Clayton Bellamy does not mince words when asked how he fared as an ice racer.
“I stunk,” says the Edmonton-based singer-songwriter and host on Ice Racer Showdown. “I’m a terrible winter driver. Anyone who sees me on the road should pull over.”
Luckily for him, Bellamy’s efforts were not televised. But it goes to show that the challenges faced by contestants on CMT Canada’s new high-octane reality-TV series are no picnic. In fact, harder-than-it-looks is the favoured line when it comes to describing the new show, which was produced by Calgary-based Corkscrew Media, debuts Sunday and was shot over the winter on Red Deer Lake.
“I definitely encourage anybody who thinks they can do better to sign up for Season 2,” says Bellamy with a laugh.
Bellamy, best known as one-third of the country band The Road Hammers, oversees the shenanigans on the new series, which pits five new contestants against each other each week on courses co-designed by Calgary-based rally car champ Jorge Dascollas. Two drivers are eventually eliminated by the show’s judges, which include Dascollas, comedian and BMX coach Donovan Workun and Olympian skeleton racer Michelle Kelly. The remaining three face off for a final race and to crown the week’s champion.
In front-wheel drive Dodge Neons, competitors are tasked with showing their skills on the ice; negotiating sharp corners, hairpin turns, reverse spins and precision slide-stopping. For a surreal twist, contestants are bombarded by snowballs thrown by exuberant Yetis — or people low-budgetly dressed as exuberant Yetis — as they slide around the lake.
None of this looks particularly easy, but Bellamy insists it is even harder than it looks.
One of those who can make it look easy is Dascollas, the Buenos Aires-born rally car champ who has been an instructor at high performance driving schools for BMW, Audi, Lexus and Infinity.
He says many contestants make the same mistakes most drivers do in icy conditions.
“When in doubt, they go for the brakes,” says Dascollas. “That can actually be the worst thing you do sometimes, especially on ice. You have to try and manoeuvre the car. Obviously, you have to control your speed. If you can control your speed then it’s important to understand how vehicles work: the weight transfer and how a car can be handled by switching the weight transfer. These are front-wheel drive, so they have to use a hand-brake. People aren’t used to that. It’s not the sort of thing people do in the street that often.”
Sunday’s opener is the celebrity edition, featuring five TV and radio stars. They include Mikey McBryan, from Ice Pilots NWT, Best in Chow host Cris Nannarone, aerobatic pilot Pete McLeod, Ricky Forbes of Tornado Hunters and radio personality Chelsea Bird. This crew is obviously well-versed in reality-TV tropes, setting up what will no doubt become the template for the show: lots of trash-talking and overheated bravado, often followed by disastrous performances on the ice.
But, for the rest of the series, contestants come from all walks of life, including hockey moms, truck drivers, welders and executives.
“The people we have on there and the insanity that ensued definitely became my favourite part of the day,” says Bellamy. “They say it’s five everyday people, but I don’t know where they dug up some of these guys.”