Ah, Gatebil. Scandinavia’s most awesome of events, and something that doesn’t wait for the thaw before coming out to play again. Whereas most other cars in Europe are still tucked up in warm garages, awaiting fairer weather and final touches, come the end of January Norway’s craziest drivers are already on the road to a frozen lake at Hebbes, near the small town of Sigdal.
Oh, and they’re joined by the Swedes and an increasing number of other nationalities besides. After all, given the option of sitting around in the cold or getting crazy out on the ice, what would you choose?
Scandinavia’s best kept secret isn’t quite so secret any more, it has to be said…
Gatebil On Ice has been going for a good number of years now, and 2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the first track event back in 1993. As is now usual, the Gatebil season kicks off with this icy foray into central Norway before heading to Våler at the end of May, Mantorp in Sweden in June, the big Summer event at Rudskogen in mid-July and then finally the closing round again at Rudskogen in September.
Entering the site means going through a snow-bound graveyard of ‘projects’, possessions of the owner of the lake upon which the madness is unleashed. Gatebils put on ice?
Our own Fredric Aasbø had been hard at work at the KRB dyno the previous evening, toughening up the 86-X even further. The billet Comp turbo meant more power..
…which is always something to put a smile on Fredric’s face.
The Toyota was rocking a very different look to its regular tarmac configuration, with control and traction on the slippery surface the goal. Narrow Pirelli WRC studded tyres were fitted all round, with the wide-track fronts with slight camber a counterpoint to the narrow rear track, keeping the rear wheels well in-board to maximise stability.
Because this is Gatebil, there was the usual eclectic range of cars on offer. Everyone welcome, everyone out side-by-side for pure enjoyment.
The four-wheel-drive brigade were obviously going to see an advantage out on the lake…
…with an Evo the ideal weapon. But as ever, Gatebil is about options.
Whereas the black MkIV stuck to winter tyres (with predictable, spectacular results), the Precon Extreme Ice car went for full BFG studded rubber. Those tyres make a massive difference, delivering a huge amount of grip.
But in general the type of cars on show weren’t really that different from any other typical Gatebil event. So, turbocharged and stupid fast.
Even this missile car Scorpio was skittering about, and looking unfeasibly fast out on the ice. Whatever was within the butchered remains of the Scorpio’s nose was definitely not stock…
Fredric was joined by several other Gatebil glitterati…
Kenneth Alms brought out his Star Destroyer of an A4…
Kenneth Moen showed off his newly-wrapped Supra…
And Black Smoke Racing were there in spirit through this homage to their diesel insanity – this Mercedes wagon had been built as a tribute to the BSR TD and was literally tearing up the ice.
The temperature had actually risen slightly, to a virtually Caribbean minus six. It’s funny how the locals talk about temperate with the automatic assumption that the figure is minus, as it’s always cold! I felt well prepared for the day – the only bad thing was that the clouds were low, making visibility a problem from time to time…
…and the occasional flurry of snow recoated the track every so often, though that only added to the great flurries thrown up on each pass.
Three configurations had been carved out of the snow, with one winding short track for the majority of entrants to blast round…
…a second long loop that measured over three kilometres and a final unused layout which wound its way between the other two, making the perfect place for the photographers to navigate between layouts in safety.
Small trees had been planted to mark the apexes of certain corners on the long track and give drivers a fighting chance of making out the turns.
Japanese cars were strong in numbers of course, but the BMWs and Volvos were also out in force, backed up by the odd interloper.
The rare sight of an Alfa was back for Gatebil On Ice. This turbocharged GTV6 was very badly damaged last September at Rudskogen, with the front completely destroyed. The team have obviously been hard at work, and the flat black bodywork made the Alfa look even meaner as it fired around the long course.
But the diesel Mercedes was the star of the morning. It was impossible to miss, with great spumes of acrid diesel smoke sitting on top of the avalanche of snow it threw up at every turn.
It was captivating to watch, and driven with panache and style in abundance.
But then, everything out on track was being put to impressive use. Half the time I was content just to stand there and watch the action going on around me.
Spinning at some stage was pretty much a given in these conditions and with the amount people were pushing…
…and cars rotated on a regular basis as the grip ran out and the ice took effect.
The smoother the power delivery the better things would be. Seeing a car coming round a corner to find a stationary spinner was always alarming to watch.
But that diesel Mercedes just kept pounding round, the howl of its turbodiesel spooling up under acceleration the prelude to yet more of the black stuff. Magic.
As the track closed up temporarily for the snøsprøyten (snow-slide) competitions, I had a chance to take a step back and soak up the environment. It was all too easy to forget that we were on a frozen lake of questionable ice depth.
But three things reminded me rather quickly. First was this view from the southern end of the lake, where the ice was wafer thin in places and non existent in others, just 50 feet from the track!
Second was going over on the ice as I walked across one of the ploughed tracks, with a fractional covering of snow moving aside to reveal the lethally slippery surface. Fantastically, I’d chosen just opposite the pit to fall over, which elicited a cheer louder than for some of the passing cars. I’d left my mark on the Gatebil ice in more ways than one.
The final and most worrying moment was near the far end of the track – as I was shooting I heard the most ominous and deep bass creaking sound from below me. Run? Lie down? Jump for it? Start crying?! It was just the ice moving around, but it was still not a pleasant moment.
The snow ploughs went round as fast as the drifters, if not faster, preceded by the grinding sound coming from the ploughs out front…
Out on track the action resumed, with even some little tandems getting going.
It was fun watching the reaction of the passengers as much as the cars themselves. It can be a lot more worrying when you’re not the one behind the wheel!
It just looked fantastic fun out on the ice. Sometimes it can be a pain to be stuck behind a lens all day…
318 compacts are a cheap way to enter into all kinds of racing, with packed grids across Europe – and Gatebil was no different. They’re not necessarily the most attractive of Bavaria’s finest, but they’re a simple and effective platform to work with.
Whilst the drivers were enjoying themselves on the lake tracks, Norwegian rally driver Anders Grøndal was firing his Subaru Impreza STi around the perimeter track – he was fresh from competing on a national rally in the same area.
By lunchtime the paddock was alive with spectators, and cars entering and leaving the lake.
Even Fredrik Sørli’s Cressida was present, and despite the completely different – and harsher – conditions from the last time I saw him was absolutely not content to just sit in the paddock…
So every so often the Cressida was thrashed around the lake, throwing up huge gobs of snow as it power-drifted around the long final turn.
Fredric was also on fine form, with the 86-X sounding fantastic – mostly… He came a fine third in the Snøsprøyten competition, behind Kenneth Moen’s Supra and Stian Pedersen’s E36 BMW.
Kenneth Alm was his usual crazy self, setting up turns miles ahead of each apex and throwing the Audi in at ridiculous angles…
…that didn’t always stick!
Still, that just made for more entertainment…
…as the Audi lazily rotated in a cloud of snow.
Finally emerging from the snow storm, Kenneth just mashed the throttle and set off again! Oppan Gatebil style.
The Alm’s BMW was also tracking round, emulating the A4 for angles…
…though it did take a bite too far out of one apex, beaching the Bimmer on the snow bank and necessitating a tow out from one of the recovery vehicles.
Several other Audis were also howling around the ice: they’re a popular choice it would seem.
Some old school classics also emerged in the afternoon, with this 911 looking particularly impressive. Its owner was later partially responsible for the enormous hangover I had on Sunday… Ouch.
A dayglo Integrale continued the classic theme.
The Gatebil M5 taxis did a brisk trade all day. South of the lake? This time of night? You must be joking mate.
By this stage anything and everything was being thrown at the ice.
…and the snow was beginning to seriously build up off-line.
Our good friend and official Gatebil snapper Camilla Tofterå had warned me that it was best to get to work early out on the ice, as the casualties tend to build up by early afternoon. She was not wrong!
Most could be recovered by the quick deployment of one of the recovery vehicles…
Though often once one car went round a whole lot more followed in sympathy!
Although most offs resulted in harmless spins into the surrounding banks, if you caught the snow at the wrong angle then a whole lot of non-fun could result…
But all this kept the hardy local fans entertained!
Kenneth’s time on the ice was also coming to a close though: a blown turbo brought his day to a premature end.
Another disappointed driver was Fredric himself: coolant had accidentally been mixed with fuel, causing a serious misfire on the car and forcing Fredric to pull the 86-X out. He at least won the Gatebil jury’s prize as their favourite car of the day.
The snow came down harder in the mid afternoon, making visibility on the further extremes of the track by the trees very poor…
…which meant that often the photographers would be getting picture of a whole lot of snow! So much for drifting on ice not having the problem of too much tyre smoke.
With Fredric’s day done, we had to tear ourselves away from the track early to prepare for the evening, but Gatebil On Ice was another unforgettable event. Drifting will never be the same again.
Found a video on jalopnik, not sure if this is the same event, but the "Shell Audi" was in it. Should at least be similar shenanigans:
I love Kenneth Alm's B5 A4! As a B5 A4 owner it inspires me!! I have to get to gatebill someday.
FunctionFirst Not that can be told to a family audience. And death to social media! The last thing you need is a visual reminder the next day... ;)
It was a hell of a afterparty in a local garage, Gatebil style.. then you don't need any info, photo or stories. You just have to come to Gatebil, then you know it all ;) It's like Vegas... what happends on Gatebil, stays on Gatebil.
Any chance of the pulsar photo being made into a background sized? Good to see them being used as they're getting rare nowadays!
Excellent photos and coverage as usual, gatebil is on my must visit list of places.
Jonathan Moore Thank you, much appreciated :) I own one myself (Technically I've had 4 of them.. but only one & a half now) so seeing one on here is always a huge bonus for me.
PerTurboBackeSunny's were the UK & European Models, but Pulsar was the Japanese (& Australian I believe) ones. Hard to tell which one it actually is, assumed it was a Pulsar because as far as I know there were only 57 Sunny GTiR's made and I think a lot of them have now been broken up for parts
Awesome article, always fun to see what fellow photographers come up with :) Just to point out - That MB diesel is not from Black Smoke Racing, its a Norwegian guy that said he has been inspired by Black Smoke Racing. Just to get that fact right. But this is a really good article :)
CarlChristianBronken Ah! I'll correct that – thanks for pointing it out! It is just as awesome. Thanks Carl. :)
Jonathan Moore CarlChristianBronken No problem at all, I also thought it may of been some new project from Blacksmoke Racing :) But I heard the speaker say it wasnt :P
CarlChristianBronken Jonathan Moore
It's correct Carl, he's a fan of Teemu yes, and have done some of the same mods on his car that Teemu did on his MB Diesel. Success I say!
Jonathan Moore Sad that we didn't manage to make you visit the IMSA prosject I mailed you about.
PerTurboBacke Ah yes - we'll have to get that scheduled beforehand, the next time we're over. Drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org :)
Just awesome! Wish I could have gone with my white C32 Laurel :D But too far to drive across the country with a car not working right.
Thanks Camilla! It was lovely to catch up. I look so moody in that picture - it must have been the cold... ;)
LouisYio Well the ice is messured daily and when it hits a certain thickness - they cancel all events on the ice. It is very safe :) And also Sigdal is a very very cold place in the bottom of a mountain valley area.
It may only snow about once a year here, but every time I can't resist dicking around with my Miata on summer tires. Getting a McDrive is already a damn adventure, I can't imagine how fun it must be on a frozen lake.