By Steve Siler –
Sliding with the Bulls
Why ice driving in a Lamborghini should be on your bucket list.
I’ve said many times before that it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow. But after spending an evening and the whole next day driving Lamborghinis on a frozen lake about two hours east of Montreal, Quebec, I’ve had to rethink that. Indeed, driving Lamborghinis on a frozen lake in Canada, or anywhere, honestly, will have you rethinking a lot of things—financial goals, aversion to cold, random life choices, physics—but one thing seems truer than ever as I recall the vision of $4.5 million rainbow of brightly colored “Raging Bulls” contrasting so strikingly against a snowy white backdrop: rich guys really do have more fun.
I was there as a journalist to participate in Lamborghini’s “Winter Accademia,” a one- to two-day ice-driving program that the company has hosted in certain global markets per year since 2012. Heretofore held in Aspen, Colorado, the North American Winter Accademia was moved this year to this remote, privately owned Canadian property, which conveniently features a luxurious boutique hotel near Lake Sacacomie (or, in French, Lac Sacacomie), which is currently covered by a three-foot-thick layer of ice—sufficient to hold us and the cars we drove out there in, I was assured. The Winter Accademia compliments the “Track Accademia” weekend programs that Lamborghini holds at actual racetracks during summer months when a fishing boat might be bobbing in the waves in the exact place where I enjoyed a cup or two of hot cocoa on a cushy leather couch inside a tent as large as two Winnebagos.
At that point, however, the lake might as well have been solid rock—very slippery solid rock— with a well-groomed, two-plus-kilometer pathway of varying width carved through the two- to three-foot layer of snow that had fallen on it since it froze over. The surface was slightly bumpy in places, but it was still ice—as hard and slick and tricky to traverse as any patch of ice you’ve ever stumbled across before, only this patch of ice was the size of a lake. This made climbing in and out of these ground-hugging supercars—now frozen-lakehugging supercars—particularly tricky. How was I going to keep supercars with 602 to 740 horsepower going in the right direction on a surface I could hardly walk across? Well, I couldn’t have if not for two things: special metal-studded tires, and expert guidance from Lamborghini’s professional Squadra Corse instructors, who sat beside me at all times during our 10 to 15-minute sessions.
Fortunately, starting speeds were slow, as I first learned to hold aggressive drift angles all the way around the “power circle 360” in a $242K Huracán coupe. A bit more daunting but accomplishable nonetheless were negotiating slalom cones and performing “pendulum turns” in the formidable, $417K+Aventador S. Then I jumped into the scintillating new, track-focused $278K Huracán Performante for a few rather clumsy laps of the main track.
But time flies when you’re having this much fun, and soon enough we were off for some gourmet vittles off the ice at a nearby clubhouse. I had made it through the entire morning without stuffing any of these pricey beasts into a snow drift, though a few of the dozen or so other drivers had gotten cozy with the snow on the track’s edges, which required a tow vehicle—in this case, a large Ram pickup—to chug out to the stranded car and give it a tug, but no cars suffered any visible damage. After lunch, I was back in the Huracán learning to swing the tail right, then left, then right again as I traced an hourglass-shaped “figure-eight” course.
Getting more comfortable with the maneuvers, I was able to discern how the icy surface amplified certain handling traits of the cars—particularly their hyper-communicative steering, instant weight transfer from rear to front when stabbing the brakes to help bring the tail around a bit, and the rear-wheel-biased all- wheel-drive systems available on all Lamborghinis. I could imagine much of this would be possible at an actual track, though the speeds—and the consequences for getting it wrong—would be much higher. Suddenly, driving Lamborghinis on a lake made some sense.
Through the course of the day, my car control skills had developed such that I could pitch the car into controlled slides that would make Bo and Luke Duke proud, which could set me charging out of corners like a hero. Eventually, my straight-line speeds topped 70 mph before slowing for the next turn, and if 70 mph doesn’t sound fast to you, you haven’t driven a Lamborghini on ice.
Want to? Well, both Accademia courses are intermediate-level courses within Lamborghini’s Squadra Corsa racing and driver development programs, between the beginner-level “Esperienza” and the “Piloti” program that targets prospective racers. For 2018, it was offered to current Lamborghini owners who’ve already owned one or two, who have already completed the Esperienza program, and who were willing to shell out $9,500, which didn’t include airfare but did include a morning of dogsledding. Spouses were welcome but couldn’t drive unless they were also registered participants. With only a couple dozen total attendees each year, including journalists, the Winter Accademia is both exclusive and popular enough to have a waiting list. And after completing it myself, I can understand why.
(BASE PRICE: $242,300)
• Lamborghini’s “entry-level” model
• 602 hp V-10, all-wheel drive
• Everyday drivability
• Available in 572-hp rear-wheel drive form as well as a convertible
(BASE PRICE: $278,090)
• Lightweight, track-oriented Huracán model
• 631 hp V-10, all-wheel drive
• Carbon fi ber and Alcantara trimmed interior, active rear spoiler
• Also available in convertible form
(BASE PRICE: $417,650)
• Lamborghini’s 217-mph fl agship supercar
• Sonorous, 730-hp V-12, all-wheel drive
• Scissor doors
• Also available in convertible form
If you aren’t a Lamborghini owner (or an automotive journalist), there’s good news: the half-day Esperienza track program is open to first-time Lamborghini owners and prospects and costs considerably less. And with the imminent arrival of Lamborghini’s new Urus SUV, Lamborghini ownership is about to get a lot more feasible for folks with people and things to lug around. And yes, Urus will also be featured at Winter Accademias in thefuture.