Several degrees below zero and heavy snowfall await us in Seefeld on this winter day as if to underline that the adventure we are about to embark on really is not for the faint of heart. For the sun worshippers and the fair-weather friends. But they are just the perfect conditions for what we came for: Audi driving experience. "That's some nice weather you chose for today," says driving instructor Ludwig Fetz as he greets us on the parking lot in front of the Bodenalm hut, and it is unclear whether he is being sarcastic or serious.
An icy surface of about 0.6 miles stretches before us, flanked by six-foot snow walls on both sides. Fetz, originally a trained car mechanic, has worked as an Audi driving instructor in Austria, Sweden and Finland for over 30 years. Naturally, making sure that both driver and car are safe is his main priority. But of course he also knows that we are here "to have some fun."
But before we head out on the ice it's time for some theory. Fetz demonstrates the perfect seating position, explains what under- and oversteering mean and addresses potential mistakes in hazardous situations. One of the most common is poor observation. "When in sudden danger, most people look at the obstacle in front of them instead of looking for a way around it." While Fetz gives us all the details about the exercises that await us, red and black Audis are drifting over the icy surface behind us. The best is yet to come! But for now, we strive to take in all information most carefully because, after all, "a car is only as good as its driver." And then it's time to put it all into practice. We roll out onto the ice, following the route through orange traffic cones.
Our first braking manoeuvres are rather tentative; the lane changings, well, mostly embarrassing. "Steer softer! Brake earlier!" Our instructor requests our utmost attention, giving very precise instructions. The studded tires of our Audi A8 trenching into the icy underground, we slowly but surely gain some confidence, and a few rounds later, we manage to master the course without touching even a single cone. Clearly happy with our performance, Fetz calls a coffee break.
As we warm our hands on our coffee mugs, everyone talks animatedly about what we just experienced. There are Italians, Australians, Germans and even a couple from Argentina. Most are tourists who came to Seefeld for the many things you can do around here. Cross-country and Alpine skiing, snow-shoe hiking, for example, and, yes, "drifting on snow. We wanted to see what that feels like," the young man from Buenos Aires tells us. Every now and then, the noise of the instructors' walkie-talkies can be heard in the background. Commandos are given, confirmed and repeated. Safety is the absolute priority around here. Still it can happen that "somebody ends up in one of the snow walls," Fetz says and adds, "But better here than later, out on the road!"
And then we go about our last exercise: drifting. Drifting means making the Audi S5 skid by controlled acceleration and subsequent steering. A quick demonstration by our instructor, who drifts around the cones like it's a walk in the park, and then it's our turn. We start very carefully, then, fuelled by an increasing amount of confidence and excitement, we start to get the hang of navigating around those cones.
Later that day, back on the main road, we realise that this day with Audi Driving Experience will stick in our minds for at least two reasons. First, it is simply fascinating and wildly entertaining to experience the technical sophistication of these cars first-hand. And secondly, it is absolutely eye-opening to learn about all the safety-related aspects of driving. When you are driving at 50 km/h (or 31 mph), for example, a reaction time of about half a second leads to a loss of about 7 metres (or yards) until the brakes start to take effect. "It is this exact reaction time we are striving to minimise," Ludwig Fetz explains. "Only if you are able to assess a situation quickly and early on, and only when you have experienced and tackled that feeling of losing control before, you are in a position to react faster, more controlled and thereby more effectively."
March 9, 2018