Viking-style rally

Spectacular stunts at the Icelandic Formula Offroad

The Icelanders are reputed to be a rugged race – after all, they are ­descended from the Vikings. The Icelandic Formula Offroad is as harsh as you might expect. The supreme discipline of what is claimed to be “the most extreme motor sport in the world”: a ride over water.

No ramp or hill is too steep, no ditch too deep and no mogul track too bumpy for the courageous Norsemen at the wheels of the 4x4 offroad vehicles. A lot of sensitivity is required in order to push the accelerator pedal at the perfect moment on the slippery and unpredictable surface, to carry the necessary momentum with you and to overcome the obstacles on the course. Then there are points scored – a maximum of 350 per track. And, of course, the whole thing has to be completed in the quickest possible time. But it’s all about finding the right balance, because anyone who ventures too far and touches or crosses a mark, for example, will be severely penalized. Those who do everything right will reward themselves and the onlookers with incredible stunts and the ultimate adrenaline kick.

Aquaplaning desired!

One of the trickiest obstacles for these hardy Scandinavians is the ride over water. And by that we don’t mean wet pistes, but actual small bodies of water. The very thing that all drivers fear in heavy rain is the key to success here: aquaplaning. The skill is to accelerate the buggy so sharply that the thick tires generate enough buoyancy to keep the vehicle on the surface. That sounds simple, but in practice it’s anything but easy – because without any grip, the small racers can hardly be controlled. Some courageous pilots come to the shore soaking wet while their vehicle sinks into the – fortunately very shallow – waters.  

Sophisticated safety concept 

The drivers like to test the limits of gravity. Sometimes that works well, sometimes it doesn’t. And then the tiny buggies may come rolling down the slope as helpless beetles. But as spectacular as the Formula Offroad is – so far, there have been very few serious accidents. A rollover cage, an integral helment, five-point belts, a homologated bucket seat, flame-retardent clothings, special arm guards  and other safety measures provide optimal protection for the drivers. Formula Offroad is proud that in over 50 years there has not been a single serious injury due to a lack of safety measures on the car.

For a good cause

As crazy as the Icelandic Formula Offroad may seem today – its origins served a quite sensible purpose. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Icelandic rescue services used offroad vehicles to demonstrate their driving skills to the local population in order to raise donations. This was very well received by the Icelanders. The show quickly developed into a kind of rally competition with different teams and popularity continued to grow. A set of rules followed and the first championship series was held in 1979. Today, Formula Offroad is popular all over Scandinavia, and in 2016 the series even expanded into the USA. By the way: It’s not just the drivers who need courage at the Icelandic Formula Offroad – the spectators do too. When the special tires of the 4x4 buggies dig themselves deep into the dirt at high speed, the fans may find mud and soil whipping around their ears. But of course a real Viking would not be deterred by any such thing