Picture this: You’re out on a frozen lake, the sky is a deep, cloudless blue. In the background, some of the world’s most powerful Mercedes race cars are steaming away on the track.
For several winters now, Leroy McCully has been making the long trip up to Arjeplog, a remote Swedish town 100km from the Arctic Circle, to experience what was once only available to professional racers: ice driving.
It might be hard to match the glamorous hobby to the renowned endodontist. But it wasn’t the prospect of racing on ice that drew him. “I know I can never be a racer. I’m afraid to die,” says the 47-year-old with a laugh. “But as cars get more and more powerful, I feel it’s good to get some form of training. I like learning about car control.”
McCully recalls his first trip with his father, then 65, and some friends in 2007. “It was my father’s birthday present. I bought tickets and paid for the course. All he had to do was to turn up. But he didn’t seem very excited. One day, my mum asked me, ‘Your father wants to know why you are taking him there to suffer? It’s minus 30 degrees.’”
But, after just one day of training organised by AMG Driving Academy, a training centre operated by Mercedes, his father was asking about the following year’s trip.
This year marks McCully’s sixth excursion, and he admits he’s hooked. He relishes the opportunity to hone his skills with a team of professional race drivers over a three-and-a-half-day course. Not forgetting the biggest perk of the trip: the opportunity to take the latest models for a spin.
“Every year, you get a new model of car to drive. Last year, the Mercedes E-class was amazing,” he says. “This year, the rest (of the models) had improved so much that last year’s nice car was the unpopular one.”
“I KNOW I CAN NEVER BE A RACER. I’M AFRAID TO DIE!”
Over the years, he has learnt a thing or two about handling a car on ice: “These powerful cars don’t take well to heavy handling. You need to be smooth, gentle and measured. If you’re too clumsy or careless, you’ll lose control.”
When he’s in Singapore, McCully indulges his love for driving by taking monthly trips to Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands. But, with courses at the AMG academy snapped up months in advance, he’s already looking ahead to 2017. “Every time I go, there’s always something new to learn,” he says.