In a week when the second round of the World Rally Championship takes to the snow and ice of Scandinavia’s frozen north, it’s a big call from Green APU American Rally Association driver Patrick Gruszka. But staring down the barrel of some of America’s fastest roads with no studs beneath his Hyundai i20 R5, it’s hard to argue.
This is, of course, Sno*Drift week. And the opening ARA round of the season looks set to be just as much of a challenge as ever. Just as warmer than expected conditions have altered Rally Sweden conditions in Umeå, so rising temperatures have hit Montmorency County.
Snow is expected through Thursday, but that’s unlikely to come in time to save the winter rally driver’s safety net of choice: the snowbank.
“I’ve literally just watched them melting before my eyes,” Gruszka told DirtFish following his test in Michigan on Wednesday.
“The weather is constantly changing, in two hours we had sheet ice, then we had gravel and finally some slush.
“It looks like it’s going to be a repeat of last year when day one was a complete ice rink and day two could be maybe a little bit better. Hopefully we can still get a lot of snow tonight or tomorrow and it sticks and stays. This rally is never predictable.”
Michigan law dictates studded tires can’t be used on the event – that’s something that seriously hikes the challenge of this rally.
“With no studs, when you are trying to slow these cars down, it’s really difficult,” added the 19-year-old. “If you try to carry speed through the fives and sixes (fifth-gear corners), when you come to a three or something, I don’t think you can slow down.
“And now with no snowbanks either, it’s even more tough.
“I think it’s the most difficult snow event in the world, to be honest with you.”
Competing on the event for the third time, Gruszka’s entry is further complicated by the fact he’s driving a completely new car. He will run a Hyundai i20 R5 instead of the Mitsubishi he used last season.
“The car’s good,” he said. “I tested it for the first time in August and then a couple of weeks ago and for a couple of hours today. It handles amazing and the power is similar to what I had before, maybe there’s a little less torque – but overall, it’s very nice.”
The target for this week?
“The finish,” he said. “I’m just trying to survive this one and make it to 100 Acre Wood – that plan can be good for points. I’ll let the top three battle it out and see where we land – anybody can make a mistake.”