Last weekend I went on a long awaited ‘Hairpin tour’ of the Alps with a bunch of mates as a joint 40th birthday present to oursleves.
When I was planning the route for the 4 day trip it wasn’t so easy to gauge how far we could cover in a day and what the best routes were so I thought I’d share our route. I’d also like to hear other peoples routes as after this trip I guaranteee there will be another!!
Unfortunatley we only had 4 days so driving down there from Manchester in the Exige wasn’t really viable so we flew to Munich. We planned to hire something that would be fun to drive but it was a nightmare trying to source the right type of cars. I found a lotus specialist near Zurich but they only had one rental car. 911’s were on the shopping list but with excess mileage it worked out at ï¿½2500 for the weekend! In the end we found a deal with a mainstream renter for BMW 330 convertibles…we were not disappointed, they were bloody brilliant, even if they were Diesels. Total cost of ï¿½300 for 4 days including full CDW of course. Annoyingly the lads that arrived on the later flight didnt get a BMW as they had sold out their reserved car, after much haggling the lucky buggers rolled out with an XK8 for ï¿½30 more.
Day 1 - As soon as we picked up the cars we headed straight for Grossglockner. The weather was amazing, 28 to 32 deg every day. It’s a bit of a detour to go to Glockner but well worth the trip. The toll is worth every penny. It didnt take us long to work out that the biggest problem of the weekend were motorbikes, they provided multiple rolling road blocks for us. It wasn’t too difficult to pass them as the BMW had plenty of torque, the risk is that they just dont see you and never look in their mirrors. I had several near misses when they drifted across the road while I was trying to pass them. I also ride bikes so I gave them plenty of space but they just dont pay attention, or they dont like the idea of a car passing them. That evening we stayed in Innsbruck, it was a late arrival about 9pm. Its worth detouring via the Kriml waterfall and the Garlos toll road
Day 2 - Innsbruck to Davos via Fluela pass - nice flowing sections along the top and down the other side. The climb was a bit difficult due to trucks and traffic.
Abula pass - Brilliant fun, quite narrow in places with broken tarmac, more like a rally stage which suited Gareth and I perfectly. I must apologise to the boys behind us for filling their car with gravel and dust on the half mile of unpaved road
Lunch in St Moritz, very nice place indeed.
Julier pass - much more open and smoother
San Bernadino -awesome, awesome, awesome. If you want hairpins then this is the one. We joined the road just behind a 1970’s 911 driven by two old boys. They gave us a great run for our money up the hairpins and even joined in with the drift action.
That night we stayed at Lugano on the lake, highly recommended.
Found a n Exige on a forecourt in Lugano, 2006 NA ï¿½40,000!no wonder they’re all going over the water
Day 3 - Lugano - St Gothard pass
For the first run we went up the new St Gothard pass,not particularly exciting but we met a nice guy in a 458 spider.
Furka pass - a bit narrow once you get in the pass but spectacular views and worth doing as it links to the other major figure of 8 passes.
Nufenenpass - really enjoyable climb once I despatched the mopeds and bikes in front of us. Huge snow banks either side of the hairpins. Had a great run down the other side, caught and passed a 430 Scud (admittedly being driven gracefully).
Old St Gothard - did this as the second run of the loop of these passes. I didn’t realise until we were half way up that it turns into cobble sets! What an amazing piece of road construction. The nature of the surface and tight hairpins was fully explored with DSC turned off
Sustenpass - Amazing scenery but traffic chaos.
We spent the evening in Grindelwald, lovely place at the foot of the Eiger. In hindsight it was a bit far off route and left us with a long final days drive.
Day 4 - Grindelwald back to Munich
Klausenpass - possibly the scariest driving experience ever. Huge drops protected by painted rocks or occassional scaffolding rails hammered into the soil. This isn’t a road for being a hero on.
After that we had a long road section then nipped over the Fern pass towards Garmish. This was absolute gridlock. The only reward was the open limit autobahn back north to Munich. After spending the last 7 hours asleep in the passenger seat, due to a long night, Gareth woke up and decided it was his turn to drive. That was not fair!
The bottom line is that I’d totally recommend any of the roads. As much as I love the Exige I would also rate hiring a 330d. They drove brilliantly and I’d have one tomorrow as a daily driver…if I didn’t work for the opposition
There was only one altercation with the local Feds…and it wasn’t me. One of our team was stopped for “intending to hoon it through a hairpin”. The lady officer was stood on the inside of the hairpin, he only saw her as he dropped it into first and started to give it the beans. Even though he never completed the manouver she new the score and pulled him, it was the funniest session of charades ever as she couldnt speak english but mimicked ‘you’re a naughty boy and you were going to fishtail it - yes you were’.
I hope I havent bored you all to death, but as you can tell, we really enjoyed it. I’d love to do another trip next year. What are peoples recommendations for other routes and passes - I like hairpins!