kilometer magazine

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km : Tech


12 January 2011

This story originally appeared on on January 4, 2008

Between the frozen asphalt, the slush cakes in our fenders, and the permanent salt spray on our paintwork, winter in a northern climate can be hell on earth for us driving enthusiasts. But what are we going to do about it — park our pristine sleds in the garage and take public transit for four turns of the calendar? Hell, no! We’re going to take advantage of these miserable conditions to hone some driving skills. And not just the same lame-ass handbrake stunts we’ve been pulling since high school. It’s time to learn some real car control. It’s time to step up and master the Scandinavian Flick.

Anyone who’s watched a special stage of a WRC rally has likely witnessed the Scandinavian Flick. Born of necessity on the snow-packed back roads of Norway and Sweden, the technique abandons the traditional dry-pavement racing line for one that looks at first like a colossal error in judgment, as the car careens sideways down the road at high speed well before the actual turn. When done correctly, however, it is often the only fast way through a corner when traction is at a minimum. It’s also the safest, doubling the driver’s steering options by turning the throttle into a second steering wheel.

At its heart the Scandinavian Flick is the same as doing a handbrake turn, only without actually using the handbrake. But mastering the technique requires more than mere physical skill. It demands the seamless merging of man and machine into one reactive unit. The Flick is in large part a mental exercise, demanding instantaneous calculations and corrections throughout the process.

What started out as a simple way to take snowy corners faster has evolved into an action-sports phenomenon. It’s the proper cornering technique — whether in the wet or on loose dirt — in rally racing. The world of competitive drifting has taken the Flick out of the snow and onto the asphalt in the form of the Manji drift. The same basic moves make up the “pendulum swing,” a Hollywood stunt-driving staple done on dry pavement at much lower speeds.

Fair Warning: We’d love to wholeheartedly endorse this technique for real-world driving, because if you live in an area that regularly sees snow and ice, The Flick has many speed and safety advantages. Unfortunately, law enforcement will likely view your newfound mastery as an act of hoonage. We’re not telling you to practice on the street, because that could be dangerous. If, however, you find a safe place to develop this new skill, who are we to discourage the rounding out of your driverly education?

The Maneuver (for a right-hand turn):

1. Set up the car in a straight line before the onset of the turn. The car should be just to the left of the road’s centerline, to allow room for the tail to swing out.

2. Flick the steering wheel just slightly in the opposite direction of your intended turn, in this case a faint snap to the left. This will shift the car’s load dramatically, and build up inertial momentum.

3. Quickly move the wheel back in the direction of your intended turn, to the right in this example. The sudden change in direction will upset the chassis just enough to cause the back end of the car to over-react, pointing you in the direction of the turn, or even a little bit past it. To heighten this effect, you can either lift the throttle or provide a bit of left-foot braking just after the initial, opposite-direction flick (Step 2).

4. Once the car starts to rotate, apply just enough countersteering to put the car on its final trajectory.

5. With the car on its new heading, apply enough throttle to pull you through the turn, gradually trimming back the car’s rotation as you pull through the apex of the curve.

6. Exhale, unpucker, and declare to the onlooking moose that you’re the king of the North Country.

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