ice Racing

Ice Racing started in Ontario more than forty years ago, and it continues to thrive as an inexpensive, fun part of the Ontario motorsport scene.

The events were originally held on frozen lakes and rivers - and some still are - but in the late seventies, the Ontario championships moved to more permanent facilities at the fairgrounds in Minden, Ontario.

The track is laid out, then repeatedly coated with water until a thick layer of ice is built up between the snowbanks that delineate the course. The ice race season starts in mid January and runs until early March, usually consisting of six two-day events.

Ice Racing In Thunder Bay

The Thunder Bay Autosport Club, also affiliated to CASC Ontario Region, organizes a separate series of ice races in the Thunder Bay region.

Races are not part of the CASC-OR Magnum Ice Racing Championship but they do count towards a separate TBAC club championship. Visit www.iceracingthunderbay.com for more info.