BTCC Driver Jake Hill Joins the Ice Driver Crew

Each season, as the motorsport calendar winds down, we receive a flurry of emails from instructors wishing to work at Ice Driver in winter time. This is in part driven by the thought of a winter with no competing and, more cynically, the thought of no wages from track instructing too!

Most of the Ice Driver instructors have been with us for many years. Ice Driver is a small family business and while we are dynamic and quickly scaleable for large events, our core team is a small and tightly knitted group. A little like the Red Arrows, instructors are generally chosen by consent with everyone else.

Step forward Jake Hill.

Jake’s been on our radar a few times this season, both in his day job in BTCC and also when coaching on track. He’s only young, with none of the grey hairs of the other Ice Driver team, but that will come after a few years of BTCC battling, no doubt!

Chief Instructor and director Andy likes Jakes attitude and confident attitude that lacks the arrogance that can sometimes be there in drivers. “He’s a bright lad, the rest of the team like him too. I’ve watched him coaching on track and liked his style.”

Jake is looking forward to being on the ice for the first time this season, “Even though I race on slicks in BTCC, I am quite comfortable with the feel of a car moving around beneath me and I’m looking forward to having a location that makes that characteristic a constant, repeatable thing, lap after lap. That’s got to be good for driver confidence”

What else do you think will be good for you at Ice Driver?

“I think it’s a great place for a driver to build confidence, learn new skills and really get to grips with things like weight transfer, using throttle and brakes to move the weight of the car around and become really comfortable with unusual car attitudes.”

“Above all, there’s probably going to be two sides to the whole experience. It’s going to be a unique chance to not just learn a whole range of new skills, but also have a really enjoyable time too.”

Jake will be with us coaching at Ice Driver this season. All of the Ice Driver coaches have a great combination of skills, able to adjust very quickly to a driver’s needs, concerns and objectives to deliver a driving and learning experience that drivers take away to make them better drivers than ever. We think Jake’s going to love it on the ice this winter.

How Ice Driver Got It's Name

It doesn’t seem like more than a short time ago that we were standing beside our minibus at an airport in Scandinavia waiting to pick up our very first corporate Ice Driver group. Twelve years later and we are really proud that many of these people are still clients and still regularly enjoy an adventure to the spectacular Arctic wilderness to improve their driving skills and have a great winter break.

People often ask us how we came by the name Ice Driver, so here’s exactly how the name Ice Driver came about.

Back then, the conventional name was something that included phrases like Norway Rally School or Winter Rally School. We felt that missed the whole point and didn’t really describe what we do. For a start, ‘Rally’ tends to conjure up images of standing in a forest with a bobble hat waiting to be scattered with gravel. Plus we just knew that other drivers besides rally drivers would benefit and love it.

As for the word ‘School’? Nobody likes going to school. And the word made it sound like we would be dictating and preaching to our guests.

But we knew that once people tried it, they would love it and there were so many driving skills to learn in a short period of time. Almost like an Espresso hit of driver coaching.

Just a short time earlier, the Bond movie Die Another Day had been a big hit. Suddenly, driving at high speed on ice took on a whole new angle and we came up with the name Ice Driver. We have Pierce Brosnan and Halle Berry to thank for the great car chase and for inspiring us to show that Ice Driving is for everyone.

Since then, the term and genre ‘ice driving’ has been adopted by many others and indeed most of the performance car manufacturers now operate some sort of ice driving experience at some point each winter. We are pleased too that we have attracted others into the arena at a variety of different price points and packages.

Today, Ice Driving has become far more than just a winter rally school. On our race track made from ice, we welcome everyone from corporate groups with no previous experience, through track driving enthusiasts, all the way to World Champions of Motorsport.

Beware The Offer of a Passenger Ride

Many of us are nervous passengers. For some, it’s simply the lack of not being in control or trusting the person behind the wheel.

Ice Driver’s Andy McKenna is the first to admit he’s a nervous passenger on the road. It probably has something to do with a driver’s urge to impress him when they find out what he does for a living. So the chance of a spot of revenge can never be turned down.

In 2013, Pole Position presenter Rosanna Tennent came to Ice Driver for a short report on what it’s like to drive on the frozen lakes of Scandinavia. Rosanna loved the drive, but her passenger ride alongside Andy probably goes down as one of those classic in car hot laps.

To her credit, the bleep button never had to be used and she managed not to swear during the whole experience. Today, Rosanna is a presenter for Formula One and the Mercedes Petronas team, so she probably spends her time in sunnier climates.

Our BMW M3 powered Compact is proving as popular as ever, you can find more information on this winter’s Ice Driver packages here.

And if you opt for that passenger ride with Andy, don’t forget to breathe.

Why Historic Racing Drivers Love Ice Driver Each Winter

One area of motorsport that benefits particularly from the Scandinavian environment is historic motorsport. Historic motorsport competitor Robi Bernberg has travelled to Ice Driver on several occasions to increase his driving skills. We ask what keeps bringing him back to the frozen lakes of Norway each winter.

Q. How long have you been racing Historic cars and what is your favourite car, race series or circuit?

I started racing Porsche 911s in 1993, and have raced every year since then! I switched to Historics in 2003, with a 1965 911, then bought a TVR Grantura as 911s are great - but they are too well built and so many of them, which makes it difficult to get (entries) into the big events. My favourite car is my 1955 Cooper T39 Bobtail, which I have raced at Le Mans Classic, an historic circuit if ever there was one!

Robi's very rare Deep Sanderson

Q. The obvious question, why come to Ice Driver and what inspired you?

I come to Ice Driver to improve my skills - it its great environment where you can go properly sideways and the only thing to hit if you lose it is a snow bank. That means you can really find the limit of the car -and go over it - without the risks associated with doing that on a circuit, sometimes with little run off, and big consequences.

Q. How does what you learn on a frozen lake in Norway translate to the racing circuits of the UK and Europe?

There is an instructor in the car at all times, which is great because you learn new stuff and do not just go round repeating the same mistakes. I have learnt left foot braking, and that can be very useful on track, especially in the wet. Feeling the balance of the car and reading the road surface are other skills you pick up, as well as a sense of confidence. For example at a wet race, where the grip levels are so low on the Historic tyres we use that you have to go sideways to be quick and be comfortable with it - there are less heart in your mouth moments!

Q. If there is a single element that has helped you most, what would you say it is?

I would say it is looking out the side window to where you are going - and smiling!

You can read more about our one to one driver coaching programme here, either for individuals or small groups of like minded drivers, or simply hit the links below to start your conversation for Ice Driving this winter.

Memories of Superswede

It’s March 2006, Orebro, Sweden. A bright sunny, early spring day, but very cold. The nearby lakes still frozen over, with only the beginnings of a thaw. In 2006, we were in the embryonic stages of what was to become Ice Driver. We were looking for infrastructure and frozen lakes before we arrived at our present location at Vestlia in Norway. But that day we took an hour or so off our quest to find a location in the suburbs of Orebro that we’ve wanted to see for some time.

A tourist map marks it loud and clear, it’s easy for us to find. Ronnie’s memorial. We pull over at a junction by the side of a busy road and there, far bigger than I we'd anticipated, is the memorial statue commemorating the life of Ronnie Peterson. We dump the hire car on the verge, climb out and stroll over. Cast in bronze, over 3 metres high, the silhouette of the Lotus 79 is instantly recognisable.

Ronnie died in 1978 at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza after a heavy accident. He’s pulled from the crash by James Hunt and Italian marshalls and is talking whilst waiting for the ambulance. Today, it would have been a survivable crash, but he developed complications and passed away at the age of just 34. His body was returned to his home town, where he lies in the local church. A full account of the day can be read on this memorial website to Ronnie. we were around twelve years old at the time loyalties. James Hunt fans as you’d expect, but we also still own battered Corgi JPS Lotus with Ronnie’s name on the side.

In 2003, 25 years after his death, the statue was unveiled along with an exhibition commemorating his life. We move slowly around the sculpture, trying not to slip on the ice. It’s a wonderful piece, the bronze becoming gently weathered with the passage of time. Around the corner is the church and Ronnie’s grave. It takes a short while to find, but we do. We fire off a few self conscious frames with the camera and we stand and take in the fact that we’re here. Orebro isn’t the kind of town you’d pass through that often, we’re unlikely to be there again any time soon. But we’ve been, it was worth it and we stroll back to the rental car as the spring thaw starts to reveal the grass of the cemetry, the words printed on one of my favourite T Shirts spring to mind.

More than a decade on and Ice Driver is located in the Norwegian ski resort of Vestlia in the town of Gielo. We travelled many miles across Sweden and Norway to find our great location and met many great people. But we still have fond memories of the day we visited Ronnie’s memorial.

When Andy Priaulx Came To Ice Driver

We’ve worked with many competition drivers over the years here at Ice Driver. From drivers who are with us for a corporate event, those compete purely for the fun of it, through those who aspire to make a living, all the way to multiple world champions.

One of the very first professional racing drivers to come to Ice Driver was Triple World Motrosport Champion Andy Priaulx. We found these notes in our archive from the year that Andy came out to Ice Driver, when he was a BMW Works Touring Car driver.

At the time, Andy had just won his third world title with BMW and had recently competed against no less than Micheal Schumacher in the annual Race of Champions charity event. Here’s what he said when he travelled to Ice Driver.

Q. Who gave you the idea to come to Ice Driver?
A. It was something I know Micheal Schumacher used to try and that's what prompted me. We talked at the Race of Champions event and he said it was something he did each year.

Q. Why come to Scandinavia ?
A. It's not too far to travel and the conditions are almost guaranteed. Plus the scenery is spectacular.

Q. Why would a racing driver want to do what looks like a rally driver's thing?
A. I think it's important for a driver to take himself out of his comfort zone. This is what makes you develop as a driver.

Q. What do you think you learned that you can apply to your driving and WTCC?
A. That's a difficult one, really. It's not just one thing that makes the difference, but lots of things added together. For sure, ice driving helped my car control and anticipation. Everyone should do this.

Today, Andy is still at the top of his game in the Ford GT endurance racing squad in the World Endurance Championship. Plus, of course, his son Seb is quickly carving a name for himself in the UK Ginetta Juniors championship. We wish them both well for the future.