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MX-5 ice race

Australia scored the first shock with the fastest qualifying time and victory in the first of two two-hour races.  The nation was represented by six motoring journalists including pole sitter and Carsguide Big Wheels reporter James Stanford and Carsguide motoring reporter Mark Hinchliffe.

The first race started as an Ashes struggle between Australia and the UK, but ended in a cold war with Russia.  Australia emerged the clear winner by more than 90 seconds over 21 laps of the 4.9km course.

The win earned Australia pole for the second two-hour race which was an arm wrestle with Russia who adopted identical pit strategies.  Panel paint was swapped aggressively between the two countries in the last few laps, but Russia held on for victory over Australia with Belgium in third.

The ice race was the second MX-5 promotional event after the first last year in Venice to celebrate the sports car’s 20th year.  National teams raced in 20 cars with some countries sharing cars. Among the 120 drivers was former Formula One racer Rene Arnoux.

“I have driven on ice before in France but that is a short 600m course which is like a slalom,” he said. “This was bumpy and fast and very challenging.”

The event was run by Mazda in Europe with Australia the only non-European entrant.  Mazda Europe boss Jeffrey Guyton said he was pleased Australia had flown from the other side of the world to compete.

“The idea was to have a bit of fun, but who could have written a script like this,” he said of the close result.

Guyton said the event was a “significant investment” for the promotion of its hero car which holds the Guinness record for the most sales of a two-seater open-top roadster, having passed the 900,000 mark recently.

Mazda Australia spokesman Steve Maciver said the race was designed to show “zoom zoom” potential of the MX-5.  He said he would love to see the event staged in Australia some time.

The cars were lightly modified mainly with weight stripped out and studded tyres for the ice.  The course was a tight slalom of 23 left corners and 20 right carved out on the ice of Lake Kallsjon in northern Sweden.