Feb 27, 2018
By Barrett Lanier
Having the opportunity to participate in the Audi Ice Driving Experience with the Audi Club of North America was both an honor and a privilege. The memories created and the moments shared with fellow Audi enthusiasts will truly last a lifetime. The Ice Driving Experience is an opportunity to experience the sportiness and dynamism of Audi’s quattro drivetrain at its purest, in a controlled environment with professional instruction in a beautiful winter backdrop.
The trip started in Munich, Germany where all of the participants met at the hotel for a meet and greet and welcome dinner. The room was buzzing with the excitement of what was to come. The handful of folks who completed the Experience previously told stories of the fun they had, and others shared their travel experiences. Nearly every region was represented with my girlfriend and I, along with a couple from Dallas representing the Lone Star Chapter.
While in Germany our first stop was Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt where we followed the assembly process of the A3 during a factory tour. We got to see firsthand the extensive assembly process that utilizes robotics, computer analysis, and the personal touch of Audi’s assembly team to take a batch of raw materials and parts and turn them into a first class automobile. I was most impressed with the extensive quality control measures that are involved in even the smallest of details. Everything from the timing on the assembly line, panel fitment, torque spec of every nut and bolt on the car, condition of raw materials, and caliber of third party supplied parts are thoroughly analyzed and inspected throughout the assembly process to ensure the end product is up to Audi’s impeccable standards.
After the tour we took a short bus ride to the Audi Driving Experience Center in Neuburg. Here we were copilot with the Audi Sport drivers, Yannik Dillen, Marco Werner, and Wilfred Wiedner, on hot laps in track prepped R8 V10+. After lunch we were able to gawk at the RS4, RS5, RS6 Performance, and latest A8 in the showroom, and hear presentations from Thomas Frank, Managing Director of Auto Union GmbH, Simon Meimer, Liaison for Audi Clubs worldwide, and Klaus Demel, Head of Audi Driving Experience regarding Audi’s secret project that is nothing short of electrifying, as well as the direction of the Clubs and the Audi brand. Once our food was settled we had an instructional demonstration on how to safely escape from a car after a rollover accident.
The following morning we hopped on a bus and made our way to Krumers Alpine Ski Resort in Seefeld, Austria to begin the instructional portion of the Experience on the ice course. The training began with a classroom session on the proper driving position, basic car control, weight transfer, and how it all pertains to the quattro drivetrain. Once we had the basics out of the way we were off to the ice course to begin acceleration, braking, oversteer, and understeer exercises on ice. It was a great way to get familiar with the S5 Sportbacks we drove for the duration of the trip, and to become comfortable on the ice. The same afternoon a few road safety exercises were performed which included emergency lane changes at highway speeds as well as ABS braking.
Day two is when the real fun began with instruction on how to power slide and the beginning phases of mastering drifting. After the initial anxiety of sliding on ice passed everyone was smiling ear to ear. Being a fan of road course events and track days the idea of wheel spin and sliding to retain control seemed counter intuitive. However, with the helpful and patient coaching from our Audi Sport instructors it became second nature. Using quattro to our advantage, we were able to slide around the corners with the precision of a ballerina by the end of the day.
Day three was my favorite, as it was a culmination of the skills training. Rather than each driver tackling a single exercise at a time, we were allowed to put it all together during three lap sessions on an ice road course. High-speed stability and car control, drifting, power slides, and heavy braking were all tested during the final timed session. The competitive nature came out in everyone, with each driver and copilot pairing secretly discussing the ideal racing line and braking points. I am proud to say I came in 9th out of 30, not bad considering this was my first time driving on ice and in the snow!
Overall the Experience was exhilarating, well-orchestrated, and informative. I feel I am now a better and more confident driver in all driving conditions after completing the Experience. I was able to make both personal friendships and professional connections that will last for years to come, along with memories that will last a lifetime. I recommend anyone with a passion for driving, Audi, or both to participate!