I was fortunate enough to visit Lapland twice and I’ve learnt a few things.
In Mediterranean Europe, which is where I live, we have countryside and promenades, we have sinuous coastal roads and paths through the woods. We have city centres, congested and complex, and we have the open road. Think of empty country roads where the scenery is dominated by old farms, vineyards, wineries and cypress trees.
Our driving style and driving habits are the direct result of the environment we grow up in. To some of us, driving in the clogged streets of Milan or Rome or Paris or Madrid is natural because it’s what we know. We’re not concerned with crazy cyclists swerving in the middle of the road when we’re not looking and we’re not worried about scooters or taxi drivers driving like maniacs because that’s our ABC. It can be annoying but it’s nothing major, because it is our daily routine.
However, when it comes to driving on snow or ice, things are different.
There are several regions and areas in Mediterranean Europe where it hardly ever snows and even in those areas where it does, it’s still a light sprinkle when compared to Lapland.
Ice driving is the norm around here. Finnish drivers are widely regarded as great drivers because this, what you see here in these pictures and videos, is their standard.
I enjoy testing different cars and different snow tyres but more to the point, I love experiencing the magic of Lapland.
“White Hell”, Nokian’s testing centre in Ivalo, offers many options to do just that and this is where we learn how to drift on ice. There were several cars we could use including various versions of the Audi RS4 and I had a go in all of them until, while everybody else was busy with the extremely powerful engines in the RS4 with the Quattro system, I saw this.
This is a 1997 4th gen VW Golf, currently owned by LMS Racing. This very car has been driven by the likes of Tapio Laukkanen, Miikka Anttila, Kosti Katajamäki, Dieter Depping and Jari-Matti Latvala. Yes, that Latvala. Finnish rally driver competing in the WRC with 18 wins to his name.
It has won over a dozen rally races over the years and it has 200 hp.
I started slowly, carefully treading on thin ice (literally, I suppose) until eventually I began feeling more confident with the car.
Each lap I would give it more, and ask more of it, and it just wouldn’t let go. After five laps I was still at it, driving like a maniac and having the time of my life. This easily makes the top 5 of the best driving experiences I’ve had.
I’m not sure I managed to capture the essence of Lapland but I’d like to believe I was close. The right car, the right amount of power, the right amount of grip, or lack thereof, and you just drive like you’re Finnish.
This article was previously published on my tribe Game Changers on Drive Tribe