It’s a challenge that even the most talented of skiers are fearful to take but it was mastered by a driver in a Range Rover Sport. As part of a publicity stunt, Land Rover hired a man to drive the sports utility vehicle down a demanding mountain course as fast as possible. The whole thing was documented on video and we must say it’s quite impressive!
Inferno Race History
The course the driver tackled is located in the Swiss Alpine resort of Mürren, where the world’s longest downhill ski race called the Inferno takes place in January of each year. The race has been held in the village since 1928 and is even where the ski chase in the 1969 James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was shot. The ski race is so popular that participation has to be limited to 1,850 competitors each year. The Duchess of Cambridge’s sister, Pippa Middleton, even competed in the 2016 race.
Ben Collins Hired For The Challenge
Land Rover hired Ben Collins, formerly known as the “Stig” on the extremely popular British television show “Top Gear,” for the job. Behind the wheel, Collins conquered 9.2 miles of severe terrain with a 6,300-foot vertical descent. He tackled snow, ice, loose rock, mud, broken asphalt, grass and gravel. It was the first-ever production vehicle to attempt the ski run and Collins completed it in 21 minutes and 36 seconds. Impressive indeed!
Collins said he knew going into the challenge it wouldn’t be easy.
“There could only be one winner in the challenge - the mountain or the car. The key to the run was precision: being able to maintain speed and carry that speed down the hill in the way the skiers can do, carving through the turns,” said Collins.
Locals, including the president of the Kandahar Ski Club who has participated in 30 Inferno races, were shocked to hear Collins was attempting the stunt for Land Rover.
“The terrain is strewn with boulders; I would far rather race it on skis in winter than drive it in the summer,” said Cleeves Palmer.
Many doubted it could be done.
“I think with the car, [it’s] more dangerous than the ski and I don’t think a car can do that,” said Albert Feuz, who was crowned champion of the Inferno race in 1968 and 1969.
But Collins did! While he’s an experienced driver, he said the course pushed his skills to the absolute limit.
“This was genuinely one of the hardest tests I’ve faced in my driving career. The route was insane and certainly the toughest course I’ve ever completed. It challenged you with every kind of obstacle this side of molten lava and as conditions go, it was about as bad as it gets – torrential weather mixed with cliffs, trees, all kinds of stuff you don't really want to crash into,” said Collins.
How Collins Conquered The Course
Collins achieved the feat in a Range Rover Sport with a 5.0-liter supercharged V8 gas engine that produces 510 horsepower. The vehicle was modified only with the addition of a roll cage, seat harness and reinforced tires. He said he had to heavily rely on the SUV’s Terrain Response technology.
“The Range Rover Sport gave me so much help. I had to use the Terrain Response because the grass was like an ice rink and it really got me out of trouble. I believed in the car and it meant we could shed a lot of time over the runs. To be honest I abused it and it just kept on going - I couldn’t have asked for a better machine to do the job,” said Collins.
The Range Rover Sport’s Terrain Response technology features six modes that will adapt the vehicle’s settings to the appropriate surface. In Dynamic mode, for example, the company says the Anti-Roll Bar is stiffened to reduce body roll. The Grass/Gravel/Snow mode reduces under and over steer by engine braking and while in the Mud and Ruts mode, the rear differential is locked to allow controlled wheel slip for better traction. It definitely came in handy for Collins as at the start of the challenge and at the summit of the mountain, the temperature was 0 degrees. As a result, he immediately hit ice and sleet. While making his way down into the Kanonenrohr Valley, temperatures increased to 18 degrees and fog and rain became an issue as it reduced visibility. Slippery grass didn’t help, either.
Video Captures Challenge
The video Land Rover released of the feat is quite impressive. It gives you excellent views of the terrifying trail as it sets the scene and shows Collins preparing for the challenge. It then, of course, shows Collins taking the Inferno on by blasting out of the gate. A camera positioned inside Collins’ vehicle makes you feel like you’re in the Range Rover Sport with him. It’s terrifying to say the least! Watching it, it’s difficult to imagine how he was able to keep his composure as he sped down the mountain. At one point, he gives the vehicle some words of encouragement saying, “Come on baby!” It also shows locals in disbelief as they watch Collins navigate the grueling course. The video finishes with Collins saying, “That’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” He then gives the Range Rover Sport a loving tap.
Other Range Rover Sport Feats
The company says the challenge follows other impressive Range Rover Sport feats including its record-setting hill climb for a production SUV at Pikes Peak in 2013 and its record crossing of the “Empty Quarter” desert in the Arabian Peninsula in the same year.
It’s clear Land Rover is doing everything it can to market its Range Rover Sport and prove its capability. The company says the challenge proved the sports utility vehicle can deliver optimum power and speed even on the most demanding of racetracks. Of course, it takes a very special driver to be able to navigate a course like the Inferno safely and successfully. While Collins certainly possesses talents average consumers don’t, it’s hard to argue with the former “Stig” when he says he couldn’t have done it without the Range Rover Sport’s technology.