MR2 on Newfound Lake, NH

Ice Racing

A number of people have asked about Ice Racing, so I've dedicated a page to the subject. Herein you'll find some information about the events. Needless to say, I've had some strange looks when I mention the words "ice racing" and "MR2 Spyder" in the same sentence. Hopefully this page will help dispell some of the misinformation and misconceptions floating around out there about what these events are like and how vehicles handles in slippery conditions.

Record setting attendance.

Who Organizes the Ice Races?

The ice racing I attend is organized by Stan Jackson Jr. Information about the races is available at the website of the Boston Chapter of the BMW Car Club of America. There are links to ice racing information, but they often move around. Look for the ice racing bulletin which has the necessary info. Ice racing is summed up on the site as follows:

"Ice Races are designed to be safe, low-pressure events in which all participants have fun! The primary goal of Ice Racing is to develop drivers who can successfully control their vehicles in adverse driving conditions with consistency."

Cars line up by class when it's time to race. Ice cracks to keep you nervous. Nokians, my tire of choice. Tire swapping is common.

The MR2 on Ice

The fact that I run my MR2 on ice may seem odd at first, but it's really very fun. It's like racing and it isn't. Unlike racing, horsepower isn't going to help much. In fact, ice racing isn't very hard on the drivetrain at all. It's more about the driver. I run my car in the rear-wheel-drive/snow tire class where I compete well enough. Consider that the majority of drivers in the Boston area run all-season tires all year. Snow tires make a big difference. A Rear Wheel Drive BMW with summer-only tires will barely be able to move on the ice, but throw some ice tires on the Bimmer and perhaps some weight in the trunk and that changes rapidly. Take a look at the ice racing result and notice how the rear wheel drive cars with ice tires actually do better than some front wheel drive cars with all-seasons.

What is Ice Racing?

Actually, "Ice racing" is a bit of a misnomer. What I've been involved with is really more like an autocross on the ice. The course is laid out with cones (or plowed, if the snow is deep) on a lake surface. Laps are run with safe distances between cars and timed. Results are posted for each class which is determined by whether your car is Front, Rear, or All Wheel Drive and whether it has All-season, Snow, Ice, or Studded tires.

The crowd is mostly BMW's and Subaru's, but there are lots of other makes and models. It's an all day event on Newfound Lake near Bristol, NH. It starts at around 8:30 AM, and runs to about 4pm. Many go out for pizza in Bristol afterwards where the results of the last race are given. Track time is limited and varies depending on the number of participants but the price is cheap. There is a practice track set up where you can just queue up and go when you're next.

Rally prepped Scoobie with screw tires. Screw tires. Screw tires Screw tire tracks.

Can I Race?

The biggest concern most people I talk to have is about their cars. There's no guarantee that nothing will happen to your car, but it's unlikely anything serious would occur. Probably the biggest threat is sliding off the course into a snow bank. Although I haven't seen any serious damage result, I'm sure it's possible. Nonetheless, there are many nice cars at every race that drive away unscathed.

The races are weather dependent. If it stays cold, the first race is generally in January and the last is in March with about 5 events per year. YOU MUST PRE-REGISTER. You don't pay unless you race, but you need to pre-register every combination of driver-car-tires that will take laps. More information can be found on the website. The registration link is on that site as well.

Patience is required. There can be a lot of waiting for only a little racing. It's cold, dress warm. Yak-Trax are a good idea. You are expected to help with the event and will be assigned a worker detail which usually last less than a couple hours. It's not for everyone.

DISCLAIMER: Just because I do it, doesn't mean you should. If you try ice racing and something bad happens it's your fault, not mine.

Ford Focus Rally Racer Mini Cooper S It's a safe car. Z3 Coupe

How Strong is the Ice?

The ice racing coordinators usually announce the thickness of the ice in the morning at the driver prep meeting. It's generally a couple feet thick which could safely support a 25 ton vehicle. Since most cars weight less than 2 tons, there's a significant safety margin. Stay away from the edges of the lake. There are several ice strength tables on the net. I got this one at the MassWildlife site.

Permissible Load of a Frozen Lake
Ice Thickness
Permissible Load 
(clear, blue, lake ice)
2 One person on foot
3 Group, in single file
5 Group (6-8 people) together
7 Passenger car (2 ton gross)
8 Light truck (2 ton gross)
10 Medium truck (3 ton gross)
12 Heavy truck (7-8 ton gross)
15 10 tons
20 25 tons
25 45 tons
30 70 tons


Ice Racing - 2003 March 02

This was my first day of ice racing. I loved it and I'm very glad I finally got up there. I had known about the BMW Club Ice Racing at Newfound Lake, NH for a while before I finally decided to give it a try. My first day, March 02, 2003, was a bit crazy. They had made a huge course and they received a huge snowstorm. Six inches fell while I was there. I really put my Nokian Hakkapelita NRW snow tires to the test but unfortunately very little of the testing was on the track. I had one practice lap and two timed laps against a Miata and a BMW 740i. I spun out on my first lap and by the time I got my second lap the course was buried with snow and edged with tall snow banks, so I crept through the course. The following week was a different story.

snow_covered_mr2 in_line stuck_bmw timing_bobhouse

Ice Racing - 2003 March 09

The weather on March 9th was perfect. They made a shorter course than my previous event and everyone got 6 timed laps. Plus, I was more familiar with the system, so I was able to spend a lot of time on the practice course. I was in the same class with a Miata and a BMW 740i. Both started the day faster than me, but I closed the gap on the Miata from 8 seconds to 3 seconds and surpassed the Bimmer for 2nd place that day.

Ice Racing - 2004

Jan 25, 2004 Ice Race on Newfound Lake.

This season went very well. I made it to 3 races and wound up placing first in my division. I'll have to get ice tires, so I can compete in a class with more participants.

Ice Racing - 2005

Another enjoyable ice racing season. I never did get new tires for the MR2, so I ran my first race on bald Nokian NRW's. It was fun, but not very competitive. Caleb joined me for that day and it was so nice out we actually drove with the top down. There was a stretch limo racing that day. He got his fastest time with Caleb and I and four other people in back.

top_down.jpg caleb_on_track.jpg limo.jpg Shawn in limo Caleb in limo

I raced two more times this year but with our 2001 Volkswagen Jetta GLX VR6. It has new Nokian WR tires which helped a lot. The Jetta was a lot of fun to drive on the ice and it was great to experiment with front-wheel drive for a change. I managed first place one of the days I was there and did OK on the other. Maybe I need flower-shaped snowmobile studs like those in the tires shown here.

jetta1.jpg jetta2.jpg jetta3.jpg jetta4.jpg 'flower power' studs