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?
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.