THE RANGE ROVER IS­SUE

There could only be one win­ner – the moun­tain or the car. In a dar­ing quest to show­case the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the Range Rover Sport, Land Rover pit­ted its star player against the fear­some In­ferno Mür­ren ski course in Switzer­land. Who got the bet­ter of whom?

Land Rover AFRICA Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - AN­TON PRE­TO­RIUS

Blaz­ing down In­ferno The sleepy vil­lages of Lauter­brun­nen and Mür­ren in the Ber­nese Alps might look like a typ­i­cal snow-cov­ered Swiss ski re­sort, but tow­er­ing 2 970m above the towns is the spine-chill­ing Schilthorn moun­tain that has claimed the lives of many brave skiers and Alpine-style climbers in years gone by. With slopes at an ex­treme 75 per cent gra­di­ent, Schilthorn plays home to a hellish racing spec­ta­cle named the In­ferno Mür­ren – the largest am­a­teur ski­ing race in the world. Every year, 1 800 skiers from more than 20 coun­tries sum­mit the moun­tain, only to race down its di­a­bolic 14.9km ski course rid­dled with black ice, sharp rocks and chal­leng­ing to­pog­ra­phy. Back in 1928, a group of Brits and mem­bers of the Kan­da­har Ski Club climbed up Schilthorn and raced down to Lauter­brun­nen – more than 2 100 ver­ti­cal me­tres be­low – cre­at­ing the world’s cra­zi­est ski race, which they fit­tingly called the In­ferno. Even to­day, the race is dev­il­ishly chal­leng­ing. Ex­pe­ri­enced skiers com­plete the In­ferno Mür­ren at an av­er­age of 40 min­utes, nav­i­gat­ing down in­sane rock-lined gun bar­rels, 180-de­gree bends and frozen for­est paths. The course de­mands su­pe­rior down­hill turn­ing tech­niques, op­ti­mal lines and a lot of men­tal stamina. In his book, The Kan­da­har Story, the fa­ther of Alpine ski racing, Sir Arnold Lunn, wrote: “The In­ferno re­mains the only im­por­tant Alpine race that is a real test of Alpine ski­ing, for though there is usu­ally a piste down to Mür­ren, the rest of the race to Lauter­brun­nen is al­most al­ways run on nat­u­ral snow.”

there were no walls to hold me in, and if i made a mis­take, i was likely to go over the cliff­side.

Range Rover Sport – king of the down­hill

In the lat­est episode in Land Rover’s se­ries of Driven Chal­lenges, the au­tomaker is­sued a new challenge to the Range Rover Sport – to mas­ter the down­hill alpine ski course in record time.

The challenge fol­lowed other no­table Range Rover Sport feats, in­clud­ing its record­set­ting hill­climb at Pikes Peak and cross­ing the ‘Empty Quar­ter’ desert in the Ara­bian Penin­sula in 2013. These global driv­ing chal­lenges were aimed at push­ing the Range Rover Sport to new lim­its and show­cas­ing the un­sur­passed, rugged ca­pa­bil­i­ties of this lux­ury SUV.

For the challenge, the Range Rover Sport, with Bri­tish racer and pro­fes­sional stunt driver Ben Collins at the helm (fa­mous for his role as The Stig on BBC’s Top Gear), was to follow the same route used by skiers on In­ferno Mür­ren.

Nav­i­gat­ing across snow, ice, loose rock, mud, bro­ken as­phalt, grass and gravel, Ben was in­structed to push the Range Rover Sport to the limit through hair­pin bends, fac­ing dan­ger­ous drop-offs and slip­pery sur­faces along the way.

Ben man­aged to set a new record in the su­per SUV, com­plet­ing the course in 21 min­utes and 36 sec­onds, be­com­ing the first pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cle to have at­tempted and con­quered the ski run.

The treach­er­ous yet beau­ti­ful moun­tain course put the car’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties to the test with ice and sleet at the top, where Ben reached speeds of 120km/h, and fog and wet grass at the bot­tom, where he hit 155km/h.

Dur­ing the de­scent, the Range Rover Sport tack­led per­ilous gra­di­ents of up to 75 per cent – steeper than many black runs at fa­mous ski re­sorts such as Cha­monix-Mont-Blanc – in freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. Apart from the es­sen­tial safety ad­di­tions of a roll cage and re­in­forced tyres, the feat was achieved in a stock stan­dard 2017 Range Rover Sport with a 510PS 5-litre su­per­charged V8 petrol en­gine.

Land Rover’s pi­o­neer­ing Ter­rain Re­sponse tech­nol­ogy fea­tures six modes that will adapt the ve­hi­cle’s set­tings to the ap­pro­pri­ate sur­face. For ex­am­ple, in Dy­namic mode the anti-roll bar is stiff­ened to re­duce body roll, the Grass/Gravel/Snow mode re­duces un­der- and over­steer by en­gine brak­ing, while in Mud and Ruts the rear dif­fer­en­tial is locked to al­low con­trolled wheel slip for bet­ter traction.

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