Sno*Drift Set to Open 2023 ARA Green APU National Rally Championship
Atlanta, Mich. ~ The weather may have been mild around Atlanta, Mich. this winter, but without fail, the snow and chance for icy conditions have returned just in time for the American Rally Association to open up the 2023 Green APU National Rally Championship on Friday.
Forty cars are entered into this weekend’s Sno*Drift, the only true winter rally in the United States. Competitors from around the world will compete at one of the most challenging stage rallies in existence. Ever-changing conditions range from lake effect snow to sheets of ice, which ups the ante thanks to tire regulations that disallow studded tires.
“Sno*Drift is one of those events you just have to survive, and that’s exactly our plan,” said Patrick Gruszka, who will be piloting the #243 Green APU-backed Hyundai i20 in ARA competition this season. “It’s great for the points, but any small mistake or lack of focus is potentially rally-ending.”
Points will be at a premium for Gruszka and the National competitors. 2022 ARA National champions Brandon Semenuk and co-driver Keaton Williams will open up their title defense at Sno*Drift. The Subaru Motorsports USA tandem will look for redemption after a mechanical issue forced them to retire from last year’s event on the second to last stage, while holding an eight minute lead.
"It’s been too much time out of the car, so I’m excited for the 2023 ARA Championship to get underway with Sno*Drift being the first stop,” said Semenuk on Facebook. “An event always full of surprises, but plenty of sideways action. Fingers crossed for more snow this year, so we can push on a bit harder."
The ever-changing conditions at Sno*Drift will be a great equalizer as teams look to catch Semenuk, but the talent heading to Michigan runs deep. That includes the duo of Tom Williams and co-driver Ross Whittock, who won the 2022 RC2 title, (and fourth overall), and have committed to a full ARA season. Defending Canadian Rally champions Jerome Mailoux and Philippe Poirier are making their American debut in Atlanta, as is Mexican champions Ricardo Cordero and Marco Hernandez (RC2).
Gruszka is scheduled to line up just behind IMSA and NASCAR driver Kyle Tilley, who’s co-pilot is former ARA champion Martin Brady. Tilley will be looking to build upon a successful 2022 Sno*Drift, where they finished second overall while winning the RC2 class and has a newfound understanding of the unique approach to driving that will be necessary this weekend.
“To be successful at Sno*Drift requires patience, and knowing when and how to push,” said Tilley. “If you ask anyone close to me, they'll tell you that patience is not my forte.... and I'm still figuring out when and when not to push!”
Fans will also be cheering on 2022 Sno*Drift Overall winner Mark Piatkowski (NA4WD) and Ricardo Cordero (RC2), both of whom will be in the hunt for the national podium. The always entertaining, and quick, Matthew Dickinson (L4WD) will make his Sno*Drift debut, looking to set up a championship run in 2023.
In total, 19 cars are scheduled to line up on Friday to start their two-day quest for national bragging rights. Another 21 will look to tackle the opening round of the 2023 ARA East Regional Championship. Jimmy Pelizzari registered a DNF last year, but he also won the previous three events in his 2000 Subaru WRX STi. Former professional snowboarder Jon Kramer will challenge Pelizzari for the overall regional win, as will drivers Dylan Gondyke, Patrick Glodz and Tim Michael. Fans will also stick around to see a deep 2WD cars class challenge the icy hills and turns at Sno*Drift. The class is led by Chris and Sara Nonack, Scott and Gavin James and the tandem of Nick Bukky and Emmons Hathaway.
Those same fans will line the events 15 stages and more than 117 stage miles this weekend. And whether those fans have trekked into one of the event's six spectator areas, line themselves along the infamous River Thunder (popularly referred to as Bonfire Alley), or met their favorite driver at Parc Expose, it promises to be a memorable experience for everyone involved.
“The one thing I will say for the event is how fantastic the spectators were last year,” said Tilley. “I'm excited to go out there and put on a show for them; as a thank you there will be free team Hoodies, T-Shirts, posters and stickers out of my service rig. We are looking forward to seeing you all there.”
The 2023 Green APU National Rally Championship will feature eight national rounds, starting in February and finishing in October at the Lake Superior Performance Rally. The ARA also offers up three regional championships across 21 events. To learn more about the ARA, go to https://www.americanrallyassociation.org.