“Too precise! more gas!” are words I never thought I’d hear when behind the wheel. Only a week ago, two friends, on separate occasions, had sent me the same article on road rage as a well-intentioned crack at my “aggressive driving”. “More gas”, isn’t something they would say to me. But this time, I’m not on my usual route weaving through city traffic. Instead, I’m slipping and sliding on icy terrain and in a supercar, no less.
Since eight this morning, I’ve been at the Ghiacciodromo ice track — a 15-minute drive from the Hotel Lac Salin Spa & Mountain Resort — in Livigno, a quaint ski town in northern Italy, an approximate four-hour drive from Zurich.
As participants in the Lamborghini Winter Accademia 2017, a fleet of supercars, including the Hurácan coupe and Spyder, as well as the recently launched Aventador S, have been set aside for our use, or as some say, abuse.
The Twelve Hours of Livigno ice-driving programme is a 12-hour experience during which drivers take Lambos on ice. Under the guidance of instructors, many of whom have actual race experience, participants learn advanced drifting techniques in machines that boast outputs upwards of 600bhp.
Which is what I’m trying to master today. But having that much power on a slippery surface just doesn’t make much sense in my books. All morning long, my instructor has been telling me to throw out everything I know about road-driving. No, I shouldn’t step on the brakes when entering a sharp bend. Yes, I should go faster so the car slides more. It’s no wonder he keeps bellowing that I need to give the car “more gas! More gas!” because I’m being “too careful”. My friends would laugh at the irony.
Driving on ice really isn’t easy, especially with such robust supercars. The Hurácan runs with 610 horses, while the Aventador S is a blistering 740bhp. Step on the accelerator a tad too hard and you’ll end up in the snowbank. Tap on the brakes at all during a turn and instead of slowing down, the tail of the car straightens up and you’ll bypass the hairpin altogether. Keep the steering wheel half a second too long and you’ll spin 360 degrees.
We’re told that if everything is done right, one doesn’t need to apply the brakes at all throughout a lap. The concept still baffles me. Isn’t it practically muscle memory for one to hit the brakes when approaching a bend?
After those morning laps it’s time to work on those drifting skills. The drive programme includes three stations with instructors to help you understand how to have better control over your car when drifting. First station is a figure-of-eight course and as its name suggests, you have to manoeuvre your ride (Hurácan Spyder, for me) in the shape of an “8”. This is supposed to be the most difficult but I surprise myself by managing it on the second try.
The next two stations, the 360 loop and line 360, are harder to get a hang of. The first requires drifting around a wide circle of cones. To do so, one needs to keep the speed constant while controlling the steering to maintain an even distance from the cones. Sounds easy enough but again, muscle memory sets in and I find myself lifting my foot off the gas too much and losing speed, much to the exasperation of my instructor. The furthest I get is at the 180-degree mark and I’m left feeling disappointed. I could blame my lack of finesse on a million factors — cold, jet lag, my gloves that aren’t nearly warm enough, last night’s too delicious wine-paired dinner at Rifugio Camanel di Planon in the Alps — but I stop myself and give it another shot.
The final exercise is the line 360, a challenge that lets me live out my dreams of driving like 007 in the movies. This time behind the wheel of an Aventador S, I’m supposed to drive straight for 10m, spin the car a full circle then straighten up and accelerate in the same path. The last bit is the trickiest, as it’s easy to miscalculate and oversteer coming out of the spin, but I nail it.
With the sun disappearing into the horizon, and floodlights now illuminating the track, I draw on all my reserves to turn out at least one perfect lap each in the Hurácan and Aventador S. Thankfully, all the instruction I had received throughout the day kicks in, and I claim success, taking on the track at speeds faster than before and drifting (where it matters) like an absolute pro.
By now, the clock is quickly approaching 8pm, signalling the end of Twelve Hours of Livigno. Most of us have reached our limit and are completely knackered. But I’ve gained a newfound respect for competitive racers, because I now understand how much physical and mental power it must take to race, or even train, for hours. For sure, this has made me a better driver. These new skills will follow me back home — no, I won’t be drifting on tarmac — but, I’ll zip through city streets with far better control.
Someday I’ll make it back to Livigno, and when I do, I’ll remember to give my Raging Bull more gas.
Read our chat with Andrea Baldi of Automobili Lamborghini APAC on the new Aventador S