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© 2000 Jukka Suvisalmi. All rights reserved.
Story & pictures: Juha Moisio

Gordinis on ice 2000

Tapio and Jukka demonstrating some synchronized opposite-lock...

One of the reasons the Renault 8 Gordini became so famous and loved here in Finland, is that it was very succesful in ice racing, a Nordic motorsport specialty. Races of the 60's and 70's were starred by many famous rally drivers, including names like Jorma Lusenius and Markku Alén. The tracks were located on frozen lakes, maybe that is why the little blue R8G was nicknamed after waterfowl here in Finland; When you mention the word "Sinisorsa" ("Mallard" in English) in right context, everyone knows you're talking about the R8G.

Passing on the Gordini legacy to younger generations is important to help these cars survive in the future. One of the best ways is to organize various retro events, recreating the spirit of the 'good old days'. That way new people will (hopefully) catch the "Gordini fever" and get involved in the hobby. During the last couple of years, the engine for such events here in Finland has been Jukka Suvisalmi. And he didn't let us down this winter either.

Jukka's and Tapio's cars in the "pit lane"

On 18th March 2000, two R8 Gordinis and one R8 Major met on an ice track in Toijala, some 50 km from the town of Tampere. Having so few attendants was unfortunate as the track was in great shape (no water on ice) and the weather was OK. It was overcast, but there was virtually no wind and the temperature was mild, around 0° C. Thanks to it, the spectators didn't turn into icicles! :-) The lack of attendants was probably because this was the first time such an event was held and that it came on a relatively short warning. Many cars were still in garages receiving some tlc for the coming summer season.

But like they say, quantity doesn't substitute quality. And the attending cars were of high quality. Jukka's car is a 1296 cc historic rally car, completely restored two years ago. Jukka regularly takes part in historic rallies, like the 1999 Historic Thousand Lakes Rally. The engine was rebuilt for that event and it still ran beautifully. The other Gordini belongs to Tapio Piittari. The restoration is a few years older, but the car is still immaculate. Even though Tapio doesn't take part in historic events, his car too is equipped with the 1296 cc Rally Kit. The third car, a mint R8 Major, belongs to Henry Nieminen who also owns other R8s. The Gordinis were equipped with spiked tyres specially designed for icy surfaces (and prohibited on public roads), the Major had ordinary studded tyres.

The grip is phenomenal.

As I was to take some action shots, Jukka first took me for a few laps in his car to introduce the track. I had never been in a car on spiked tyres before, so I was quite astounded of the grip they offered. With ordinary studded tyres at the speeds we were doing, we would have been far off the track, but Jukka's car didn't even slide at first. But he soon pressed the pedal a little deeper introducing some opposite-lock, a pose so typical to the R8G in many period photos. As I later photographed the cars going by, I could clearly see that the Major on studded tyres was very sideways at a fraction of the speed the Gordinis were doing. In fact, I learned that the spiked tyres grip the ice better than summer tyres grip dry gravel in summer!

After a couple of hours, it was time to head to Tampere to attend the Club Renault de Finlande's annual board meeting, sadly scheduled for the same day (that may have robbed us of an attendant or two). The happening was a lot of fun, recreating some of the spirit we younger enthusiasts have only used to see in old black&white photos. A pity I didn't have a videocamera, the sound of those Gordini engines was fantastic...

Finally, a big thank to Jukka for organizing a nice event that would make a great tradition. Hopefully we will get more attendants next year!

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