Australia beaten in ice race
WE TRAVELLED, we slid … and we didn't quite conquer.
Australia's ice racing rematch with Russia late last week ended in defeat on a challenging course where adapting to the conditions involved a complete rethink of traditional racing techniques.
The team of six Australian journalists - Top Gear's James Stanford, Carsales Network's Mike Sinclair, Go Auto's Marton Pettendy, freelancers Michael Taylor and Glenn Butler, and yours truly - were not disgraced against the 12 Russians plucked from a broader field of 25.
But getting close to the fastest times - and impressive consistency - displayed by a handful of the Russian "pilots" (as they're referred to) wasn't quite enough to snatch the victory we'd hoped for.
The Russian rematch took place in the eastern Russian city of Ekaterinburg and was conceived as a sequel to the larger Swedish-based European ice racing contest that took place in 2011 in a 21-strong fleet of MX-5s during minus 20 degree temperatures.
As with the original Mazda Ice Race, the unique event was designed to take the world's most popular convertible out of its comfort zone while demonstrating its fun-to-drive appeal.
Top speeds were limited to about 90km/h and grip was almost non-existent on the frozen lake that was coated in solid ice.
Like many sequels, though, they don't always end up as good as the first - at least when it comes to the result.
While the fun factor was still there, Australia's result wasn't as good, failing to even finish on the podium.
Battling our way to third (having started in fourth) in the final event was a solid achievement. So was being only 10-or-so seconds behind the battling first and second-placed Russian teams.
Hopes of a fairy tale finished were dashed, though, when our car spun out with a lap remaining.
Still, the Australian teams - three drivers in each car - earned respect from the Russian pack, which was admittedly faster.