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N A V I G A T O R INTO
N A V I G A T O R INTO THE INFERNO In 1928, before chairlifts existed, a group of 13 men and four women from the Kandahar Ski Club climbed the Schilthorn summit in Mürren in the Swiss Alps on long hickory skis with strips of sealskin fitted to stop them from sliding back. From near the summit, they then descended to the village of Lauterbrunnen. And so the Inferno Race was born. Eight decades later, the race lives on, and it is still an event that is not for the faint-hearted. Each January 1800 skiers stand here, take a sip of schnapps for courage and head off down the Inferno. At 15km (three times as long as anything on the World Cup schedule), the trail plunges two vertical kilometres. There is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world. In August this year, James Bond stunt driver Ben Collins lined up a standard Range Rover Sport just under the peak of the Schilthorn, attempting to do something nobody has ever tried; not only to navigate the length of the Inferno in a car, but to do so at race speed, beating the record of the Inferno’s fastest skier. August in Mürren is normally warm and sunny and although there is a little snow still lingering at the top of the run, the trail is normally dry. Not so this year. Unseasonable rain threw out Land Rover Experience off-road expert Phil Jones’ calculations and put Collins’ nerves on edge; “I wouldn’t say I was smiling as I was driving,” he told Onelife, “I was in the zone. If you’re not in the zone, you’re going to be over the edge.” Collins’ progress in the very latest Range Rover Sport was nonetheless spectacular as you might expect from the most famous of the former Stigs from BBC Top Gear. His time at the finish was just shy of the ski record, which in the circumstances is almost extraordinary. “Roughly halfway down I hit a big boulder that I really couldn’t miss because it was that, a tree or a sheer cliff,” Collins explains. “The low-pressure warning told me I had a puncture in a rear tyre, and that meant a huge loss of grip on the rear axle.” Collins’ perseverance nonetheless impressed Cleeves Palmer, President of the Kandahar Ski Club and a veteran of 30 races. “The terrain is strewn with boulders,” Palmer told us. “I would far rather race it on skis in winter than drive it in the summer!” 02 NEWS WATCH THE FILM Down the Inferno landrover.com/downhillchallenge 10
Land Rover’s Onelife magazine showcases stories from around the world that celebrate inner strength and the drive to go Above and Beyond
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