Winter Driving with Saab's Rally Legends...
Driving in icy, winter conditions can be a bit tricky. In Sweden, the country that basically invented winter, snow and ice are part of daily life. And although driving in these conditions can become routine, there are many “do's” and “don'ts” when driving through snow. Saab’s former rally stars give us their thoughts on how to handle your daily commute this winter.
It’s not a big surprise that many famous rally drivers emerge from the Nordic countries. In rally racing, the car seldom points straight ahead. Rather, power slides like the “Scandinavian Flick” are common maneuvers on loose gravel, ice or snow. Therefore, Saab asked its rally legends to provide a few tips on how to handle your winter drives.
Erik “on the roof” Carlsson won numerous rallies in the 1950s and 1960s in small, front-wheel-drive Saabs, out-muscling the bigger cars from Mercedes-Benz and Ford. Many of these races contained snow and ice stages, including his victories at the 1962-63 Monte Carlo Rally. Carlsson reminds us of the basics:
“The hardest thing to do is teach people how to drive on ice and snow,” says Carlsson, “because no two corners are the same. And often, even the same corner can change throughout the day, depending on the ice conditions. That makes teaching tough. However, here are some of the things that I learned the hard way.”
Make sure you fully clean your windshield so you can see.
“When racing, I did not worry so much about a clean windshield. As long as I could generally see, I was happy. However, that changed after hitting my second reindeer in one season just because I couldn’t see him coming. After that, my co-driver always made sure the windshield was clear.”
Do not wait to hit a reindeer. Clean ice and snow from all windows and lights — even the hood and roof — before driving. Keep a windshield scraper in your car at all times.
Make sure you keep ample distance from the car in front of you.
“This was one lesson I never learned myself. I lost a lot of headlights by hitting people in the rear,” says Carlsson.
Give yourself more time to brake or stop. And remember, with Saab’s ABS system don’t pump the brakes. Just “stomp and steer.” In addition, Saab’s Electronic Stability Program (ESP) helps your vehicle maintain traction in slippery conditions.
Be comfortable in the car, so you’re not distracted.
Carlsson used to drive his racecar from Trollhättan to and from the rally races. During one race in Portugal his heating system broke after rolling his car. It was not too much of a problem during the race. However, it made the trip back to Sweden a bit long because some of the windows had blown out in the crash.
“It was less than zero degrees outside, so needless to say, I was getting a little cold inside the car. My only option was to pour some gasoline into a sardine tin can and light the gasoline on fire, holding the can in place with my left foot. This definitely provided a bit of much-needed heat. However, the fumes were horrible!”
Nowadays, Carlsson’s Saab 9-5 provides Automatic Climate Control, heated seats, and heated outside mirrors to help keep him comfortable and focused on the road, not his feet, during his winter drives.
Saab recommends to dress warmly when traveling in the winter by wearing layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
Among Eklund’s victories are the Swedish Rally in 1976, two wins in Norway (Winter Rally 1971 and Firestone 1972) as well as victories in the Dutch Texaco Rally 1972 and twice at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. He also had top five finishes in rallies in Finland, Austria and Great Britain. True to his motto (“Never give up”), Eklund won this year’s Swedish Rallycross championship.
Read the road.
“Reading the road is really the key to racing, and to winter driving,” says Eklund. “You have to watch the road all the time, as conditions change quickly. For example during rally races the road surface changes from tarmac to gravel, and can ice up in an instance. If possible, I would watch the guy in front of me to see how his car reacted in a corner. From that, I could often tell how slippery it was.”
Similarly, when on the road, Eklund recommends that you look farther ahead in traffic than you normally do. Actions by cars and trucks ahead will alert you to problems and provide more time to react.
Use winter tires.
“Tires are a secret weapon,” says Eklund. “For example, in 2002 — the second time that we won the Pikes Peak Open Class — I remember rushing like mad to change tires just four minutes before the race because we heard there was ice at the top of the hill. I’m convinced those tires helped us win that day.”
Winter tires are not “one size fits all.” There are a variety of snow and studded tires available.
There are national and regional rules on the use of studded tires. Visit your local Saab dealer for assistance on choosing the right type of winter tire.
Other winter driving tips:
1]Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
2]Carry food and water. Store a supply of snacks and several bottles of water.
3]Don’t forget to keep a shovel in your boot in case of snow
4]Have your car’s winter-condition checked at Saab dealer. They will verify:
Wipers and windshield washer fluid
Flashing hazard lights
Oil level and quality
If you are trapped in your car during a blizzard:
1]Stay in the car. Do not leave the car to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 meters.
2]Display a trouble sign.
3]Occasionally run engine to keep warm. Turn on the car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater when the car is running.
Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
Excellent info, thank you. Love the part about reindeer, seems comical 'cause we don't have them here.