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This week finds your roving correspondent in northern Sweden at the inaugural JLR Ice Drive event at the European winter testing grounds used by Land Rover to develop much of the electronics and other features that makes a modern Range Rover so good off the tarmac. For those who have not seen the various motoring programs such as Top Gear that have come up here to film segments the small town of Arjeplog is surrounded by frozen lakes that are divided up between European and Asian car manufacturers. On these lake they snow plow out various different types of handling tracks. Over the past few years some of the manufacturers have started to open these facilities up for customer events as well as third parties creating driving experiences. This year JLR decided to jump on the bandwagon. This week is the first rotation which was marketed to the Europeans (although out of the 14 guests I am an ex-pat Brit and there are two Australians on it), the next rotation (next week) will be targeted at North American customers, then following that one for Asia-PC and an event that will include vintage vehicles.

Yesterday was an arrival day and we just completed our first day on the ice. Today we were driving the RRS and F-Pace. Starting with basic exercises, getting us used to how the cars felt with DSC on and off and the differences between the AWD bias on the two types of car. Then out onto a more complex handling circuit, a figure of 8 and a large circle. Lots of spinning, a few people who needed to be towed out of snow banks, lots of similes and new skills learned. Tomorrow F-Type Jags come into the mix. Looking at the map of our part of the lake there are some interesting tracks we also have yet to see and master. We will also with NDA's all signed be spending some time on the part of the lake where JLR Engineering are testing. We have seen various mules off in the distance but tomorrow we get up close. If the next two days (it is a three day program) are any way near as good as today was more than justifies the travel from California.

The hotel that they have based the experience out of it fantastic. They basically have a wing of it just for JLR and at the end of the corridor is a private lounge which is adjacent to where the cars are parked (the lake JLR use is about 20 minutes away and we drive there and back in convoy). It gives it a very good feel as it gives us some privacy and keeps the group close together. There are some friendships being formed that I think will last well beyond the event. Once at the lake JLR have build a very comfortable lodge where lunch is served and breaks taken. Organization, instruction and overall quality of the event is very much in line with what I have experienced at other JLR events.

As an added bonus this week we have been joined by Mitch Evans, one of the drivers in the Jaguar Formula E team who has a film crew in tow. So interesting to hear both about electric car racing but also JLR and electric cars as a philosophy.
 

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That's awesome. I was |----| this close to going but in the end couldn't, so I'm now incredibly jealous :)
Have a fantastic time, enjoy, and please keep posting!!! And pics, pics, pics!
 

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I will add some pictures at the weekend but for now let me tell you about day 2.

So after a good breakfast (the food service is excellent) we went back to the ice. You do forget some stuff so some warm up exercises in the RRS and F-Pace. Then some more challenging stuff in the V6 F-Types. Now things are starting to get a bit more serious as if (when) you fall off into one of the snow banks you do not have either the ground clearance or AWD system to self recover yourself so you have to rely on the recovery disco to come and get you. Some people got more stuck than others, luckily mine just require a little tow, not the deployment of a small team of instructors with snow shovels as did others. The learning curve was steep and soon I think many of us who had not thought much of the F-Type were in fact fans.

After lunch we went on a tour of the engineering facilities where those who had not left their phones in the cars had little stickers added to cover the cameras on them and taken on a tour of the facilities. We are not allowed to talk about the mules that we saw there but we toured the sheds with them in and very large quantities of tires in. We were shown a very impressive workshop and talked through some of the challenges they have like being able to add massive amounts of lighting to cars so they can test in the very darkest winter months as well as practical stuff like how they deal with temperature gradients between the different buildings and the outside and how they grade the ice to keep consistent results. All fascinating to those of us interested in the technology.

We then went on a off-road course in the woods. The wind had been blowing in the morning causing drifts and resulted in the RRS's getting stuck on the trail. Then the recovery disco that was leading got stuck blocking the trail. Then another recovery disco that came backwards round the course to rescue it got stuck, winching was not working for either so eventually we just walked out and back to the lodge where we swapped back to the F-Types to go play on a handling track and the big figure of 8. They are trying things out and we were all good humored about the complete failure of these amazing off road tools. However the snow was very deep and some of the drivers had little or no off road experience. The second group who did a different trail whilst having a few issues got on much better when they swapped with us, so maybe it stays in the program, but my personal suggestion was if they had some of the purpose built hills that they have at the engineering center that could be made available that would do it for me. Where else are you going to get a chance to go up and down a very steep (not allowed to say how steep) a hill that is heated tarmac on one side and polished ice on the other!

Our delay in the woods meant that the afternoon session that saw my group of half of the attendees head back out on the ice in the V6 F-Types went well into darkness. This made it both challenging and a little special. As an added bonus each F-Type is equipped with a video system and we all have USB drives that we have been given to record our own adventures. Both because techniques have been refined but also because it just looks so much more dramatic I guess that it will be the moments we captured in the dark that will be shown to long suffering partners, friends and family on our returns.

Dinner again was excellent, as to be honest was lunch and breakfast. Really good mix of people with a lot of excitement when the AWD F-Type V8's get thrown into the mix tomorrow, and already some sadness that tomorrow will be our last day on the ice.
 
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