In this series titled Most Memorable Motoring Moments we highlight those memories that are etched into the minds of some famous names in the South African automotive arena. In Most Memorable Motoring Moments Part 3 we hear from Chad Luckhoff. Not only is Luckhoff a motoring scribe for one SA’s largest online portals, he is also star of the small and big screens, motorsport commentator and all round petrolhead.
In Part Two of this series we featured seasoned local racer Andre Bezuidenhout. Let us know whose Most Memorable Motoring Moment you’d like to read about and we will try to make contact. Luckhoff retells his most memorable experience below…
Slip sliding away
Visibility is limited as a dense fog hangs in the air, but my foot remains planted, deep into the carpet of the Jaguar F-Type I am commandeering. I feel the rear end moving around as I muster up all the courage I have while I call on my driving experience to keep my car pointing in the right direction. I’m hard on the brakes as the corner just comes into sight, I turn in and wait… the rear end rotates and I wait a bit more. It’s the only way that I’m making it around this turn. It has to be sideways – because I’m literally on ice.
It’s the last day of the Jaguar Land Rover Ice Academy, to which I was the lucky recipient of two tickets to the Arctic Circle in Sweden. Jaguar Land Rover hosts one of its experiences in this extreme climate where participants are able to hone their skills and sample some of the best machinery the British firm has on offer. You get to choose from as little as a two-day affair or you can go the whole hog and make a week of it,
It starts simply enough with exercises on the frozen Hornavan lake, a stone’s throw from the quaint Swedish village of Arjeplog. With a population of only 2 200 in the summer, it’s a quiet place until the snow descends and lakes freeze over. When that happens the population triples as engineers and test drivers from automakers around the world storm the town to do their winter testing. We’re talking about all the big names here.
In the initial driving exercises we get used to how a car reacts on ice. As a South African, this is as foreign as it gets and can only be likened to a greased-up skidpan. Grip comes from studded tyres fitted to the Jaguar F-Paces and Range Rover Velars we’re tippy-toe’ing around in.
It’s all about front end grip. Turn too erratically and you lose the front end. Lift off the throttle and the tail will come around – but this is the skill that we’re all there for. The sideways stuff. You turn in, lift off the power and you wait. You wait and wait some more and then, when you’re convincingly pointed towards the inside of a bend, you can apply some power and a little countersteer in the opposite direction of the corner.
We progress from the wide open plains to a larger circle. Over eight lanes wide, this is where we will first sample a slide at something that resembles speed. You build up speed, run it a little wide and pull it back, executing the “turn, lift and wait” method you’ve just learned. You apply some power and inevitably too much countersteer and the Landy straightens out. Soon you get the hang of it but before you get too cocksure, your laps are done and you get to go back to base to reflect on what you’ve learned.
Faster and faster
Over the course of the following few days, you’re left largely to your own devices with instructors sitting off to one side and only telling us which track we will be driving on that day. Of course they’re also on hand to rescue you when one beaches a Discovery on a snowbank or send an AWD F-Type V6 into low-level orbit because you’ve been a complete muppet. Trust me, this is the voice of experience talking. You will get it wrong, everyone does.
By the time I get to the final day I know that the clock is ticking and soon I will be on a flight back to Johannesburg. So I board the supercharged V8 F-Type with studded racing tyres and ensure that I make this count. I’m hard on the brakes, more aggressive with the wheel and heavier with the foot.
Then it happens, I am holding the most glorious drifts and power slides as a bark of Britain’s finest plays you the song of its people. Out there in the stark, white wonderland of the -30°C Swedish Lapland, you find a bucket list moment that you never knew you wanted.