#ITX: Icetrack 10, 9+10 Feb 2019

bretti_kivi

Member
Hello,

a heads-up: #ITX, so IceTrack 10, will be on 9+10 February 2019. As previously, you're free to combine with other stuff - like reindeer, snow, and northern lights - beforehand and afterwards. Track is currently not 100% clear but we'll sort that out.

If you're not sure what two days of driving in circles can look like, there's a video George shot last year... I've linked it below.

Let me know if you want more information.


- Bret
 

bretti_kivi

Member
So what is Icetrack? It's a weekend setup I've been running for some time now. I wrote a text for an article after last year, and I've added it below to give you a feel for what I'm talking about.
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It's a not-completely-normal Saturday morning. Not quite 7:15 am, it's still pitch black. Surprisingly, it's only just below zero. There's a good foot and a half of snow on the ground and if I listen carefully, I can hear the rapids. We are at just north of 63 degrees of latitude, and a couple of hundred metres away is a serious current spiced with rocks and salmon. From here, it's around 300 miles and six hours drive to the arctic circle and four miles back to the village store and petrol station. In Autumn, when there's no snow, the lights are off and it's cloudy, you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Light pollution is essentially non-existent when there are less than 12 people per square mile.

Welcome to the north.

We're not even that far north, either; one group member drove several hours south yesterday to get here. He commented on seeing less than ten cars driving the other way over several hours.

Welcome to the north.

Yesterday, the group drove mostly from Helsinki via Lahti and the 9 road. In five driving hours, there was less than 90 minutes of motorway.

Welcome to the north.

Once, my guests would ask me how far away places were. "2 hours" was a possible answer, and they would be confused. Distance becomes irrelevant when the limit is 80km/h and the roads are generally clear.

Welcome to the north.

I head over past the main building, crunching the fresh powder, towards the annex where most of the guys are and where we went for sauna last night. I greet one of them, who is working on securing his 911 back on its trailer. He swapped to true winter tyres last night and the car is road-legal, but considering the four months it will probably sit still after this event, he considered it prudent to not subject it to the road conditions and incredible amounts of salt that accompany them. The jockey wheel of the trailer was jerked loose multiple times on the way up by the unusually bad ice bumps.
A short while later, we are sitting at breakfast, all twenty or so of us - a motley crew of various backgrounds, nationalities, cars and ages. Coffee is consumed, food eaten, the brief driver briefing is given and listened to and then we're off on our annual adventure.

To drive the ice.

I moved up here in mid 2004, and a couple of winters later was invited by a Subaru-driving colleague to check out an Icetrack day being held in a farmer's field not too far from me. I thoroughly enjoyed the photographic experience and returned the next week to the track at an airfield even closer to home. There I started to really learn how to photograph motorsports. I also got pummeled with flying snow, iced up my tripods. Began to learn not to step on fresh snow because you have no idea just how deep it is, and not to stand on the outside of corners. Fast forward a couple of years and I started my own event. This past winter was iteration 9.

The intention always was to encourage safe driving. With understanding comes the possibility of control and so we started with elk tests, slaloms, and braking. The group has, from the start, been mainly Audis, with the initial invitation going through the German A2 club, but colleagues have been around since day one.
The event is generally the only opportunity most of my visitors will get to seriously play with their cars. They may have 300 bhp in a V6-swapped TT, but having a space in which to exercise it without any street furniture, people or significant snowbanks in the way is rare in the extreme. This is why some of them return year on year. I've seen locals misuse empty carparks but the potential for issues is massive. At track, it's reasonably controlled and everyone is up for learning, meaning aggression is minimal and pauses very much necessary. Everyone's also driving in the same direction at the same time and we work to make sure certain areas aren't too fast, because unpleasant surprises can happen when driving wet ice, even if you're reasonably used to it.
Personally, I found the ESP setup in the A2 to be quite interesting. It doesn't like slalom very much. The left-right turns are so fast that the system is still correcting for the last one when the next one happens, resulting in it trying to correct and leaving you with the feeling you're truly fighting the car. Pulling the ESP fuse results in a spin at some point, but it's so loudly announced that it's almost a relief when it happens. But slides are hard with studded tyres on both axles, even with ESP off. A 3L A2 was being punted around the track with studs only on the front wheels and with ESP on it was not as stylish as the more powerful cars but it was remarkably close in terms of speed.
This year, we had several A2s, a 911, Impreza, 4motion Leon, an A8 and a TT with, amongst others. The big barge is running a 4.2 V8 and its driver commented on the usefulness of the donut ring in truly understanding the realities of sliding sideways. The efforts paid off, because the footage shows magnificent slides being held and kept for an entire corner. Does this deserve respect and admiration? Absolutely. The 3.6 transplanted TT was wearing serious spikes, which also helped it be faster than the A8 round the track, but even that was eclipsed by an old A4. Turns out Trackmeister has a set of old rally tyres and during lunch bolted them on to his 99 A4 TDI quattro. Said quattro, when driven with aplomb, was seriously quick, even more so than the TT. I think we'll be seeing more spikes next time...we also saw some great introductions to ice driving for teenagers, with more than one successfully sliding around the donut ring.
One of the highlights of the weekend, though, has to be the iceracing "911" which also turned up and blasted round an empty track several times. The noise and speed were immense, as was the sheer number of spikes on the seemingly 155-section tyres. The track was beautifully roughed-up afterwards, too.
I also tested my own Octavia out, though the smell after two laps indicated I needed to turn ASR off. The second set of laps were a little better and far more fun, but still - I set this up, and enjoy the sight of cars sliding endlessly, occasionally landing in the snowbank so far they have to be pulled out.

I'll be looking to walk and drive on water one more time this winter.

---

2019s iterations will happen from the end of January 2019 through to the first weeks of March. We're opening the setup up this year to other groups. The German A2 group has booked 9th and 10th February 2019.
We have various different options for tracks available to us, depending on weather. Lake tracks demand at least 10cm of ice early in the season to get the snow off so the ice can thicken correctly; land-based tracks are more interesting in terms of height differences but also more challenging.
The hotel will be building its own track complex this time. I know of at least three track setups we could use, and the question will be resolved mainly according to weather. One is in the woods across the road from the hotel, another is on a lake a half-hour drive away and the third is around the corner from the hotel, on another lake.

The standard timing for one of these trips involves driving through to the ferry terminal at Lübeck / Travemünde for midnight on a Wednesday. The ferry casts off at 0300 Thursday and arrives in Helsinki at 0900 local time Friday. From there it's a convoy through the frozen snow up to Tervo. Saturday and Sunday are track time, with Monday being a day for other activities, such as skidoo, husky sledding, snowshoeing.... Tuesday early is a good time to leave back to Helsinki, to catch Tuesday evening's ferry bound for Lübeck. Extensions either ahead of time or afterwards are of course possible, depending on what you want to do. Tuesday's ferry arrives back in Germany at 2100 or so on Wednesday.
For the A2 group, that translates to being at Lübeck before midnight on 6th Feb, arriving back in Germany on the 13th.

What you need to participate? Bring your car. Make sure it has winter tyres and antifreeze good down to -35 or so. If the battery is flaky, change it before coming. Add a tow rope and make sure you know where the towing eye is. That's most of it. For you, it's even simpler: decent boots that you can drive in. You won't spend that much time outside (I will!) so the need for -40C-capable arctic clodhoppers isn't that great.

The cost question is also a big one. It depends an awful lot on what you want to do. This winter, we've introduced various different options for accommodation, so it's around €60-65 per person per night based on two people sharing a room, €130 per person for food (breakfasts, lunch Saturday and Sunday, Dinner Saturday, 2 coffee breaks Saturday and Sunday) and €200 for track. I've seen a ballpark figure of €1000 and that's not far off; €200 for track, €250 for four nights, €250 for the ferry from Germany and then fuel. For UK participants, there's the ferry from the UK to add in and around 500 miles each way from Calais to Lübeck. The A2 group has exclusive pricing.

On the "I should bring my own car?" question: this always was intended to be about safety. So driving your own car, understanding its limits, the various different surfaces, how they are communicated, the ESP and ABS limitations - this all helps when returning to less extreme road conditions.

It is hard to break your car but it is possible if you try hard enough. We make sure you are warned - with cones and such - about the slickness of the track and attempts are made to allow you to limit speed at inopportune moments. We try to avoid hazards close to the track and if you are prudent and reasonable there really ought not to be issues.

We've swapped out the booking process this year to limit issues with last-minute cancellations, so any bookings are made directly with the hotel and accompanied by a non-returnable deposit equivalent to two night's accommodation. This secures your place and will be credited against your bill upon checkout.

As said, if you've questions, please let me know.

Welcome to the north!

- Bret
 
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bretti_kivi

Member
...we've had some clarification on ferry pricing from Germany: the big one can be as low as €165 per person there and back, based on 4 sharing a cabin with 2 cars. It won't get much cheaper than this!

- Bret
 

bretti_kivi

Member
...and a reminder / information: it does rather look like we will have quite a few people this time around, so if you are interested, I'd suggest you signal that interest sooner rather than later :)

- Bret
 

bretti_kivi

Member
bills for deposits went out yesterday to those who'd registered interest directly with the hotel. Currently I'm expecting the A2 group to actually be quite big and seriously international, so please let me know if you're interested!

Thanks!

- Bret
 

bretti_kivi

Member
and an advert for those who are erring on the edge...


(most of this is with Premiere and After Effects for those taking notes and is just the stuff I managed to take last year, which isn't much...).
 
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