Driving a LamborghinI on ice

Imagine this: you’ve got your hands on the latest raging bull from Lamborghini – the Huracan. It boasts a hybrid carbon-aluminium chassis, adaptive magnetic dampers, 610bhp from its mid-mounted V10 engine, an inertial navigation system… the list goes on. What you would most likely do is drive it on a circuit such as Ascari in Spain. What you would very likely not do is try and drive it up the mountains in the winter to tackle the snow and ice. But this is the case at Lamborghini’s Winter Accademia event. Lamborghini’s racing division, Squadra Corse, runs all of its motorsports and driver training activities.

Winter Accademia events are held annually in Europe and Japan, but this year was the first time the latter was open to customers from the region. The locale was Lake Megamiko, near Mount Tateshina in Nagano prefecture, 150km from Tokyo. The frozen lake, covered in snow, provided the perfect place to carve out a temporary circuit. Driving a 610bhp sports car on snow is no joke, but Lamborghinis have all-wheel drive, which helps maximise traction. The day began with learning how to induce oversteer on purpose.

The exercise, which involved going through a rough figure of eight, sounds simple. But the fastest way around a bend on slippery surfaces is by using the rear wheels to turn the car. The Huracan has a 30:70 front:rear torque distribution, so it’s a matter of braking, turning, then applying a jolt of throttle. The rear turns, you apply opposite lock to the steering, then straighten the car. Again it sounds easy, especially since it’s at low speed, but on snow you learn not to take anything for granted. Under the snow is ice, and since winter tyres don’t have studs or chains, it means more slipping and sliding.

One end of the practice area is snowy, the other icy, and it requires changing the inputs (steering, brake) to suit. Having avoided getting the car stuck in the compacted snow walls that line the circuit, we progress to something more interesting: a controlled drift at slightly higher speed. Again, the car steers with the throttle more than the steering, but as the drift area is different from one end to the other, it requires even more delicacy. Smooth and adroit inputs are the best for any sort of driving, the instructor (a Japanese rally driver) says.

Finally, with just enough knowledge to stay out of trouble, the participants are let out on the full-length snow circuit to see the Huracan live up to its name. The narrow circuit, carved out by a snow plough, is bumpy and tricky. As the sun waxes and wanes, patches of ice morph and change grip levels again. Slipping and sliding the Huracan through the tight circuit is intensely thrilling and a fantastic lesson in car control. In such conditions, electronic systems provide limited assistance, explains the instructor, and the majority of control is still up to the driver. Even if you leave not learning anything from all that, you can still enjoy the experience of turning a million-dollar Italian sports car into the world’s most over-qualified snowblower for a few short moments. It’s hilarious, exciting and totally unnecessary – in other words, everything a sports car is supposed to be.

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Published 15th February 2016