How to drive on ice: CAR's expert (and fun) guide | CAR Magazine

How to drive on ice: CAR's expert (and fun) guide

Published: 20 February 2023 Updated: 20 February 2023

 CAR Magazine’s guide to ice driving…
 … in a 631bhp Lamborghini Huracan STO
 How to control a slide in arctic conditions

British winters aren’t particularly harsh, so most British drivers don’t have a lot of experience driving on snow and ice. This was point proved during the arctic weather we experienced at the end of 2022. The entire country ground to a halt because its drivers couldn’t cope with the snow.

I’m not able to criticise, though, because I haven’t had any formal ice driving training. Through some discussions with colleagues, Lamborghini caught wind of this and thought the best remedy for my lack of experience was a baptism of fire. So, in February 2023, the company invited me to a ski resort in Livigno, Italy to learn how to slide its supercars around an icy field.

Lamborghini brought along a fleet of vehicles for the crash course, including the rather sensible Urus SUV, the four-wheel drive Huracan EVO, the rear-wheel drive Huracan Tecnica and the utterly terrifying 631bhp Huracan STO. Naturally, I did most of my training in the last car because it’s the most difficult to control on the ice – and Lamborghini’s instructors are sadists.

To humble me before the real training began, Lamborghini sent me out for a few sighting laps in a four-wheel drive Huracan EVO on conventional winter tyres. To say the car had no grip would be an understatement – the surface of the ice felt like a Teflon pan coated in a mixture of WD40 and floor polish.

How to drive on ice: Lamborghini Huracan EVO rear three quarter drifting

Obviously, I did a few pirouettes during my first couple of laps. Once I’d stopped running the car into the snowbanks, though, Miloš Pavlović and Leo Pulcini (two of Lamborghini Squadra Corse’s slightly mad, but immensely talented racing drivers) decided to plonk me into a rear-wheel drive Huracan STO on studded tyres and teach me how to drift on ice. Here’s some of the wisdom they imparted:

Step one: lift to turn in

How to drive on ice: Lamborghini Huracan STO approaching the corner

Approach the corner at around 40mph (because you’re driving on sheet ice, you lunatic). Just before you swing the car into the bend, snap the throttle shut. That’ll force the car’s weight forwards, increasing the amount of grip on the front axle and allowing the rear end to go loose.

Step two: turning in

How to drive on ice: Lamborghini Huracan STO turning in

Be aggressive. If it’s a gentle bend, simply throw the wheel into the direction of the corner. When the front-end bites, the rear will swing around. If it’s a hairpin, though, you’ll need to steer away from the corner first before chucking the wheel back into the bend. If you don’t, the rear won’t be loose enough to slide around the corner and you’ll understeer off the circuit.

Step three: power

How to drive on ice: Lamborghini Huracan STO drifting

You need a quick burst of throttle to initiate the oversteer – and this needs to happen at the same time you steer into the corner. It’s a fine balance. Too much power and you’ll enter the corner backwards; too little and you’ll understeer off the circuit. The idea is to give the throttle a quick blip to get the rear end sliding, then…

Step four: catch!

How to drive on ice: Lamborghini Huracan STO front view drift

Counter steer as the rear wheels break loose to catch the slide. Apply some opposite lock to keep the car pinned in its graceful sideways arc then, once you’ve got it tapped out, apply a tiny bit of constant throttle to settle the chassis and keep the car sliding. Too much power, pirouettes; too little power, you’ll understeer off the circuit. Got the gist of it yet?

Step five: more power

How to drive on ice: Lamborghini Huracan STO drifting and kicking up snow dust

There are two different tactics to employ here – and they depend on whether you’re driving a rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel drive car. In a rear-wheel-drive car, you only need to apply a little bit of progressive power as the slide reaches its climax to exit in it a sophisticated manner. If you mat the gas like an ape, the rear will overtake the front and you’ll spin.

However, if you’re in a four-wheel-drive car, hammering the gas will help to straighten the slide out, providing you remember to apply a little less steering lock. It’s a strange sensation because, if you get the angle correct, the car will almost self-centre with power. It’s like oversteering a front-wheel drive car. The best way to gather it all up is to keep the throttle squished into the firewall.

Step six: connecting the corners

How to drive on ice: Lamborghini Huracan STO slalom course

I struggled with this throughout the event. The ice track Lamborghini carved into the field was tight and technical – and the idea was to always have the rear of the car drifting. You’re supposed to exit the corner sideways, then use the momentum of the slide to set the car up for the next turn. Leo called it the “pendulum,” because the rear of the car should be constantly swinging from right to left during the lap.

You need two things to get it right – timing and good aim. Miloš and Leo were constantly reminding me to look where I wanted the car to go and to extend the drift from the previous corner for as long as possible. That means you retain the maximum amount of momentum for the next turn, so you can exit that one in a similarly large cloud of snow dust.

How is any of this drifting stuff relevant to driving on the road?

Driving on ice is all about learning car control. Accidents happen because drivers don’t know how to control their vehicles once they’ve passed the limit of grip.

Spending a couple of days sliding Lamborghinis around on the ice taught me a lot about drifting – but my most valuable lesson was how to stop a car doing something I didn’t want it to. Here are some of my top tips for avoiding an accident on the icy public roads.

First off, slow down. To stay in control, expect to halve the speed limit shown on the road sign. That way, if you do lose control of your car, it isn’t travelling quickly enough to cause any serious damage when you run it into something. I didn’t get the speedo above 45mph on the ice track.

Be prepared to counter steer. Your first reaction when the rear of the car starts to swing wide will be to continue steering into the turn. Don’t do that. It will only seal your fate faster. Steer the opposite direction to the slide and slowly lift off the throttle to bring the car back under rein.

Finally, make sure to get some practice. Find an empty icy space away from public roads and spend some time driving your car around it, learning how it reacts at the limit of grip. That way, you won’t be caught out if you hit a patch of ice when driving on the open road.

By Luke Wilkinson

Deputy Editor of Parkers. Unhealthy obsession with classic Minis and old Alfas. Impenetrable Cumbrian accent