Passion For The Ice: in Episode 1 we hear from Andy McKenna the founder of Ice Driver and father to British champion racing driver...
Hi all, this is the first episode of a new mini-series on the WatchGecko Mag in the coming weeks. Here we will explore the world of Ice Driver through the words of Andy McKenna. Andy is the father of Scott McKenna (you all know who he is) and has some incredible stories from his career in the motorsports industry. He also runs Ice Driver out of Norway. Anyway, I’ll let Andy take it from here… Tim @ WatchGecko
Ice Driver has always been about family and our shared passion for racing. I suppose the journey really began back in Northern Ireland when I was instructing at a rally school. This was where I met my wife Alison - 11 years later Ice Driver was officially born.
As a racing driver by trade, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to hear I spent my formative years growing up around rally drivers and racing drivers with friends that competed in both disciplines. Once I was old enough to compete I began circuit racing. The wheel to wheel combat and that continuous search for that perfect lap time was intoxicating.
Through ruthless commitment and determination, I was semi-professional by the time I was 21. That same year I started working at the Jim Russell Race School at Donington Circuit, alongside that (and much closer to the beloved north of the UK) the Chris Birkbeck Rally School in North Yorkshire - where I now live with my family.
One of the biggest nuances between rally school and circuit racing is car control. The amount required (even at slow speeds) is noticeably different to lapping a circuit with breaking cones and turning cones. This was something I learnt early on and has stayed with me ever since. This eventually become a vital aspect of Ice Driver.
The Birth of Ice Driver - 2006
When I first had the idea for Ice Driver, the principles of driving on frozen lakes were nothing new in Scandinavia. However the domain was dominated by rally drivers (with the occasional rally school thrown in for good measure). I wanted to join the dots between a race school and a rally school, something that at the time wasn’t available. When researching online most, if not all Scandinavian ice tracks were made quite narrow with lots of hairpins for handbrake turns, but nothing that really resembled a race track on ice.
My idea was to make tracks as wide as a race track with a combination of fast-flowing corners, medium speed, corners that opened and tightened with straights long enough to get up the gears.
As I just mentioned all the existing schools were rally schools so coming in with my racing driver's perspective was unique and different. A tricky thing in a very much rally drivers, fans and enthusiasts world. We wanted to offer anyone the opportunity to experience something completely unique.
It didn’t matter if you were from a racing background, rallying background or you were a driving enthusiast who attended the occasional track day, everyone would be (and still is) welcome. Ice Driver was born.
How does Ice Driver work?
We believe driving is a skill that can always be improved upon with endless new ideas to discover. You never stop learning. Each person who attends Ice Driver is treated very much as an individual with tuition tailored to their personal needs. We understand that everyone has different amounts of experience and ability with different objectives they want to achieve with us.
It doesn’t matter if they are an experienced racing driver of 30 years, a three-time world champion, a worried parent of a 17 year old with a brand new driving license who is dreading that first winter on UK roads or even an 84 year old lady who really wants to tick ice-driving off their list (yes this has happened!). Everybody gets something from spending time at Ice Driver.
Simply put, driving on a frozen lake is an experience like no other.
Whether you are looking at it from a driver development perspective and looking for the last few tenths in a lap or you’re someone who just simply loves driving and wants to feel a car sliding around underneath them, the sense of reward when you get it right is like nothing else. With 30 years of experience in motorsports both from the driver’s seat and from the passenger seat, I can comfortably say ice-driving is incredibly unique.
What to expect from an Ice Driver experience.
From the minute you pick up the phone or send us an email the seamless personalised Ice Driver experience begins. We help and offer advice to you with travel arrangements and logistics whether that be flights, trains, hire cars, hotel accommodation and any extra winter activities you’re interested in while in Norway. My wife Alison is the mastermind behind the planning of your trip and will be your go-to Ice Driver member ensuring you arrive in Norway ready to race.
One of the things that has changed over the last 30 years is the race school industry. When I started at the Jim Russell race school the number of guests we had per driver coach throughout the day was relatively small compared to the driving experiences some of you may have had in recent years. When we started Ice Driver I was determined to make sure that people received:
- Value for money
- Physically seat time in our cars
- A high level of coaching that goes far beyond “brake, turn, power”
The feeling of satisfaction I get from my side of the car when one of our guests starts to string that perfect lap together and see the smile on their face is addictive. It drives us to constantly deliver.
When you arrive with us in Norway you will be staying with our fabulous partner hotel, Vestlia Resort situated in the heart of the ski town Geilo. With its ski in ski out facilities, incredible cuisine and wonderful atmosphere, Vestlia truly has something for everyone.
One of my pet peeves with purchasing experiences online is there are so many hidden costs not apparent when first discovered. This is why with Ice Driver our all-inclusive packages are just that. Outside of your flights and your bar tab, Here at Ice Driver we will sort everything out for you so you can focus on the ice driving.
A family of Ice Drivers
My wife and I have two children, Scott (18 years old) and Ben (15 years old). From the age of 8 for Scott and 6 for Ben, they have been behind the wheel of one of the Ice Driver cars on a frozen lake every winter with me. In my opinion, there is no better place to learn the art of car control and how to drive a car on the limit, we have living proof of this with Scott winning the Ginetta GT5 Championship in 2019.
In February 2019, Scott worked as a full-time driver coach at Ice Driver sharing his knowledge and skills that he had learnt over the previous ten years. My youngest son Ben has been doing passenger rides for our guests since he was 12 years old and the look on their faces is priceless, Ben, like his brother is very naturally gifted and blessed with amazing car control and feel for a car.
Stay tuned to this mini-series as we will have more from Ice Driver and Andy McKenna in the coming days...