Bentley isn't the only company that's been busy on the ice lately. Mazda just wrapped up a four-hour race in Åre, Sweden, that brought 20 MX-5 roadsters out on the open ice for a little fender-to-fender action.
Teams faced temperatures that dipped as low as -24 degrees Fahrenheit and stiff competition from racers from around the world. Spiked tires were standard equipment for all of the vehicles, though it's worth noting that the talent behind the wheel wasn't professional by any stretch of the imagination. Mazda invited fans and automotive journalists from a total of 26 countries to participate in the event.
While early on it looked as if a team from Australia would take home the checkered flag, a late-race spin allowed a Russian team to pull ahead and complete the most laps around the three-mile circuit within the four-hour time frame. Hit the jump to check out video from the event as well as the full press blast.
4 hour race for journalists, TV fans and readers
20 modified racing MX-5s set to start
Extensive programme with training sessions, qualifying and the race
Åre, Sweden, 21 February 2011. Mazda opens the 2011 motorsport season on Swedish ice. After the successful MX-5 Open Race last year, Mazda is inviting racing enthusiasts to Sweden for the MX-5 Ice Race from 21 to 24 February 2011. A total of 20 modified MX-5s, tuned for driving on ice and wearing spike tyres, will participate in the four-hour race on the ca. 5 km grid.
The MX-5s will be piloted by teams from 26 participating nations, among them motor journalists with racing experience, and TV fans and readers who won tickets to the event in special contests. The four-day event in Åre, Sweden will include two extensive training sessions, a qualifying session to determine pole and starting positions, along with the race itself which is divided into two sessions. When the snow settles, the team that drives the most laps during the four hour race will win.
Mazda MX-5 Ice Race provides exciting Finish
Lake Kallsjön, Sweden, 24 February 2011. Mazda's MX-5 roadster proved again yesterday its pure sports cars genes, this time on ice in Sweden at the Mazda Ice Race 2011. Clear blue skies and polar temperatures provided the right conditions for an exhilarating festival of drift and control as drivers from 26 nations competed in specially modified roadsters for a podium finish.
Day 1 – the Aussie's make it look easy
After Tuesday's practice sessions and qualifying, a clear favourite emerged with the Australian team, which dominated Day 1 and took pole position. They also won the hearts of everyone by wearing swimming trucks over their racing overalls – in honour of summer down under – and driving with a tiny kangaroo mascot fastened to the top of their car's safety cage. They made it look easy on Day 1 with their only real challenge coming from the Russian team, which took second on the grid.
Day 2 – Russian Heroics and Belgium Consistency
Race day featured beautiful blue skies, glistening snow and a morning temperature
of -31º C. This ensured ideal conditions on the ice of Lake Kallsjön, which is located in the Östersund region of west-central Sweden. The race itself was conducted in two sessions, each two hours long, with the car completing the most laps the winner. Like last year's MX-5 Open Race in Italy, it was drifting control and not pure speed that proved the decisive factor in the race. The Australians continued to dominate as they had on Day 1 and led for nearly the entire race. But then a small mistake, a spin-out, and Russia overtook them at the end, holding on for the chequered flag; with Australia second.
Russia's win followed some amazing heroics from the team. They began the race in second place but spun-out early, fell back to 14th, only to battle their way back to second by the end of the first session. They then patiently held this spot, hoping for a miracle, and were able to capitalise on Australia's misfortune at the end of the final session for a truly exciting win. The Belgium team displayed the consistently good driving you would expect from last year's MX-5 Open Race winners, coming from far back in the pack to take third. The unforgettable day out on the ice culminated with a Champagne spray on the podium from the three winning teams.
The Mazda Ice Race 2011 was crowned later that evening at a gala dinner and show for pilots, teams and invited guests who had won a Mazda competition in their home countries for a place at the event. Jeff Guyton, Mazda Motor Europe's President and CEO, gave a short speech and presented trophies to the tired but happy winners. This was followed by dinner and a celebration of MX-5 Ice Race memories lasting late into the night.