Ice Racing in Ontario

Reprinted without permission (but with the best of intentions) from CASC-OR - Always check there for the latest info. This info is admittedly old, but it should give you the basics of an understanding of the sport.

CASC-OR 1998 STP Ice Racing Schedule
CASC-OR 1998 STP Ice Racing Rules and Regulations

This article is intended to provide you with an introduction and overview of ice racing in Ontario; official rules and regulations detailing the categories, classes, and car preparation requirements are available from the CASC-OR office at very little cost.

Ice Racing started in Ontario more than forty years ago, and it's an inexpensive, fun part of the CASC-OR motorsport scene to this day. Originally, all the events were held on frozen lakes and rivers - and some still are - but in the late seventies the central Ontario series moved to more permanent facilities at the fairgrounds in Minden, Ontario. Here a 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 racing season starts in January and runs until the end of February or early March, usually consisting of seven two-day events.

Understanding Ice Racing

For competition purposes, ice racing cars are divided into four basic classes:

These four are also known as 'rubber-to-ice' classes because they are restricted to unstudded tires. Other than an approved helmet, no other specialised safety equipment is required - the manufacturers original three-point safety harness is perfectly acceptable. 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 two drivers to compete for the entire season by sharing one race car.

For drivers who want to go faster there are 'metal-to-ice' classes; essentially, these classes conform to the above class requirements regarding engine location, displacement, and driven wheels, but the regular tires are replaced with studded tires. Although manufactured studded tires are allowed, most competitors create their own using self-tapping screws inserted through the tread of the tire, secured on the inside with a washer.

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 safety harness. It is also in these classes that horsepower becomes a significant factor in the success of the car.

Buying Your Ice Racer

As noted above, 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, or station wagon, 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 racing cars are older models which no longer meet highway safety standards, but are still mechanically sound.

Preparation / Modifications and Improvements

For the rubber-to-ice classes, the minimum car preparation would involve the removal of head-lights, 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 all 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-OR Ice Racing Rules. These rules also provide information on roll cage 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, particularily 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, or as much as four hundred pounds for a rear wheel drive car.

Probably the 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 coefficient 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 is 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 their own tractionizing machine, or you can get it done trackside for a small charge per tire.

To stay competitive, the average driver spends 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 Canadian Automobile Sport Club - Ontario Region (CASC-OR) affiliated club. The clubs listed in this document are actively involved in ice racing; call them - they'll be glad to hear from you - and ask about their club's philosophy, experience, number of active ice 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 on-going help as you get started. Average annual membership dues are in the $50 to $75 range.