2. Working on the driver skills
I have in the past attended several driving schools, in particular with a focus on aqua planning. However I have never been to a snow driving school, even less with a Corvette, which in my mind was a problem.
So I found a reasonably priced snow driving event via the Audi Club and went there with a friend who has an Audi A4.
The snow driving school which is organised by the North Atlantic Audi club
and held at the Team o'neil rally school
is the one I attended and I highly recommend it. It is also possible to attend the one day Team o'Neil school with your vette, albeit more expensive - you get your monies worth in life.
Well, after having spent nearly two days on snow - actually I should say ice - with the Corvette I realize that I have learned a lot, in general and specifically about my car, and that I really have a lot to learn.
Regarding the weather conditions, it appears to have gone to -20°F at night and during the day we were around 16°F.
Setting aside the difficulties of opening a frozen door, I have no particular issues to report regarding the vette in these rather harsh conditions.
On a side note, I think it is important to point out that I consider myself to be part of those who take good care of their vehicle and keep it clean and mechanically in shape. I know some people have difficulty believing this statement
As you can see from the hotel room, it is white and cool outside (stalactites measuring about 5 feet):
Main roads are clear, however the secondary roads aren't. It is also the first time in my life that I have filled the gas tank of my car (not to mention a vette) and have half a dozen snow mobiles drive up to fill up at the same time.
For the story, on the first photo the brownish stuff is ice not dirt, taking the photo was tough because slippery/icy.
The track on which we drove was very interesting with different exercises, varying in difficulty:
- Skid pad made out of real ice, guaranteed 100% natural, no additives. In fact we had clean out our vehicles before getting onto the compound in order to not bring salt onto the pad.
- Uphill climb, nice and straight, rather long and nicely frozen with a bit of snow.
- 3/4 circle on an uphill inclined plan. Too slow and you fall inside, to fast and you fall outside. You want to avoid both cases as vehicle damage may be incurred. So slippery that if you stop in the curb and don't have studded tires, expect the car to slide down.
- Small short rather steep uphill climb in an L shape (you turn up into the hill). Too fast and the car goes straight, too slow and you don't get to the top.
- Classical slalom exercises, braking, acceleration and accident avoidance ...
The skid pad was nice and icy, very slippery - some people actually had studded shoes to walk around which wasn't such a bad idea after all:
The black, instructor owned, Ford Flex used as a tow truck for a little off-course cars. Seriously off-course required a more serious truck, if I counted correctly there were 5 cars really out in the ditch over the weekend.
The vette waiting for the next exercise:
The predominant vehicle being the Audi Quattro with real snow tires, the more serious having studded Hakka 5 tires, one size smaller. I don't consider mine to be real snow tires when I saw the snow tires these guys have.
Upon arrival I learned that I was the first Covette to attend such an event and that one of the chief instructors was a Corvette owner himself. He was upfront with me: "Dude, I would never come here with my vette." Well that made it off to a good start for my day
Quite a bit of difficulties with the vette but the others were also struggling. Setting aside the hardship, I managed to perform all the exercises. On day one there was one exercise I failed at (50% success rate), my fault not the vette. On day two I managed a 100% success rate on that same exercise, so I did improve my handling capabilities of the car.
Let's be clear, the vette, with high performance winter tires is no match to an all wheel drive having studded snow tires such as the A4.
That being said at the timed event, where everyone had two runs, including the instructors, my times were 1 min 32 sec and 43/100 and 1 min 32 sec and 24/100 - rather constant in my screw ups.
The best time, studded Hakka 5, a Subbaru STi I think, did 1 min and 13 seconds. I believe it was an instructor.
The better students, who in general appeared to have studded tires were working in the 1 min 25 seconds range.
Although consistent, I'm pretty sure that a better driver would have taken the vette around in 1 min 30 seconds. As, although I did not get time penalties (e.g. cone touching), I did goof on the slalom and the skid pad.
I did not pay special attention to the slower times as I was interested in comparing to fastest on the block, but I think that they were running in the 1 min 50 seconds range.
As a general summary I would say that I am very happy. I learned a lot about my car and improved my driving skills a bit. I'm convinced that the Corvette is an excellent car, now it's driver just has to get an acceptable level
Also, the fellows from the Audi club were also very friendly and it is a class that I would recommend, even if you don't have a vette