Up in the Laurentian mountains, about an hour outside of Montreal, Québec, there’s a different kind of race track. Instead of asphalt or even gravel, Circuit Mécaglisse is covered in six inches of ice. And this is not just any ice, but a hockey rink-quality surface meticulously built up over two months of daily flooding and careful grading.
It’s here that Lexus Canada holds the Quebec session of its High Performance Driving Program, a track experience for Lexus owners that I’m attending with my wife Karissa. We have driven eight hours from Ontario in a 2017 Lexus GX 460, ready to improve our winter driving and have some fun — Karissa has attended various Lexus events with me over the years, but rarely has the opportunity to participate herself.
The day is broken up into three different exercises — there’s a slalom run, a lesson on high speed turning, and a short track to round out the day.
The set up is identical to any other slalom course, save for one key detail — the cones are set upon a giant sheet of ice. Weaving through the cones, the speed is deceiving. We max out at approximately 40km/h (25 mph), and from a spectator’s perspective appear to be doing nothing much at all:
Contrast the outside with this footage from the back seat:
It becomes clear from the clicking and grinding of the brakes that the GX traction control is getting in the way of our fun — through an elaborate series of button pushes and pauses, we manage to disable most of the electronic nanny systems.
A common refrain at these driving programs that the vehicle will “always go in the direction you’re looking”, but this takes on new meaning with the dynamic cornering portion of the program.
The idea is to circle around a giant snow bank without spinning out of control. Sounds simple in theory, but less so in application — here’s one of the instructors demonstrating:
It takes an embarrassing amount of time before I’m able to make a full cycle of the snow bank without incident, and the black science of the whole thing makes my head hurt. I’m not the only one struggling, here are two other guests attempting the maneuver:
It’s during this exercise that I’m lucky enough to capture the best moment of the day:
After Karissa hits the snow pile, the instructors explain how lucky we are — turns out that lower temperatures can turn the banks into brick, and we manage to escape our collision with a light brushing of snow:
The last exercise of the day is a short track — essentially a ice loop built into the side of a hill with plenty of elevation. Here’s Karissa on her first run:
The Day Wraps Up
It’s a memorable occasion to be turned loose on any track, but Circuit Mécaglisse is a rare and wonderful experience unlike anything else. The setting, the course, the setup —- it makes for the kind of special moments you expect from a Lexus owner event.
Leaving the complex on our way back to the Estérel Resort nearby, we turn off the highway and onto a snow-covered side road. The weather is turning dicey, and the locals have little time for a tourist slowing down their afternoon commute.
In an effort to keep pace, I accelerate just as the snow turns icy — the GX skitters momentarily, but I correct the wheel without incident. Karissa laughs, barely nervous. Looks like the Lexus Winter Driving program is already paying off.
The Lexus Winter Driving Program
To attend the High Performance Driving Program, you must be a Canadian Lexus owner. There is one session left in the 2017 winter season, at the Castrol Raceway in Edmonton on March 17th.
The cost to attend is $395 CAD plus applicable taxes for a half-day session. A guest is welcome, and lunch is included.
Karissa and I would like to thank Lexus Canada for providing a Lexus GX 460, complimentary admission to the driving program, and accommodations. Special thanks to Glenn Alkema and all the instructors at Circuit Mécaglisse.