Lake Kallsjön, Sweden: Mazda’s MX-5 roadster has again shown its pure sports car genes, this time on ice at the 2011 Mazda MX-5 Ice Race in Sweden. Clear blue skies and polar temperatures provided the right conditions for an exhilarating festival of drift and control as drivers from 26 nations competed in specially modified roadsters for a podium finish. Australia was the only non-European team and was considered to be the rank outsider given the distinct lack of ice driving facilities in Australia.
However, lack of ice driving experience didn’t seem to faze the Australian team as it dominated Day One’s qualifying and practice sessions grabbing pole position for the next day in the process. They also won the hearts of everyone with their friendly attitude, by wearing board shorts over their racing overalls – in honour of summer Down Under – and driving with a tiny kangaroo mascot fastened to the top of their car’s safety cage. They made it look easy on Day One setting the quickest lap times with their only real challenge coming from the Russian team, which took second on the grid.
Race day featured beautiful blue skies, glistening snow and a morning temperature of -31º C. This ensured ideal conditions on the ice of Lake Kallsjön, which is located in the Östersund region of west-central Sweden. The race itself was conducted in two sessions, each two hours long, with the car completing the most laps the winner. Like last year’s MX-5 Open Race in Italy, it was drifting control and not pure speed that proved the decisive factor in the race. The Australians continued to perform well as they had on Day One and continued to set some of the fastest lap times on the ice as they took the chequered flag in race one. Race two, in the afternoon, saw the Russian team relying on their significant ice driving experience to put them out in front. A spirited chase by both the Australian and Belgian teams resulted in spectacular bumper-to-bumper racing. The chase continued right to the chequered flag but ultimately it was the Russians who took the overall win ahead of Australia and Belgium.
The unforgettable day out on the ice culminated with a Champagne spray on the podium from the three winning teams.
Mazda Australia public relations manager and team coach for the MX-5 Ice Race, Steve Maciver, was delighted with the efforts of the Australian team. “To place second in such unfamiliar driving conditions is really an amazing effort. Coming in to the event we knew that we had some good drivers but weren’t sure how we’d go against the more experienced Northern Europeans. It was clear early on that we had the pace and I was delighted to see the Australian spirit come to the fore allowing us to get the best out of the MX-5,” he said.