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Trackday: ON ICE!

Details


Paul from Kinetic Images takes the navigator's seat

We're on the chunnel by 6.30am and off it again just as quickly. It would have been more relaxing simply to take the ferry from Newcastle to Oslo. But at 48 hours each way, it means we'd miss the trackday on Saturday. By driving from Calais to Oslo we're going to burn about £250 of fuel, but we'll have time to do everything and still be back home on Monday. I think...


The route. Note how Autoroute reckons we need TWO days to get there. We have 24 hours...

Story continues on the next page.

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The miles of repetitive French and Belgian autoroute finally give way to Germanic Autobahn around late-morning. The Impreza is already on its second £55 tank of Super Unleaded. And if fuel economy was poor before Germany, it's about to get a whole lot worse.


Yes, that's 140mph. Yes I have time to hold a camera.

The actual flow of traffic has crept up to 140mph. At this speed the only sign of the forces at work is the bonnet lifting and warping towards the windscreen. It's the steroid-induced bonnet bulge that's catching the slipstream. And probably knocking about 10mph off our speed at the same time.

I'm so focussed following the BMW in front that the flashing lights behind me go unnoticed the first couple of times they illuminate. When they do finally register a tiny sense of panic emerges from my gullet. No need to worry about the Polizei though. The guy behind is just a little bored of following this shell-suit sportscar at a mere 140mph. His E-class diesel whafts past effortlessly at around 150mph as we skitter and bounce on sports suspension, window seals whistling in protest.


Another tank of 100RON fuel. Thirsty? You have no idea...

I'm a bit disappointed; already we're 100-miles into Denmark and there's no real sign of snow yet. My dissapointment turns quickly into dismay as I realise we've overshot the turn-off towards Copenhagen and Sweden by 100 miles. That's over an hour in the wrong direction. It adds two hours to our journey and another £55 of Super Unleaded. We turn left at Malmo, Sweden, at past 9pm.


Sunset in Denmark. Still no snow.

The final leg of the journey is appallingly dull. Creeping up the coast line, demolishing the last 300 miles of Swedish deserted motorway, I resort to jarring my elbow to keep myself awake. The Impreza's somewhat nasty door trim lends itself perfectly to this: in the customary mile-munching sales-rep slouch your funny bone rests right on the ridge of the wildy vibrating door.


The final road to Oslo. Or what it looked like in daylight, somewhat confusingly.

The final 130miles is approached at a little before midnight. It's all curving A-roads. The outside temperature is around -4 degrees celsius. But the cooler air doesn't slow us down. Like a horse turning for home, the final furlong is faster than ever. Cooler, denser air feeding the turbo means we're slingshotting past overnight trucks like a flat-four rocket. We arrive at a non-descript Esso station shortly after 1am to meet our somewhat unconventional hosts for the weekend...

Story continues on the next page.

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We're outside a shabby Esso station. In that strangely European way it's the middle of the night and yet the petrol station is open and feeding caffiene to the needy sleepless. Light spills from a roller door as the garage next door opens up.

'Hey guys! Over here!'


Burning the midnight 10/40w

I'm not the only person living a last-minute lifestyle. Inside is a Sierra tramp-drifter being worked on. I'd love to stop and chat as the guys enthuse about everything four-wheeled. But at 22-hours behind the wheel, my mental tanks are empty. I'm led by a sideways silver Impreza to a local hotel and we agree to meet at the Esso at 8am the next morning. This morning. Whatever.


From rock-star drummer (Porsche Carrera 4S) to ex-racer (crashed Scooby) via student (Sierra). Trackdays can transcend social boundaries.

It's an eclectic posse of car-enthusiasts who are making the journey to the community track at Dokka, two hours north of Oslo. I'm handed my camera, which in my dazed state I'd left on a work-bench overnight...


Why you should NEVER leave your camera unattended!

All my fatigue disappears. This is exciting. Fun. Overnight a fresh coating of snow and ice has turned every road into an ice rink. The town of Dokka is about two hours north and the guys are planning a route which takes in a lakeside road and a mountain pass.


Rasmus Ødegård (left, exotic car dealer and silver Evo6 owner) goes over the directions. Again.

But it's not long 'til the sense of fun and adventure has deserted me. I can't afford to think about anything but my hands and my feet. We're slithering down roads at 55mph that you'd struggle to walk on. If you've ever wondered why the Scandinavians dominate in motorsport, wonder no longer.


The lakeside road had a dusting of snow cast over it
Don't worry, underneath it was sheet ice.

My brain's aching from the concentration. The variable centre-diff of the scooby is a mystery to me. In automatic-mode the car's unpredictable in turning. But awesome at finding traction. Useful if you're always on the throttle, but not when you're a novice. I leave it locked in a rearward bias, so the majority of the power is going to the rear wheels. Somehow this slightly RWD setup feels more natural for me. It's not long before we make an unexpected pit stop...

Story continues on the next page.

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Ostentatious Scooby always draws a crowd

The moment we stop everybody's out and sliding around the road on two feet. Not only are the Norwegian's used to driving on ice, they're accustomed to walking on it too. The Subaru has drawn a crowd, amongst them is Jostein Lillebø, passenger is Rasmus's Evo.
'You've not still got the ABS enabled have you?'
Of course I have, is my answer. Lots of little japanese boffins spent years perfecting it. Why shouldn't I have it enabled?
'Very dangerous,' says Frederik, backed up by a dozen knowing nods from the assembled crowd. 'You do yourself a favour and pull the fucking fuse before you fucking crash. It's OK for mums picking up shopping but you can only stop in straight lines'.


Sierras are cheap, tuneable and RWD. What more do you want?

In the meantime, the reason for the pitstop becomes clear. Fredrik Sørlie's Impreza has suffered a puncture. After knocking on some doors to find a nutspinner that will fit, Frederik and his mate abandon the hobbled car and climb into his younger brother's Volvo turbo. They're taking the wheel with them and intend to return as soon as they've found somebody who can fix it.

I think about the ABS warnings, then dismiss them as unnecessary 'I'm better than a computer' posturing. I glance at the watch, by my estimation there's another hour of this scary stuff before we reach the rural Norwegian town of Dokka and our destination for this Saturday; a trackday Norwegian style. Let's hope this crash course in winter driving doesn't live up to it's name...



The ice is everywhere.

Story continues on the next page.

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Now it's well past 10.30am, and the town cop is unlocking the chains on the gates of Dokka's community race track. Yep, the community racetrack.
'It's like this,' explains my tutor for the day, Jostein, 'The police know that young kids in cars are going to fuck around right? And better for them to all meet in one place and learn to drive on ice where there are people to help and nobody to crash into. Before the track we would meet in the mountains and late at night. There are many deaths on the roads of Norway, this is helping prevent them.'


Community trackday. When will the British ever learn?

And the price for an open pitlane on this ice-racing track? Just £5 per car per day. It's an attitude to road safety that I've never really seen before. But there's other things here that I've never seen before too.


Passengers score bonus points

Like a four-up Vauxhall Carlton absolutely broadside for every corner. Or a drifting Volvo 240 estate...


Now I've seen it all

Rasmus is a bit of a pro, as we're soon to discover. Flinging his Evo 6 into icy corners at angles that no rear-wheel-drive car would ever be able to sustain.

Then there's a Ford Mustang with spike-covered tyres that look barely six inches wide. Which enters ice-covered corners at over 70mph.

Everybody's having a go, and the success rate is nearly 100%


Well 100% until I have a go...

Story continues on the next page.

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Seconds from disaster

'Floor it!' Shouts Jostein while flapping his hand around in a vague effort to imitate a mashed throttle pedal. 'FLOOR IT!'
I don't want to. It's unnatural. When the car's turning too tight and going too fast the last thing I want to do is hit the loud pedal. But with Jostein screaming in my ear I do it. The car gains momentum after a pause for the turbo, increases the sideways angle and slips towards the outside. It's scary. So then I decide I know better a second later and tap the brakes. Big mistake.
Jo just shakes his shaven head.


Half a snow drift stuck in the front valence... er... oops!

'I told you to disable the ABS didn't I? You're lucky it was just a tap!'
Back in the car, scuffed bumper and broken headlamp washer inspected and Jo's got a plan. First he pulls the ABS fuse and before I know it I'm on my second session with Jo the experienced ice driver and professional shouter. We're going to drift the same corner again, at the same speed and hopefully conquer any demons left over.


Again we enter at a medium speed. I turn the wheel, nothing. Floor the throttle and the Subaru momentarily understeers before the turbo kicks in and the spinning rear wheels turn it in. We swap into oversteer but hit a patch of particularly slick ice and we're back into understeer.
'Handbrake!' comes the cry from Jo. Then; 'Floor it!'
Floored. Back off and it goes out wider before rolling back in to the apex as the momentum disappears. Accelerate and it drifts in forwards to the inside of the turn on the power. 300bhp doing it's best despite the mad wheelspin from each corner. Now the right-hander begins to tighten towards a first gear hairpin.
'Now you can brake,' says Jo.
I'm already there. A tap of the pedal and we don't roll in to the barrier, we skid sideways and back out of the turn scrubbing off speed. Demons conquered, the folly of ABS in extreme ice driving revealed.

 

Video leading the Impreza, then onboard with it

The rest of the day is spent having the most fun I've ever had on four wheels. I've nailed the Scandinavian flick three times in a row come the final session. And I'm watching other petrolheads enjoy the same skills and practice.


Of course it doesn't always go exactly right...

...but there are plenty of people on hand to dig you out!

Story continues on the next page.

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The night is even better. With new found confidence on slippery roads, the task of keeping up with the Norwegians is slightly less daunting. After driving on polished ice all day, the automatic centre diff of the Impreza makes wet roundabouts and gritted main roads seem simple. Which is just as well. Because Rasmus in the tuned Evo 6 has just started a monumental game of silly buggers with Øystein in the tinkered-with Carrera 4.

It started as an overtake and then an overtake back. The next thing we're screaming down a hill, snow banks close enough to touch under the sodium lights. Speedo needle sailing past 150mph and the Impreza's out of the game. Ras is claiming 'around 350bhp' for his silver Lancer, Øystein a similar amount for his modded 3.6litre Carrera. And when it's come to the crunch, the Lancer and its lower weight may have the drop on the heavier Porsche, but there's no beating the slippery form of the 996 as it sweeps past just a scant 100 meters before the oncoming traffic starts flashing too frantically.

Pulled over in a darkened and deserted snowy carpark, the verdict is discussed through open side windows. Arctic breeze blowing through the windows, Ras reckons he had 265kph on the clock when Øystein came past. And also reckons it's time for pizza and a bullshit session down the bar. Nobody disagrees. The only bad thing? Driving 1200 miles home again the next morning. With one hell of a hangover.

The Cast:

Fredrik Sørlie (29) (Silver Impreza WRX)
Boss of Norway's Drift Battle series and ex-Formula Ford winner.

Jostein Lillebø (27) (passenger in Evo, ice driving instructor)

S13-driving Drift racer who currently doesn't own a single working car. He drives my Impreza after I crash it and pronounces me 'forgiven, it understeers like a fucker!'

Rasmus Ødegård (30) (Silver Evo 6)
Prestige car salesman, let me sit in a brand new 911 GT3 RS and blip the throttle. I like him.

Øystein Alexander Sølvesen-Myhre (22) (silver Porsche 911 Carrera 4)

Part-time drummer for Norwegian rock gods Mayhem. Thanks to a strategic tattoo he also claims to have a 'flaming arsehole, do you want to see it?'

Einar Brenne (24) (pastel blue Sierra)
Nicknamed 'Happy Dori' for his constant grinning, even while crashing

Martin Sørlie (21) (Impreza and Volvo 960 Turbo)
Frederik's younger brother. Also incredibly handy at drifting.

Øyvind Øversveen (Mustang V8 ice racer)

He's driving a Sierra Cosworth drift car in the summer and won the "breisladd", Gatebil's drifting competition in 2002.

Next: How Winter Tyres Work
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Winter tyres – how do they work?

Winter tyres, or 'cold weather' tyres as they're known in the UK, are specifically designed for cold temperatures and low levels of traction. With plenty of bulky tread blocks and a compound rich in silica, they thrive on cold temperatures and wet surfaces. Their final trick is the large amount of 'siping' in each block. When John Sipe, an abattoir worker, used his butchering knife to cut a series of slits in his rubber soles sometime in the 1920s, he'd inadvertently created a process which is still being used in 2008 to gain traction on wet surfaces.


'Siping' is the cutting of these slits into regular tread blocks

But while they're magnificent at cutting through water and gaining temperature, they're not so good in the dry. The blocks 'walk' around too much and fuel consumption increases due to the extra rolling drag. Our Yokohama AVS Winters are some of the best you can buy in the UK and each block is fully siped. But the tyres used by the ice drivers of Scandinavia are something else, and only sold where the roads are always sub-zero. Use them on dry warm roads and they'd last as long as a chocolate muffler. Some tyres even use metal studs, though these are useless in the dry.


Studs - these are pushed into pre-moulded holes and held in by barbs

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Comments   

 
#1 Guest 2011-01-09 19:43
Hahahaha, Hilarius descirption of my cute flaming bum ;)

Di you have any moore pics btw? I remember that your friend took some at the parking lot when we came back!
 
 
#2 admin 2011-02-01 13:40
hey Oystein! No, I lost all the hi-res pictures a long time ago :(
 
   

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