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Tuesday 24th January 2012


SKI JORING WITH BENTLEY

PH travels to Gstaad for the fine winter tradition of dicking about in snowy car parks, Bentley style


Hold on tightly. That's about all 16-time Ski Joring champion Franco Moro has to give in the way of advice. Useful, though nothing I couldn't really have worked out myself.

'Hold on,' says joring champ Franco (left)
'Hold on,' says joring champ Franco (left)
We're in a car park and I'm on skis. I'm about to try ski joring. You'd be forgiven if you've not heard of it, I hadn't, but basically it's skiing behind a horse. This being PistonHeads rather than DobbinHeads I've 575 horses pulling me instead of the more usual one. That's because I'm going to be hanging onto a Bentley Continental GT via some straps and a black sheet - which Franco assures me is for reducing spray. To me looks suspiciously like a body bag.

Too much of a good thing
What's the worst that could happen, anyway? Too much snow for a start, which explains the slushy, bumpy car park location rather than the ski joring track just up the road in the sport's home of Rougemont near Gstaad, Switzerland. Four-wheel drive and winter tyres don't help if you're up to your undersides in powder.

Preparing to say giddy up to 575 horses...
Preparing to say giddy up to 575 horses...
Franco demonstrates how it's done, hanging on as Bentley's official driving coaches Steve and Tim haul him around the course. The skis come courtesy of Bentley's official ski partner Zai, though they're not a pair of €7,500 Bentley Supersports editions. Instead we're using an old test pair of Zai's that director Patrick says they'll write-off afterwards. Honestly, this joring lark doesn't look that difficult, being a combination of conventional skiing and waterskiing - the biggest change coming from being pulled high rather than relying on gravity.

PH takes the reins
I'm up after Franco, and with a growing crowd my initial bravado isn't quite so obvious when I pick up the bar. The GT's rump is certainly more appealing than a horse's and usefully the brake lights going off and sound of the GT's W12 signal my off. Even on the bumpy slushy snow the GT's winter rubber bites convincingly, hauling me quickly up to what feels like silly speeds. It's not apparently, the speed trap - courtesy, with an officer to operate it, of Gstaad's police force - only registers about 38km/h.

Just watch out when you see the brake lights
Just watch out when you see the brake lights
There's not much room to get up more speed here, though the corners are where the fun is to be had. Holding on tightly - thanks for the tip Franco - and letting the tension in the 'reins' build it's possible to accelerate rapidly and wide of the GT, with weight and momentum seeing me hanging onto the back of the oversteering car. Amusingly I can help haul it back into line by crossing to the other side, heaven knows what the traction and stability computers think is going on. Tim mentions later how unusual it felt behind the wheel. I doubt if it felt as weird as it did hanging out the back...

Our kind of horsepower
We're limited by the car park, so instead head off into the hills around Gstaad for some more car and ski silliness. We find exactly that, trying some more joring, only this time a bit faster. Steve sees 70km/h, about 45mph, on the speedo. That's about the top speed of an average nag. Quick, but not frighteningly so. That's reserved for stopping, if you see the brake lights you're too late. I anticipate the end of the run by side slipping, then giving it all when the brakes lights come on. Still, a horse's arse doesn't have brake lights. Nor does it have the capacity to go much faster. Unlike the Bentley...

Asked in the bar later by Bentley's head of PR how fast I'd be happy to go I suggest as happy as he'd let his driver try. There's currently no speed record and I can see a plan hatching. If that happens Franco's advice might come in very handy indeed.






 

 

Author: Kyle Fortune