Leaving my Auckland home on Wednesday morning, the only winter motoring worry I had was removing the frost off my test car’s front windscreen and waiting for the heated seats to warm up.
But a few hours later I was in Queenstown for Holden’s Australasian launch of the Insignia VXR medium sedan and the motoring worries were of a more pressing nature. On the roads were black and white ice, and tourists drove warily around the wintry terrain.
Earlier in the week I checked up on family in flood-ravaged Whanganui, where a motoring colleague was trying to navigate his water-covered road in a small hatchback.
Sure, it’s the start of winter but I’m sure we don’t need all the seasonal weather conditions in just one week.
The hazardous driving conditions of the week highlighted the need for car owners to be prepared for the forthcoming few months, including checking out tyre tread, cleaning headlights, replacing windscreen wipers and, most importantly, driving to the conditions.
But there’s one place near Queenstown where you drive to very special conditions — Cardrona’s Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground, the 400ha privately owned farm with 15 tracks where motoring companies test their products during the Northern Hemisphere summer.
I spent Thursday on one of those tracks putting the all-wheel-drive Insignia through some sideways manoeuvres and exhilarating exercises.
While it’s fun doing donuts on the snow-covered track, the serious message from the day at the proving ground is also learning how to get yourself out of winter hazards such as ice on the road or aquaplaning after downpours.
The trick? Look where you want to go, not where the car is going and take your foot off the brake. If only knowing what the weather would do was as simple as that.