Rally driver Renée Brinkerhoff will set off for Antarctica this summer in an effort to become the first woman to drive on all seven continents. Summer runs from October to February in Antarctica, though, which means that Brinkerhoff’s Team Valkyrie will find itself at Union Glacier, Antarctica very soon.
Brinkerhoff plans to travel 356 miles there, as part of her Project 356. To make the journey, her Porsche 356A’s tires were replaced with tracks and skis. The engineer behind the Porsche’s modifications, Kieron Bradley, detailed that the goal was mass reduction at the wheels, err tracks:
“Success for Renée and her car will come from the thoughtful balance of appropriate technology we’ve added, and the mass reduction implemented,”
“The ski we’ve created must do 40 - 50 percent of the work, by compacting and prepping the snow for the track unit to follow over, with the underside blade guiding the direction – this ensures the tracks will not submarine under the light snow,” said Bradley.
Porsche notes that balancing the mods and mass reduction was hard because the single-arm suspension and coil-over shocks make the car heavier. Typically, that’s the opposite of what you want in a machine meant to ride over snow and ice.
But according to Porsche, the skis and tracks work in tandem to reduce the mass where it matters:
While the addition of skis and tracks increased the overall mass of the 356 — an issue as lightness is key to driving over the ice rather than sinking in — the mass per square inch, or foot print, has been reduced to under 4 percent of the standard wheel displacement.
Bradley should know what he’s talking about. He and Jason De Carteret set world records for overland speeds in the South Pole, piloting a modified Toyota Tacoma. De Carteret is returning to Antarctica to join Brinkerhoff’s Valkyrie Racing team as her navigator.
Team Valkyrie hasn’t tested the Polar Porsche yet. If that sounds a little reckless, just remember the conditions the car will face aren’t easy to simulate, as Brinkerhoff explains here:
“As often has been the case when taking on a new terrain in my 356, I have had no opportunity to test the car,” said Brinkerhoff. “The test will come when we are at Union Glacier and we are very hopeful the new design will prove itself in spades. As I have been told by Jason and Kieron, there is no terrain on earth like Antarctica and therefore no place where a true test can be taken.”
The journey to Antarctica has been a long one for Brinkerhoff, who’s vied for the honor of being the first woman to drive on every continent for years.
Her philanthropic expedition was delayed last year, but she’s resumed raising funds and awareness to fight against human trafficking. She’s raised nearly half a million dollars, and by the end of her journey, she will have traveled nearly 20,000 miles over seven continents behind the wheel of her 356A.
If that’s not seriously impressive, we don’t know what is.