Racing my Range Rover Sport on a Frozen Lake

And best of yet, I wasn’t the only one.

 Georgetown Lake is less than an hour’s drive from Denver and is the site of this year’s Land Rover Flatirons Ice Cup. 2017 was the Land Rover-exclusive event’s 14th year and featured a full model lineup from the latest Range Rover LWB to the Discovery Sport. In total, there were 26 different drivers and popularity for the event remains as high as ever. Nam Phan, event coordinator with Land Rover Flatirons, said that half of the available spots were claimed within the first day and that he regularly gets RSVP requests before a date is even set.

I had never driven a car on a frozen lake before so this was a bit strange to me. Sure, I’ve driven on plenty of black ice but never did I enjoy it or turn around to try it again. This seemed like a great opportunity to do some slip and sliding and spend the day with some fellow Land Rover owners.

The course was set up in the shape of a dog bone and two vehicles ran at a time, starting at opposite ends. Each driver gets three individual laps and the best score is then used for overall placing. I’m on the ice with my 2009 Range Rover Sport in the stock tire class. Working my way to the starting line, I convince myself that I’m going to use this lap as a learning opportunity for the course and try to take it easy. I’m ready for this race. Off the line my traction control does its best to limit the wheel spin before I’m quickly on the brakes, preparing for a cautious first turn. I proudly hit my apex and but get on the throttle too soon. The rear end immediately starts coming around and I stay with the throttle hoping for the front tires to pull me straight. I’m off of my intended racing line already but I manage to slow down in time for the next turn. I push it slightly wide and get back on the throttle. I’m feeling the urge to make up for some lost time. Now, I’ve watched enough WRC to understand how one gets the car positioned for a slippery turn but actually doing it with a 5,500+ Rover on ice is a bit more difficult. I quickly learn that the course is way too small for a novice Scandinavian-flicker like myself but there’s just too much fun to be had. Conservative tactics be damned. The final two corners were sloppy but I crossed the line with throttle wide-open and a huge smile on my face. At the end of the day, I finished 2nd in my class, just 0.5s behind the overall winner, the driver of the Range Rover Sport diesel.

With the racing complete, hot chili scarfed, and awards presented, the track was opened up for some practice and fun. Land Rover Flatirons was gracious enough to allow for some seat time in the 2016 Range Rover Sport diesel which presented a comparison to my 2009 Sport model. Off the line there is a surprising amount of traction and acceleration. This Sport’s power application is already impressing. Heading into the first few turns, the steering is quick and the car’s motions are well controlled. With traction control off, I pushed wide and into the snow bank but a moderate amount of go-pedal puts all fours tires into motion and a large snow rooster tail ensues before I’m back on course. Engaging the traction control on this second-generation Sport relegates your only concerns to controlling your entry speed. After hitting the apex, the Sport’s silent traction control perfects the power application regardless of my throttle requests and I slowly and surely come out of the turn completely without any drama. This sort of pro-active throttle and wheel control is critical on a surface like this and was the most critical difference between the 2009 and 2016 Range Rover Sport models.

So what did we learn here? Traction control is key for consistency and on-road safety and the modern system in the new Sport is extremely effective. Foregoing the traction aides, vehicle balance is critical for grip at front tires and gradual throttle application for a fast exit ensures the vehicle’s body motions don’t get out of hand. Not only is it fun to explore your vehicle’s characteristics, there’s a practical safety lesson to be learned here too.

It’s this sort of adventurous attitude that keeps the enthusiasm for a brand alive so it was very encouraging to see so many other owners participating. A big thank you to the 15 volunteers who put this event together and just in case you were wondering, plans are already in the works for next year’s 15th anniversary of the Land Rover Flatirons Ice Cup.


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