Driving in ice and snow is an experience most drivers would just as soon forego.
But, for British journalist Chris Knapman, the experience was “technically challenging” and “at times, just plain scary,” as he recently maneuvered a Corvette Z06 around an ice track at the Laponie Ice Driving school in Sweden, just 50 miles from the Arctic Circle.
And to think, some of us Corvette drivers won’t even let our cars get wet in a rain shower!
Eric Gallardo created this icy masterpiece course in 2005, first using BMW 320s to train eight drivers how to control their cars on ice. As the school became more popular, however, he increased that number to a fleet of 23 top-dollar sports cars, including Corvettes, Porsches, and Mitsubishi Evos for a client list that now numbers about 400.
For a story for The Telegraph, Knapman accepted the challenge of taking the Corvette for a spin around Silverstone, the tarmac where in 2004 Michael Schumacher had driven his Ferrari Formula One car to a time of 1 minute, 18.739 seconds.
Knapman climbed into the Corvette, climbing slowly up to 40mph, and suddenly “as if by magic, I get it, and am able to judge steering and throttle to balance the car … as if it were the easiest thing in the world,” he writes.
His instructor Mattieu Perot, who says an acceptable time for most drivers is 4 minutes, 15 seconds, ups the ante and hollers “more power! Power, power, POWER!” at Knapman, who obeys and settles in at 75mph. “It’s a surreal experience, and hugely satisfying,” he reports.
Finally, Knapman is ready for Silverstone, “but when I reach the Hanger Straight, I realise that the one thing I haven’t done all day is drive in a straight line. And never has driving in a straight line been quite so terrifying, as the Z06 scrabbles and scratches for grip on the icy surface,” despite its studded tires clawing for traction.
His first lap ends with a disappointing time of 4 minutes, 25 seconds, but the next time around, Knapman chops that to 4 minutes, 20 seconds. “By lap three my concentration is fading,” he admits. “Somehow my fatigued mind holds it all together, and I finally nail Brooklands.”
As he crosses the finish line, Knapman knows he won’t go any faster that day. “It’s this lap or nothing,” he thinks.
“Four minutes, 14,” instructor Perot says.
“I whoop and holler as if I have just won the British grand prix, the sense of achievement immense,” Knapman says.
Warm weather in December has put the school behind schedule, and in a season that normally lasts only until the end of March, that’s a tough blow for customers, who regard the class as “the ultimate driving experience.”
Driving on ice doesn’t come cheap. Prices, including hotel, meals, and airfare from London, start in the region of 1200 pounds for a three-day course. That translates to $1,750 in U.S. currency.