Get a grip! This is what the drivers competing in Frances Trophée Andros series of ice races will be hoping for when they take to the circuits each season armed with a powerful engine, a lightweight chassis and studded tyres for assistance.
The races take place on specially created floodlit ice circuits and attract drivers from all types of driving disciplines. The symbiosis of highly skilled driver, nerveless navigation and finely tuned machine over some of the most testing of tracks provides a highly entertaining spectacle as the drivers push their machines to the limit. The crowds turn up in their thousands to experience this unique event despite the temperature which is usually below zero. Spectators are warmed not only by the spectacular racing but by plenty of vin chaud and hot food. Even so you would be wise to equip yourself with a sizeable hip flask and some good silk underwear before venturing to the track.
King of the constructors is Toyota which with its Auris and Corolla cars has secured 16 victories out of 27 races since its debut in the 2006/7 season. Four times world F1 champion, Alain Prost is the most well known of the drivers in the field and is the current holder of the Trophée Andros, winning his second successive championship last season. It remains to be seen if Alains considerable ability and enthusiasm for the sport will be enough to enable him to one day match the king of ice racing, Yvan Muller, who has ten championships to his name. Another driver from the world of F1 on Toyotas books is Olivier Panis who, whilst not as successful as Prost, regularly appears on the winner’s rostrum. Last seasons grand finale at the Stade de France was attended by over 62,000 spectators and saw Prost and Panis, who teamed up for this exhibition event, continuing their domination of the sport with yet another victory. No doubt then that the competition attracts some of the best drivers in the world.
For the technophiles among you the Auris “ice” is a four wheel drive four wheel steer model built around the Lexus RX 300 3 litre V6 rear mounted engine pumping out over 300 bhp. The lightweight glass fibre body sits over a rigid welded steel “cage”. Tyres are standard issue Continentals, with a tread only a few inches wide covered with hundreds of tiny steel studs for extra grip on the ice.
The Auvergne ski resort of Superbesse in the Sancy Mountains south west of Clermont Ferrand hosts the final race of each season. This year’s event is on Saturday 31st January. The top drivers compete in the Elite class of races for the main trophy with a second level of races, the Promotion Class for up a coming young drivers. As well as the main car races there are also ‘Pilot’ bike races and the Trophée Andros Feminine in which teams of female drivers in tandem with their instructors compete for the championship in 600cc buggy style cars. Each victory is celebrated by car and bike riders alike showing off their skills at hand brake turns and wheelies, almost as spectacular as the racing itself.
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