Dancing On Ice Roads
I like my cars like I like my ladies. Fast. But exceptions prove the rule and all that, so this post is all about taking your time. Just to be clear, I’m, talking about on the road.
See the first flurries of winter have made their appearance on UK shores. There have even been reports of snow on that mythical ‘high ground’. Which means it won’t be long till the de-icer is relocated from the boot to the passenger footwell and the roads are flooded with nutters who think they can drive like it’s 28°. On the plus-side, if you’ve got a (proper) 4X4 now’s the time to rescue any damsels in distress who decided a lightweight, wide-tyred, rear-wheel drive motor was just what was needed to get them up the winding roads to their country manor.
Of course, I had to give up ice racing after I got into that fight with one of the officials. Think he got the video pulled from YouTube now. As if he’d know better than me if I should be hibernating!
But even when you’re RACING on ice, it’s not about going fast. The moment you know you’ve got it is when you understand how ‘slow is fast’. They’re the words of my ice driving guru Stig. No not that one – this Stig’s the 62-year old bearded Scandinavian who Mrs W sent me to one winter for ice driving tuition. He also introduced me to saunas, akvavit and Britt Ekland’s daughter. (What a combination.)
Learn to drive in Scandinavia and they’ll spray a track with oil to test you. Over here, pass your test on a glorious summer’s day and a few months later you can be sliding your way down an untreated road without a clue what to do.
So I thought I’d share a few of the things Stig taught me. About driving. But before we even get to that, do you really need to go out? Seriously. Setting out on UK roads isn’t like setting off to race on a wide open frozen lake. Prepare to be delayed. No matter how well you drive, not everyone shares your skills or reads this blog. (Apparently.)
If you do have to go out, think about setting off in 2nd gear. It can get you away steadier and helps you avoid acceleration. Acceleration is the curse of the ice driver. Like-wise, avoid the brakes. Engine-braking (by dropping through the gears) is becoming a lost art. Now take your time. Remember, slow is fast. Fast is you in a snow bank – or if you’re really unlucky, the side of a snowplough. As Stig’s tattoo allegedly proclaims: ‘Going quicker won’t get you where you’re going quicker.’
A steady, constant speed with no sudden movements is the way to stay on the ice. When you’re heading for a junction, keep in mind it takes about 10 times as long to stop on ice. If you do skid, keep calm. Keep your feet away from the brake and the accelerator. Instead, depress the clutch and gently steer into the skid. Then hope for the best until you can get things under control.
Other idiots on the roads are even more likely to cause you problems when ice is added to the equation. So it’s important to be well-prepared for winter driving. Anti-freeze, a decent tread, wipers that wipe are essentials. But you should keep the car stocked up too – just in case you get stuck.
In deepest, darkest winter I’d never leave the driveway without:
A small snow shovel
And most importantly, a beautiful and intelligent companion. Someone who, should we get stuck, can keep my spirits up with witty banter and hot things up under that blanket.
What would you never leave without?
And as a final point, never forget that even the most seasoned ice expert can have trouble.