Sideways in Sweden: 48 hours in Åre

A couple weeks ago I got a call from the guys at Toyota UK asking for my passport details and a copy of my drivers license. The last time they asked for those I ended up in Barcelona hooning around in the Yaris GRMN and GT86 on track. I was told that sunburn may be on the table but definitely no beaches – we’ll be going ice drifting in Sweden!

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With my thermals and camera packed, I made my way to Heathrow in the early hours of the morning. Our journey consisted of a 2 hour flight to Stockholm-Arlanda, an hours flight to Åre-Östersund and finally an hours Taxi journey through some of the most picturesque snow covered countryside I’ve ever seen.

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When we reached our final destination, we were greeted by a familiar sight – A fleet of Yaris GRMN’s. Now this trip wasn’t about testing the cars on snow so you can find my full thoughts on the Yaris GRMN here when we tested it on track and on the streets of Barcelona.

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After making ourselves acquainted with the GRMN’s, we took to the ice and were told a few things by our instructor Nic before we were let loose. Most of it was general safety chatter (seatbelt and steering position etc.) but most importantly was how hard the snow banks are – these aren’t as soft as you’d think. We were then given a breaking activity where we had to dodge moose, although these moose looked like plastic poles to us but who knows. Anyway, we all managed to make it out the other side alive and in one piece – although some of the others may have had a friendly from Nic that the snow banks are a lot harder than they look and that breaking distances are significantly increased on ice.

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After the boring safety bit was done, a three post slalom course was set up for us with a signature Tesco carpark handbrake turn into a parking space hero finish. We were told to utilise our handbrake turn skills to navigate around the course and get a feel for the car. We then proceeded to do rounds of this track all whilst channelling our inner yob, the sound of the cars pinging off the rev limiters filled the air whilst we all were ripping handbrakes and trying to get some crazy angles out of these little GRMN’s. It was then time to say farewell to the Yaris’s as the sun started to set.

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Now I know that the trip was about the Yaris GRMN and GT86 but I’d be doing this trip injustice if I failed to mention the scenery. Åre is truly one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I’ve ever been to.

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Anyway, moving on to the next morning we woke up bright and early and headed down to the lake where a group of GT86’s were awaiting our arrival. Our day was basically going to consist of the basics, going around in circles, learning how to catch a slide and controlling the car mid slide and then moving on to a series of varying circuits. Bearing in mind that the closest thing I’ve done to ice drifting was ripping the handbrake and going around frozen roundabouts at 3am in the morning a couple weeks ago, the idea of going around ice circuits and doing transitions in a rear wheel drive GT86 was daunting to say the least. Once I got a hang of catching the slides I got more confident with the car and even did some transitions – I even ended up tandem’ing with some of the other guys! Once the day was up it was time to head back home via Stockholm.

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Toyota really outdid themselves with their Ice Drive event, the setting, hotel and whole two days was truly unforgettable and honestly one of the most fun experiences I’ve had. The GT86 is a tonne of fun on the road but I think I appreciated it the most going sideways, likewise for the little Yaris GRMN too. Obviously not the ideal conditions for both cars but I think that was obviously part of the appeal. Big thanks to Toyota UK for organising such an awesome trip, until next time.

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