December 19, 2013

Finns know how to drive on ice

Finnish driving academies offer tailored driving programmes that don’t leave anyone cold.
Finnish driving academies offer tailored driving programmes that don’t leave anyone cold.
uha Kankkunen Driving Academy

Each year, winter puts Finns’ driving skills to the test. And at the same time, foreigners are surprised that you can drive a car on a frozen lake in below 30 degree weather. No wonder ice circuits are attracting so many drivers. Because winter driving is just another case of practice makes perfect.

The Juha Kankkunen Driving Academy, bearing the name of the four-time rally world champion, offers training in driving fast and on slippery terrain in safe conditions. The Kuusamo area offers a selection of ice circuits combined with breath-taking scenery and incredible experiences.

“When we drive, in freezing cold weather, onto the ice on a 10-tonne tractor, many people consider the experience a unique one according to the feedback we’ve received,” says operative director at the driving academy Olli Kettunen and smiles.

Emergency evasive manoeuvres

The most popular product is the fast driving course that is tailored to meet the needs of individual drivers. For some, clean driving and learning the “power slide” are important, for others it is the use of a car’s modern safety equipment in extreme conditions.

“We also provide training for companies and people who drive a lot in their work,” Kettunen says. “We go into how the car’s ESP system works, how to carry out emergency evasive manoeuvres and how the car functions without safety equipment, all at high speeds.”

“Practicing driving is individualised to match the customer’s level of knowledge and skills,” Kettunen continues. “Our customers also include race-car drivers and people aiming at a career in racing, who come to brush up their skills and learn something new.”

Riding with professionals

One of the driving academy’s fastest programmes is “Rally Taxi” where the customer gets to act as co-driver to Juha Kankkunen himself along a narrow frozen stretch of road.

“The trees along the beautiful wintery road become a blur, as you whizz by exciting crossings and the speedometer exceeds 200 kilometres per hour,” Kettunen describes the experience.

Drivers from all over the world arrive in Kuusamo to train in extreme conditions. Its location in guaranteed cold conditions and its excellent circuits have also piqued the interest of automobile manufacturers. For example, Bentley, the British car manufacturer, invites its customers to practice winter driving in Finnish Lapland.

So how good are Finns at driving in winter?

“Better than average because, here, winter arrives each year,” Kettunen says. “Foreign customers are happy to drive around in a circle for three hours, but Finns want to move on to the next activity after just 10 minutes.”

Text by: Sari Okko


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