On the face of it, third place on the Sno*Drift Rally to kick off your American Rally Association presented by DirtFish title defense isn’t so bad. Yet Barry McKenna left Atlanta, Michigan feeling it was his most “unenjoyable experience ever in a rally car”.
McKenna won the Sno*Drift event in 2020 but that was with the two Subaru Motorsports USA cars absent. In 2021 with the blue-and-yellow machines in town, McKenna struggled to make an impact in his Ford Fiesta R5+.
The key reason was tires. Tackling the stages without studs – which Michigan state law prohibits – is challenging enough but selecting the right compound is also tricky; which led even rally winner Travis Pastrana to describe it to DirtFish as “our Monte”.
That’s because the surface can change rapidly between full compacted snow, wet snow and sheet ice – often all in one stage. McKenna weathered the storm to lie 28.5 seconds behind Pastrana’s WRX STI after the first loop of stages, but he lost over two minutes on the repeat loop.
At the stop-line of SS8 – the final test of that loop – he told DirtFish: “No grip! Bad, bad tire choice. That was just unbelievable, that was the most unenjoyable experience I’d say ever in a rally car.
“I’m glad they’re over. Hopefully we can get some tractionized tires on and get some more grip. We dropped a ball of time in there but we really couldn’t commit, it was very, very slippy.”
Ultimately however, McKenna would lose almost another two minutes across the final loop of four stages with another problem that had manifested itself.
“We had an intermittent throttle problem for the two last loops so we basically only had full throttle, no down-low throttle,” he said at the end of the rally.
“And then [that] just creates a lot of driving issues where the car isn’t fit to pull itself around medium corners, only fast corners. I’m glad it’s over!”
Asked about his general thoughts on the event, the 2020 champion said: “We started out pretty good on the first loop, we were dropping time but we made the wrong tire choice on the second loop – and it cost us a lot of time.
“So it was just try and play it safe for the last loop of stages. We weren’t catching, we weren’t making up [time] but it was a difficult rally. Fair play to Subaru, their tire choices were really good all day. Unfortunately we ran the older Yokohama tires and they did not work for us.
“We’ll definitely be looking into having the same tires they had next year.”
McKenna’s shot at vengeance will come on the 100 Acre Wood Rally on March 19-20, where he is poised to bring out a new car.
“It’ll be interesting,” he teased. “It’ll be a car we’ve done very little testing in so hopefully we’ll be fit to pull it out there.”