Reaching a top speed of 298 km/h and an average speed from a standing start of 114 km/h across the 1000-meter distance, the Lamborghini Urus set a high-speed record on the ice of Russia’s Lake Baikal during the Days of Speed in March 2021, piloted by 18-time record holder Andrey Leontyev. Now formally registered by the RAF (Russian Automobile Federation), a member of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), we hear about the record in the words of the man who set it.
Andrey Leontyev, Moscow-born and bred, has always had a visceral passion for engines and cars, from disassembling them during his childhood, to reporting on them during his journalism career and driving them during his truck racing years. But his goal and all-time dream was to drive the world’s fastest cars and set records in extreme conditions.
“When I saw the frozen Lake Baikal for the first time I immediately realized that it was a perfect track. Records were being set on impeccable-quality asphalt roads and salt lakes around the world, but in Russia we don’t have any of that. Instead, we have a lot of ice, and that’s how the idea came to me. So I once decided to come to Baikal with a friend and did some racing. Nobody thought this would get us anywhere, but we were determined to make it something big. In the past ten years we gained FIA recognition to make our ice-track records official. We fully abide by all FIA regulations and we have a legitimate record-setting arena.”
Leoyntev describes his endeavors as pure, top-class sport. As such, the harmonious integration and balance between the psychological aspects and technical preparation, of both car and the driver, play a fundamental role in success.
“In motorsports, there are two equally important components: the driver and the vehicle. If you want to set records, you can't just focus on one. The skills of the driver, the reliability and safety of the vehicle, and the onboard equipment can help the driver maximize their performance: that is the magic combination. In our races, we push the equipment and the cars to their limits, far beyond their standard operating conditions. You always have to remember that there’s a person driving and achieving those results, but without an amazing car, nothing would be achieved.”
With its 650 hp V8 twin-turbo engine boasting one of the highest specific power outputs of its class and the best weight to power ratio, the Urus is one of the fastest Super SUVs in the world, able to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.6 seconds, 0 to 200 km/h in 12.8 seconds and reach a top speed of 305 km/h. And yet, Leontyev felt at one with it:
“Urus’ biggest advantage is its absolute versatility: it is extremely easy and comfortable to operate in any situation, while feeling like you’re a strong unit with it. Despite its significant power, supercar roots and supercar behavior, the Urus is forgiving and obliges the pilot. I am certain that even a fairly inexperienced driver could still perform well in this vehicle if they were to step onto the race track. But that same person would also be able to drive the car to their summer home or to the countryside with friends. The compromises it's built around are mind-boggling, and nothing in this vehicle was sacrificed for something else. All of the features are developed to perfection. I have immense respect for what the company has accomplished: they’ve done something that no one has ever managed to do before, as have I with this record.”
Setting records on ice is not merely an individual’s vocation derived from a love of sports and hunger for adrenaline; it also represents an important contribution to automotive engineering:
“We're like an off-grid test lab. Automotive engineers can see how their products behave when pushed to the limit on a surface that is ten times more slippery than asphalt in torrential rain. Which means, if you manage to stay in control of a vehicle that's racing at 300 km/h over natural uneven ice, jumping over bumps with the suspension constantly being pushed to the limit, then driving a car on wet or icy asphalt at 90 km/h doesn't seem like that big of a deal. The techniques you develop under extreme conditions can be easily applied in day-to-day life, making driving safer, simpler, and more fun. Modern car designers and engineers make every effort to ensure that vehicles are as safe as possible, while still letting people really enjoy the experience of driving. And the joy of driving is not something I'm willing to give up.”