By Tara Hurlin
Cars are an enormous part of my life. They are my livelihood, my passion and my love. They give me joy, a reason to smile and an outlet when I need a break from day-to-day dramas. Nothing makes me giggle like hearing a car’s engine backfire or the blow-off valve flutter. And the EPA wants to take it all away.
For those who haven’t “heard” from the various posts being shared on social media outlets, the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), has stepped far beyond their general environmental knowledge and into the realms of automotive culture, to threaten to take away millions – yes millions – of American Citizen’s rights to drive the cars they love, all based upon their misguided beliefs. If this is new news to you, I encourage you to do all of the research you possibly can, because there may come a time when the automotive hobby and industry will need to fight back.
Racecars are a rich and intricate part of American history. They have saved lives and kept people out of trouble. They have raised money for thousands of charities and have inspired people who come upon hard times to hang in there and keep building their cars, in turn contributing to society. For some, it is all that they live for and all that they have to look forward to.
If it wasn't for the hobby and passion for performance modifications, my husband may have never been my husband; he might not have even lived. Emotional and mental stability are an intricate piece to the puzzle while trying to heal your body from overcoming traumas and heavy treatments for cancer throughout your childhood. He spent countless hours modifying vehicles while other kids were out getting into trouble, or worse. The cars were his constant in life – his saving grace.
Ryan Thompson, president of Thompson Racing, says “I was born into the automotive world; my dad was career mechanic. It’s something that I greatly enjoy doing, and it is also a constructive outlet for adrenaline junkies to get their fix of excitement. Much of my time growing up was spent working so I could afford playing with cars, and when I wasn’t at my job, I was actively building and driving them. For the most part, that trend continues to this day.”
Dylan Helferich, a rally car driver for the Relentless Rally Team, talks about how these cars have had such a positive impact on his life; “Everything in my life is handled by getting behind the wheel or picking up a wrench, whether it is pets being put down, break ups or any other hardships. Competing in rally demands full focus, so it keeps your mind from wandering to those places you don't want it to go. When my friend Matt Marker passed away during a competition, it did not deter me from my passion, it only pushed me closer. Building and racing cars kept me closer to him even though he was no longer there, and because of this I offer an open invite to anyone interested in the automotive racing world to participate in any of my builds or on my team, to spread that same motivation and way of release.”
Cody Loveland of Lovefab, Inc. and Affinity Aero, LLC., has proudly built his life around the aftermarket racing industry, and he states, “Having made a living from the industry since 2002, this legislation will potentially crush the business that I dedicated my entire life to, and in turn it would diminish my family’s income, putting our livelihood in jeopardy. The racing world is a minute percentage of pollutants compared to more easily obtainable and cost-effective regulation alternatives that won’t shatter lives, hopes and dreams.”
Christopher Post, a dedicated teacher, IT consultant and part-time administrator, says the automotive world is his outlet; “It's hard to put into words because it is so central to how I encourage myself to stay positive - it’s the only thing I look forward to that belongs purely to me. Cars are my passion and energize me for the incredible amount of work and love I pour into my school and family, but I can't afford even a remotely new Porsche or other high-performance car because I have an idealistic job. Instead, I have to transform inexpensive cars into experiential performance machines. When I am at the race track, all of my worries and stress evaporate and I remember who I am individually, and then I am ready to serve others again.”
Amy Holbrook, a hot rod builder, says that her entire family bonds through their love of custom cars, “Our cars and builds keep our family going; it gives us all something to look forward to — it is our legacy. It teaches our son about hard work and responsibility and it keeps our minds busy thinking of new ideas.”
The law has always stated that any tampering with federally mandated emissions controls on street-driven cars is illegal, but now the EPA is proposing to encompass any vehicle that is not driven on the road. This means that any manufacturer that produces performance parts that do not meet emissions regulations could potentially be put out of business completely, in turn affecting the entire hobby as a whole. The EPA maintains broad abilities to make laws and serves directly through the discretion of the President of the United States, but they have limited ability to enforce the set laws. Manufacturing companies are at the highest risk, but in turn, so is any off-road hobby, whether racecars, snowmobiles, overlanding vehicles or dirt track vehicles.
The EPA may not be taking away our rights to enjoy our hobby at this given moment, but modified vehicles are the low-hanging fruit that is easy to pick, even though motorists in this niche of the hobby are more environmentally conscious than, let’s say, lithium-ion battery production companies, bottled water companies, and who could forget Monsanto, the company that thinks it is ok to put poison into the earth and into food we eat.
Cars are our life and an intricate piece of America's history, and passing this needless law will endlessly destroy the lives of good people — it has the potential to take away thousands, if not millions, of jobs. Turning American Citizen’s lives upside-down is not the answer to environmental issues, there are much, much larger environmental problems at hand.
As passionate automotive enthusiasts, it is our job to get the word out and educate other hobbyists about any legislations against the Automotive Industry.
On January 29-31, 2016, fourty-two hoonigans and their dedicated co-drivers gathered in Atlanta, Michigan to plow through one of the most difficult rallies of the year: Sno* Drift. Proudly staged by Rally America, it has been the annual season opening event in the National Championship Series since 1973.
It’s an extremely challenging event and the conditions are unpredictable at best. No matter what the weather calls for — billowing fluffy snow, white-out conditions, or slush and ice — studded tires are not allowed, even in the worst of weather conditions. The 130-mile course demands full concentration from every driver and co-driver, no matter how experienced they may be, and sliding into a snowbank is almost guaranteed.
Fortunately, 2016 gave way to sunny weather conditions, but after a few passes on each course, ice began to form under the packed-down snow. Hundreds of spectators bundled up in multiple layers to brave the cold for hours on end just to see their favorite teams whip around a corner into view. Roars of cheers and the ringing of cow bells erupted as each vehicle raced by, earning extra applause with every backfire. The smell of race gas billowing through the crisp winter air made standing in the cold worthwhile — and then some. As each of 17 stages were completed, fans ran — rather clumsily with their thick snow pants and oversized boots — from their current post to get into their car and drive to the next best viewing spot, ending at the grand finale where the crowds really go wild: Bonfire Alley.
Meanwhile, the pit crews, perhaps the most dedicated participants out of any, stand by to assist their team with any repairs needed in-between stages. Fingers are always crossed hoping that nothing breaks, but with the rough terrains in rally driving, breaks seem inevitable. Pit crews are seen rolling around in the snowy slush underneath vehicles making the quickest repairs possible as to not lose time.
Buckey Lasek recently entered the world of rally racing, and this was his first year at Sno* Drift. His best time was during the first day on Stage 2 with a time of 16-minutes, 49.6-seconds, coming in second to Lauchlin O’Sullivan. Alas, Lasek’s 2008 Subaru WRX STI suffered a broken control arm on the second and final day, which took him out of the race, but he will be back for more. “The highs and the lows are so gnarly, but it's what keeps me wanting more,” he said. He spent the remainder of the day spectating with fans.
After an impressive performance, driver Peter Fetela with co-driver Dominik Jozwiak won the Sno* Drift event with an overall time of 2:27:58.9 in their 1998 Subaru Impreza STi, only sixth-tenths of a second ahead of Troy Miller — possibly the closest race in Sno* Drift’s history. Even better yet, Fetela was unable to complete his new build in time for the rally, so he opted to bring his older car just so he could enter. Another impressive time is held by driver Cameron Steely and co-driver Preston Osborn, who won first in the two-wheel-drive class with a 2012 Ford Fiesta R1, earning an inspiring overall time of 2:50:33.7.
Driver Dylan Helferich with the Relentless Rally Team reflects on the adrenaline-driven event: “It was a great weekend of competing. The courses were real slippery and the stage conditions were a challenge, which allowed for lots of opposite lock steering. We were supported by a great crew, family, friends and fans.”
The cold, wet fans drove home with smiles on their faces after a weekend of hiking in the snow, their voices hoarse from cheering: It will be an event to reminisce about for years to come. The teams headed home to immediately start prepping their cars in time for their next rally of the 2016 season, and all those who spent their weekend engulfed in the rally winter wonderland will struggle to focus as Monday approaches with the distant echo of rally cars racing through their minds.