Iveco on the rocks

by | Oct 19, 2020 | Diaries, Europe, Norway

It’s only 19 October and here is the first snow. In Lapland of course. 

We spent two days at Hetta, the last village in Finland, before entering in Norway. We were nicely accommodated at a parking lot downtown with 220V outlets. Yesterday we crossed the border on the trickiest route since we departed for North Cape. Pretty dangerous as well. 

After the first snowfall of the winter season two days ago, the Lapland landscape immediately turned white and will remain is it is till next May. Northern Finland is the coldest area so snowplows have already begun working hard, fast and efficiently. But considering the amount of snow during winter, roads remain white but maintained to be drivable for any car fitted with winter tyres, which are specifically manufactured to provide better grip on winter conditions. 

Our Iveco is not fitted with such tyres so yesterday we spent 3 hours for 80 kilometres as we had a 25-35 average speed. Why? Because the road was icy in most sections. It was a crystal clear ice, so slippery you could hardly walk, especially on the 400 mts. high plateau close to the border. 

Approaching Kautokeino we could speed up to 40-45 km/h because the ice got more dry. As you realise, in such road conditions our average speed is expected to get drammatically lower, from 50-55 km/h to 30. 

Tyres now is our major problem. We are barely legal with our Michelin XZL but safety is more concerning. We had asked in Rovaniemi whether we could find a set of winter tyres but they are not available in 255/100-16 size. So we are in trouble as far as grip concerns. 

I had a fancy idea all these days: to fit our tyres with after market spikes. It was a good idea and we found this product but our tyres have not the right thread to be fitted. 

So, what did we do in our first snow driving? We deflated the tyres from 58-60 psi (4 bar) to 40 psi (2,8 bar) to get more grip while driving at low speeds. Low pressure increases the tyre’s surface and subsequently road grip.  

Another problem is that with temperatures around 0C, ice is like crystal on the road. As soon as temperature gets around -10C ice gets rougher and grip better. A truck driver told me yesterday (he also used normal tyres), that situation gets better with snowfall, as snow has a better traction. 

Όμως όταν οι θερμοκρασίες είναι ακόμη κοντά στο 0C, ο πάγος από κάτω είναι σαν γυαλί. Διάφανος – περπατάς, γλυστράς και πέφτεις χωρίς να το καταλάβεις. 

So, to be honest, I got sick while driving yesterday. We didn’t really face any danger but I felt the Iveco so loose that I was all the time stressed. What will happen if I need to brake? What if we get off the road? Sometimes I felt the truck would skid when the road had a camper. I was testing its traction by giving gas and some times wheels were spinning in 4th gear. 

So, in the next few days what we need are snowfalls. If the road is white, our grip is OK. If it’s grey, we have a problem driving a 4,3 ton camper on used Michelin XZL tyres. 

I would like to remind those who just know me from @theworldoffroad that I used to race cars and motorcycles for several years and I have seriously driven on ice as well. I have tested Volvo cars on iced like around Kittila and more recently the Maserati SUV and its competitors at the Arjeplog’s (Sweden) proving ground.

In 2003 I also attended a three-day rally driving course by famous ex driver John Hogland in Norway, where I was introduced to left foot breaking technique in a rally car. Despite my driving experience, I was stressed like a novice while driving our Iveco camper to Norway. But everything will get better as we go, I am confident…_Akis Temperidis

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