Commitments elsewhere double crossed the usual first weekend of September for the 2005 edition of the annual Alps tour for E34 ///M5 owners. Normally, this time frame is ideal as the weather usually resembles that of August, albeit with lower ambient temperatures. During the meetings with the rest of the organization committee, we where concerned about the weather conditions later in September when the autumn gets the overhand. Rain was not so much what worried us, but when the ambient temperature drops later in the season and with less sunshine hours, snowfall becomes a serious concern in high Alpine regions. Given our preference for driving passes or Col’s (French for pass), snow is a serious risk for our planning. After some discussions, we selected the third weekend of September for the trip. This gave us another benefit of the holiday season in Europe to have reached the end, meaning less holiday traffic outside the urban areas. We took a calculated risk with the weather according to the saying: “No risk, no fun”.
During the first halve of September, the weather in Northwestern Europe was exceptionally well with clear skies and ambient temperatures dropping from 25-28°C in the first week of September to 22-25°C in the first halve of the third week. With such a long period of good weather, it is inevitable that a cold front gets the overhand. Maybe we are lucky that the high pressure zone above central Europe is strong enough to withstand the low-pressure zone above the North Atlantic for just another weekend, but the early weather forecasts predicted that the odds where against us. The more accurate forecast of Thursday predicted that a cold front above the North-Atlantic would gain strength and push back the high pressure zone above central Europe. This means dropping temperatures and a lot of rain above North-West Europe from Thursday till Friday. The South of Germany including the Northern Alps would still have well weather on Friday, but eventually, the cold front will extend to the Northern side of the Alps in the night to Saturday. Due to a similar cold weather front coming from the southwest, the forecast for the southern Austria and northern Italy was not much better and thus we needed to prepare for a cold Saturday with lots of rain in the valleys and snow above 1500mtr above sea level!
For me, the Alps tour already started at 4.30AM when I left my place of living for the 800km trip to Munich where we where expected at 13.00 on the premises of BMW’s Mobile Tradition department for a guided through of the normally closed garages. As the forecast already predicted, we encountered heavy rainfall on the Northern side of the Sauerland region in Germany, after which the weather improved slightly and daylight emerged. By 11.00AM, we already drove past Ingolstadt, the hometown of one of BMW’s major competitors, located about one hour North of Munich. I had never been in Munich before, but thanks to Konstantin’s excellent route directions of Munich we already entered the Schleissheimer-strasse a little after noon. Whilst driving through Munich, we spotted other road-names also, some of which must be known to the avid E28 ///M5 and E34 ///M5 enthusiast. MT is located in an older building on the ‘ecke BMW allee’, inside the large premises of BMW AG near the Schleissheimer-strasse. It is not difficult to find, but parking is unclear as most of the parking space is reserved for employees only.
Being the person that needed to drive the largest distance, it was a bit of a deja-vu that I arrived first. With blue skies and temperatures well above the twenties, we still had extreme friendly weather. Konstantin arrived roughly fifteen minutes after us, after which we entered the MT building to announce our arrival. Normally, MT is not open for public viewing, but upon request, it is possible to arrange a guided tour with a group. However, t is not as simple as making a phone call and creating an appointment! But a membership of an official BMW club helps and we have to thank Konstantin who lives in Munich for making this all possible for us. Without his efforts, we wouldn’t have seen all that ‘candy’.
By 13.00, only three persons had yet to arrive, but a quick call learnt that two of them where delayed by traffic jam, and needed a mere 15min more. The third still was more then 80km from Munich, still was 80km away, which equates to about one hour of driving. Fortunately for them, our guide was flexible enough to delay the tour with 30min. At half past one, our guide arrived in the lobby after which our tour started by entering the reception room on the ground floor. MT uses this room as a guest reception room and thus one can find a small but representative collection that gives a good impression about the companies past.
Since recently, MT is the official documentation center of BMW AG. As such, they are responsible for the company’s heritage. As part of that, they maintain a collection of about 400 road cars and 200 motorcycles. MT also is responsible for the supply of spare parts of older and classic BMW’s and as an extended service, MT offers information and advice to owners on how best to maintain and/or restore their classic BMW’s. One of these (paid) services is the ‘BMW certificate’, a document that proves the origin of your classic car. There are also many other products within the offerings of MT. Think about a 1:18 scale model of your E9 3.0CSL or E30 ///M3 or publications of for instance the history of engines! You can order these products from your friendly BMW dealer. This also applies to the spare parts for which MT is responsible, so one can say the logistical integration only ends at operation level, with other words, your dealer.
The first car that we took a look at, a 1936 vintage 328 convertible is brilliantly restored into original ‘showroom like’ condition. Every part of this car is in excellent shape as it just left the factory a few days ago. One of the features of this car still lives forward in today’s BMW’s, namely the well suited tools-compartment in the trunk. Only in the 328, the tools are located in the engine compartment! Mentions worthy is the hammer that one needs when installing the spare wheel in the exceptional case it is needed. Another feature that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore is the two spare spark plugs sitting in bracket that is bolted into the firewall. Even after many years, one can still spur the craftsmanship with which this marvelous car has been build many, many years ago.
The second car on the ground floor is a Dixie that has not been restored, but displayed ‘as-is’. The beauty of this particular example is that one can smell the cars long history, a feeling that restored cars simply can’t match. Also featured is one of the company’s first products, an aircraft-engine that dates back from the companies roots now almost 100 years ago. This particular engine was used by Dornier in one of their aircraft somewhere around the WWI era and has been discovered in the soil some years ago. The engine itself is in original un-restored, condition lovely to see.
One of the highlights on the ground floor is an E26 ///M1 pro car with an M88/2 racing engine. This is a twin turbo charged version of the M88/1 normally aspirated engine that depending on the boost, can yield up to 950hp! This engine is a real monster and only in the engine block and the Kugelfischer mechanical injection, one can identify some similarities with the road going version of the M88 engine. Unfortunately, this specimen is not drivable anymore, but maybe in the future it will be returned as such? In the opposite corner, one of the ///M1’s predecessors, an E9 3.5 CSL ‘bat mobile’ is displayed. The E9 3.5CSL is powered by the M49/4 engine, that features a double overhead camshaft with twenty-four valves that are driven directly by sprockets. The M49 engine is also regarded as the ancestor of the S38 engine that powers our beloved E34 ///M5’s!
BMW doesn’t manufacture only cars though. Also displayed are a few motorcycles such as the record breaking motorcycle with aerodynamic covers with which Ernst Jakob Henne set some world records in the 1920’s. The reception room also hosts a few Formula racers with BMW engines. One interesting example featured the famous Apfelbeck engine. MT is working to return that car in drivable condition, but our guide told us that it is not always easy to find an insurance that is willing the use of such priceless cars.
Our guide needed about halve an hour to guide us through the ground floor, after which we walked up the stairs and entered the ‘holy grails’. Unfortunately, MT doesn’t allow taking pictures in the garages themselves unless one has a written permit from MT that one is allowed to, mostly limited to journalists and documentation staff. The first floor hosts a décor that displays a typical 1930’s workshop. If it where not for the three offices on the right, one would think that one had catch a flight in a time capsule. The workshop- décor clearly shows how far modern workshops have evolved through the years. Whilst in modern days, mechanics need knowledge of electronics and computers, the mechanic(s) in the old workshop can be compared with a sophisticated blacksmith(s) with a basic knowledge of gearboxes and combustion engines. We spend a few minutes looking and admiring the scene with amongst others a Dixie and 319 in original condition, after which we went up another stairs that took us to the second floor where MT hosts a part of it extensive collection of road-cars and motor-cycles.
It is impossible for MT to host its entire collection in the main building, so they store quite a few cars elsewhere. The second floor is separated into two parts. The largest one hosts the road cars from 1960 onwards, while the smaller room hosts the pre 1960 cars and motorcycles. Two odd-balls in that section are two of the cars that BMW build for James Bond, ‘Tomorrow never dies’ and ‘The world is not enough’.
We first walked to the rear section to look at the cars from before 1960, amongst others two 507 convertibles, a 503 convertible, a pre WWII 319, Dixie etc. The cars in this section are always restored to the highest standards and as such, one won’t find any fault in these cars. All the cars are breathtaking, especially the two 507’s and the 503 that where parked next to each other. The two odd-balls in that section, an E38 750iL and E52 Z8 where created as a one-off for the James Bond movies that are mentioned above. We took a closer look at the E38 750iL whilst one of the employees of MT acted as 007 himself and demonstrated some of the unique Q-branch features from within the car. For that movie alone, BMW build twelve identical cars, most of which where ready for the scrapheap challenge after the scenes where shot. However, some of the options should be available as options that can be ordered from the brochure on the production cars.
We walked back to the post 1960 section for a closer look at the modern road-cars within the collection. After all, our group’s sympathy lies more with the cars from the ///M-Gmbh and its derivates then with the ‘golden oldies’. On the left side, MT keeps the larger cars whilst the left side is reserved for the smaller cars, amongst others the 02-range. The many 02-cars present in the collection clearly visualize the importance of ‘die neue klasse’ for the company’s heritage. The most interesting where the 2002 turbo and the 2002tii, but there are two convertibles as well that might appeal more to some other people. From the more modern successors, we spotted amongst others one E21, two E30 ///M3’s, one of which a convertible, and an E46 ///M3. From the large coupe’s, we spotted an E9 3.0 CSL ‘bat mobile’, a regular E9 CSL and another more regular E9 of an unknown model. One may have noticed that I am not really exact in my description of all the cars. Especially in the post-1960 section, MT tries to use garage space efficiently and parks the cars close together. This reduces the visibility and accessibility of the cars parked in the second row and thus one can’t always recognize the exact model unless one asks specifically, or has the model-specific knowledge.
The first cars on the left side include a 502 and E34 limousines from the German police, a few motorcycles and a few Z3’s. The spot next to one of the Z3’s was empty and thus provided an easy access to some of the cars parked on rear row, including side by side, a red E26 ///M1 and a black E34 ///M5 3.6. Next to the ///M5, but on the other side of the pillar, a lovely metallic-blue E12 ///M535i was parked, however not really accessible. The E28 model range was represented also, a black ///M535i and a brilliant red 524td, the company’s first diesel-powered road car. I also have read about an E28 ///M5 in the MT collection, but unfortunately it wasn’t there or simply is not within the possession of MT, but from the ///M-Gmbh instead.
MT also has an E31 850CSI and a red E24, probably a 635CSI. I didn’t spot the blue ///M635CSI that is often featured in car magazines, however, the red E28 ///M5, it may not be part of the collection from MT, but from the ///M-Gmbh. There where no regular production models of the E23, E32 and E38 seven series parked in the garages. They are kept on other locations to save space. Another interesting car that was present that day is the 3200CS Cabriolet that was build as a one-off to thank its major shareholder Herbert Quandt for his support in the difficult 1960’s, when BMW almost was almost taken-over by Mercedes-Benz.
The tour on the second floor lasted roughly forty-five minutes, after which we walked up another stairs towards the third floor where MT keeps the competition cars, the art-car’s and a few interesting prototypes. Our guide started with the X5 Lemans, a ‘one-off’ prototype with the Lemans winning V12-competition engine shoehorned in the X5 engine bay. This monster produces more then 700hp and off course, the engineers altered the suspension and brakes to match the cars performance. It has been build solely to explore the limits of the X5-concept and it has completed one lap of the infamous Nordschleife in less then eight minutes. This is Porsche 996GT3 territory! From time to time, this car is allowed some exercise, but it is loud and sometimes, MT receives complaints from the engineering department that the exhaust noise levels disturb engineers whilst being at work!
The art-car collection consists of fourteen cars, and all of these are painted into works of art by highly respected artists. The first art-car dates back to 1975 when Alexander Calder painted an E9 3.5 CSL in full ETC racing dress. Whilst the first art-cars where racing cars, also road cars taken from the regular production line where being used. However, my personal favorite is the second art car, another E9 3.5CSL painted by New York artist Frank Stella. During our visit, all fourteen existing art-cars where present, which seems to be rather exceptional as well. On the other side of the art-cars, MT keeps three silver-grey 328’s with Superleggera coachworks. These light-weight specials where build for competition use, for example the ‘Mille-Miglia’, in which it achieved the overall victory and team victory in 1940. With just 464 road-and racing cars build between 1936 and 1939, the original 328 is very rare and therefore extremely valuable.
After viewing the art-cars, we walked back to take a look at the impressive collection of competition cars. The Left side hosts the Touring Car-and the Pro Car racers whilst on the right side, MT keeps the Formula racers and two McLaren F1’s; one road car and one GTR. The entire section is decorated with displays full of scale models, artifacts once used during races, but foremost, engine stands with racing-engines placed on them. The competition cars also marked the end of our tour, after which we walked down to the lobby, where we talked for a few minutes and picked up some recent publications from MT. After thanking our guide for the tour and opportunity to see all these fine works of art, we left the premises and walked to our cars where I handed over the route-description to the others.
Since MT is located in Munich-North-west and Garmisch-Partenkirchen is located south of Munich, we first had to drive straight through the city to enter the A95. However, we left MT at roughly 16.00, which mark the start of Munich’s rush-hour and the beginning of the weekend. During the planning stages of this trip, we anticipated for that by calculating one hour to cross Munich. Even though more then 12000 E34 ///M5’s have been manufactured in the vicinity of the Schleissheimer-Strasse, it would have been a long time ago, if not ever that eight classic beasts drove through Munich in a successive row. At least one other driver in an E36 323ti was noticeably impressed since he opened his window to listen to the exhaust rumble and asked some questions. Before entering the ‘Mitlerer ring’, one of Munich’s vital roads, Konstantin had to pick up his wife, Sabine first. Unfortunately she had to work and therefore was not able to participate in our excursion to MT. Against all odds; the ‘Mitlerer ring’ didn’t cause much delay other then the usual stop and go traffic which one can expect in a metropol during rush hour. We agreed to stop at the first petrol station on the A95 towards Garmisch-Partenkirchen as a regrouping point in case the group would be seperated whilst driving through Munich. In the end this wasn’t really necesary as all the ///M5’s stayed within one or two hundred meters of each other whilst driving through Munich center.
Instead of the anticipated one hour, we needed only thirty minutes to cross Munuch and enter the A95. However, the stop at the petrol station was usefull to check the maps for the beginning of the route. Konstantin expressed his concerns about the first pass of this tour, the Kesselberg. It might be closed on Saturday or Sunday for the’Alm abtrieb’, an anual event throughout the Alps that marks the return of the cattle from higher grounds at the end of the summer seison. The potential problem are the motor-cycle communities in and around Munich who use the Kesselberg as some sort of racing-track. Combine that with the end of the summer season and the closing of the Kesselberg to allow ’Alm abtrieb’, one can expect the pass to be crowded with motorcycle drivers for whom eight passing ///M5’s may be the proverbial ’red blanket’. Despite Konstantins concerns, we decided to drive the Kesselberg nonetheless as it is the most challenging and scenic road in the region and if we where provoked, we wouldn’t (have to) respond.
We continued our routte shorty before 17.00 in the direction of Kochel am See where the Northern-Alps begins on German soil For the first fifteen kilometers or so, we continued to use the A95 until the exit to Kochel am See. Due to an unclear direction sign, we first took the wrong direction after exiting the A95, but we noticed that in the first village we entered, after which we corrected our mistake. The Kesselberg already starts in Kochel Am See and is located between two mid-sized mountain-lakes. Compared to the giant passes such as the Timmelsjoch, the Kesselberg only is a small hill, but it’s hair-pins have a wide radius with a perfect camber and therefore is perfect for larger cars and off-course motor-cycles. As Konstantin predicted, we spotted hundreds of them, all with racing-bikes, but apart from one or two on the road, the majority gathered on the various parking places near the road.
One of the motor-cycle drivers used an attacking line whilst he passed several cars on close distance without much reserve left to correct driver-errors. He completed his show-down with a wheelie well above 100km/h whilst passing other cars. Nice demonstration, but clearly proof that some of these motor-cycle drivers use the Kesselberg as their own personal track with other persons as moving chicanes. We aren’t saints either, but when one wants to explore the limit, go to a track!
The South side of the Kesselberg brought us to another mid-sized mountain-lake, beautifully surrounded by mountains. The road continued in the direction of Krun, a village in the near vincinity of Garmisch-Partenkrichen, one of the largest cities in the German Alps. Noah was short on fuel and had to buy some just before Krun which splitted the group in two parts. I advised Noah to fill up only with the volume he needed to reach Austria, where fuel costs roughly Euro 0,20 per litre less. However, being a US citizen, he has his fuel-tickets that allow him to buy duty free. Lucky him!
After driving through Garmisch-Partenkrichen, we joined the rest of the group shortly after the village of Ettal and the shortly before the Ammersattel (1118mtr). The weather was still good, but we could already see dark clouds emerging from the west. We hoped that the weather forecast was (partially) wrong, but until so far, they where unfortunately accurate. Anyhow, we used this regrouping point for a break as well.
With an altitude of 1118mtr, the Ammersattel is one of the smaller passes, but it connects Ettal in Germany with Reutte in Tirol (Austria), a length of roughly 35km. Despite its tiny status on the scale of passes, it is a nice road to drive, especially since it is constructed between two mountain groups, one of which the Zugspitze (2963mtr) is part of. For a large part, the Ammersattel runs parallel to a creeck that flows through the Ammerwald (forrest). The Ammersattel is mostly a scenic route, hence why on sunny days, it must be crowded by tourists.
The Ammersattel reaches its highest point in Austria which also marks the beginning of another remote mountain-lake. With an estimated five kilometers in length and three kilometers in width, it is relatively large as well. From there, the Ammersattel continues to descend in Western direction towards Reutte in Tirol (Austria). Our hotel is located near the Western banks of the Lech, in a small village called Lechaschau. Fuel in Austria is rather cheap compared to Germany and Holland and as a preperation for the next day, Andrew and I used the opportunity to fill up our cars with super-unleaded.
We arrived at the Romantik hotel Krone shortly after 19.30, after which we checked in and took a table in the dining room for some well deserved dinner.
As usual the Friday was a long day for at least for me and my father. The absolute highlight of the day was without a doubt our excursion to the garages of the Mobile Tradition department where we took a look at a large part of it’s collection of competition-and road cars & motor-cycles. Unlike 2004, where we covered more then 300km through the Swiss and French Alps on Friday afternoon alone, this time we only had drive to our hotel in Austria, not far of the German border, a distance of roughly 160km.
Needless to say that our main objective for participating in this event is the mountain passes in the Alps. We completed two small passes on Friday afternoon already, but the really large ones are on the programs for Saturday and Sunday. During the next two days, we will drive more then 800km through the mountains. Not that much when one is used to cross-continental driving on the autobahns, but in the mountains, this is a lot. We couldn’t expect that Murphy was in for a surprise visit on the next day, so if you want to know what happened, stay tuned for the next part.
After waking up at roughly 6:00AM, the rain was ticking softly to the windows of our hotel. I had to think back to the first E34 ///M5 meeting in July 2002 when we had a similar weather conditions, albeit at least ten degrees warmer on the first day. After enjoying breakfast and completing the usual formalities at the hotel reception we gathered outside roughly ten minutes before driving away. First, we checked the fluid levels of the cars, filled up where necessary, after which the S38’s burst into life. We left ‘Lechaschau am Lech’ shortly after 8:30AM, perfectly according to the timeschedule.
The first pass on the programm, the Hahntenjoch, 1894mtr above sealevel is one of the highest passes on the north side of the Alps and connects the Eastern side of the Lechtal with the Inntal in the South. To reach this pass, we used the B198, that runs through the Lechtal until it reaches the Hochtannenbergpass (1698mtr) in the West. A more direct aproach to the Inntal is the Fernpass (~1200mtr) between Reutte and Imst. However, this is a main transit road that is used a lot by heavy traffic and thus not so appealing for spirited driving, hence the choice for the Hahntenjoch, that starts half way into the Lechtal.
We just left Reutte for a few kilometers when Dominik stopped at a supermarket and opened his engine compartment. He reported ’comical noises’ which where clearly audible once he gave a few revs. Our ’back-yard hack’ mechanics Andrew and Konstantin quickly discovered a broken 32mm nut on the viscous clutch that caused the fan to tilt. A temporary solution was found by removing the viscous clutch. Dominik’s car is one of the very few E34 ///M5’s without A/C and thus doesn’t feature the secondary electric fan that engages once additional forced cooling is required. Without any forced cooling available, Dominik’s car was in need of a new viscous clutch, but since it was so **** cold outside, the risk of an overheating engine was negligable so it was safe to asume that he could continue driving until we reached a BMW dealership in Imst or in Landeck.
This meant, we could continue our intended routte to the 1894mtr high Hahntenjoch. It is the scenic alternative for both the Fernpass (~1200mtr) and the more westerly located Flexenpass (1778mtr), both of them important roads. The Hahntenjoch is relatively small and thus weight limited to prevent heavy traffic other then light trucks and farming vehicles. From Weissenbach the Hahntenjoch ascends rapidly and steeply in Southern direction. Before reaching the highest point of the pass, one has to drive roughly twenty kilometers, through mountain-forrests, farm land and a series of small farming communities. The panoramic view is lovely with the surrounding mountains reaching an altitude of over 2500mtr. With countless of hairpins in a twisty layout, the Hahntenjoch offers one hell of a driving challenge. On the northern side, the road is wide enough to play with the car’s balance or for the usual quick passing manouvres in the twisty sections. At some point almost half way up the pass, I noticed Hermann, Dominik and Martin where driving in the rear of the group. This surprised me had as they had left a little earlier there where we removed Dominik’s viscous fan and thus had the advantage. Later Hermann told me that they used an earlier exit towards the Hahntenjoch in a village before Weissenbach.
The Hahntenjoch was the first pass of the day and given the wet and cold weather conditions, I was curious about how my new Michelin Pilot Sport 2 tyres (PS2) would handle. These replaced the Dunlop SP9000, of which the front tyres where worn. The Dunlop’s where great in the wet, but they have three disadvantages. One, their sidewalls are too soft and too wide. This causes stability problems during cornering with higher speeds. Second, during the almost five years that I was forced to live with the SP9000, I couldn’t get the car silent. The wheels vibrated constantly and balancing could reduce this to a minimum amplitude, but due to the instable sidewalls this helped only temporarily. Three, after entering a corner, the SP9000 needs a second to settle. This results in a not inconciderate understeer, after which the tyres loose grip to soon. Again, high inflated tyres do help, but once the compound reachess it’s operating temperature, there is no constant grip, making the car difficult to control. Summarized, the SP9000 is not really predictable and looses it’s typical handling characteristics once the thread-surface has warmed up. This annoyed me for some time, but the SP9000 last so **** long that it took me a while before I had driven at least the fronts into the ground.
I knew that the Michelin PS2 is an excellent dry weather performer, but I am positively surprised about its qualities in wet weather conditions such as we experienced this Saturday. I expected some understeer in small radius hair-pins, which turned out to be true but not as much as expected. In the wet, the PS2 is every bit as equal if not slighly better as the SP9000, bar from acquaplaning where the SP9000 is the better tyre. After we reached an altitude of 1500mtr, the rain changed into snow. Needless to say, a high performance summer tyre isn’t suited for these conditions, but since the temperature of the tarmac remained above the freezing point, the snow only caused small slippery problems and the usual, but predictable tail-happy responses. After reaching the highest point of the Hahntenjoch, we stopped for a brief moment to make some pictures. As you can imagine, the ambient temperature was far from comfortable at almost 1900mtr altitude, so we didn’t stay that long.
The south side of the Hanhtenjoch descends all the way towards Imst, a city in the Inntal where I have spotted a BMW dealer during one of my last vacations in the Oberinntal in the ’Engadiner-Fenster’, a geological description of the mountain range a little more to the southwest that starts south of Landeck and reaches all the way down to Sankt Moritz in Switzerland. I won’t describe the meaning of ’Engadiner-Fenster’ since it is not on-topic in this report, but it’s an interesting subject nonetheless.
The South side has a different geological apperance then the North side as it is runs parallel to some mountain slopes with a angle of more then sixty degrees. For a large part, these slopes are a few hundred meters high and covered with loose rocks. The sight is beautifull, the road is the same, but not without danger as a slight vibration can cause these rocks to move causing small stone-avalanches! Since the tarmac is a bit jumpy, the descend is treacherous, especially in wet and cold weather conditions. The overview is excellent, but the numerous jumps and trenches, mostly in the corners, cause stability problems when one enters them with a relatively high pace. The loss of grip is the slightest of the problems. The resulting sideways step with a magnitude of between ten and thirty centimeters is and one has to time the exact moment of braking, turn-in and throttle application. Enter a corner to fast and understeer is what you get. Brake to hard in the corner or accelerating too early and you have to challenge sudden oversteer. With other words, the margins are small.
Unlike to what most people think, understeer is more dangerous then oversteer, especially when there is little or no room for corrections, for instance release throttle and wait for the front wheels to regain grip. Even though this is a simple corrective response that even inexperienced drivers can perform, it costs precious time. Even though the vats majority of the RWD cars of the past two decades have programmed understeer, one still has the option of (additional) throttle control which allows the driver to react imminent. This unlike FWD and AWD cars where one simply can’t control the two axles independantly.
Our descend of the Hahntenjoch ended in one of Imst subburbs, after which we searched for a BMW dealership. I knew that one was located near the Autobahn from Innsbruck to Landeck, so we followed the directions to the Oetztal and Pitztal and the other side of Imst. We didn’t need long before reaching the dealership and buying a new viscous clutch, install it and continue driving. A simple exercise? Not quitte! The dealership was open, however and unfortunate for us, only the sales department. It’s Saturday and unlike in many other EU countries, this means ’no service’ in Austria. Arrrgh!! Our last resort was calling the the roadside assistance of BMW Austria. And indeed, after a call from Dominik, he was told one was available! In Innsbruck, one of the largest cities of Austria and the capital of Tirol. Even though Innsbruck only is forty kilometers easterly of Imst, and easily to reach by using the autobahn, we couldn’t use the fast route as Herman and myself where the only persons in our group that have a valid autobah-vignette. This wasn’t strange as we try to avoid using autobahns when planning the route. This meant, we had to use the regular B171 bundesstrasse instead. I still had some hope that after picking up the viscous clutch in Innsbruck, we could drive the 2506mtr high Timmelsjoch and the 2094mtr high Jauffenpass. Whilst we reached Innsbruck in a mere thirty minutes, we entered Innsbruck in it’s northwest. However, Unterberger-Denzel is located in the cities south!
Imagine, keeping eight E34 ///M5’s together into the Saturday morning grocery-getting traffic of a large city in cold and rainy weather! Who doesn’t use his/her car? I would! Fortunatelly the navigation systems of Tobias and Martin helped us finding the quickest route to our destination, but despite the satelite help, we lost at least one hour in Innsbruck alone. The traffic was like ’nightmare on Elmstreet’ and sometimes, I wished that I had some of the gadgets from James Bond his E38 750i. After reaching Unterberger-Denzel, we all needed a break and whilst some of us walked into the showroom, Dominik and Andrew tried to find the representative from the service-mobil.
Inside the showroon, one could find the ubiqous new models, but also a late model E31 840Ci with only 22k km!! They asked 23k Euro’s which isn’t that bad, especially with warranty. When we returned from the showroom, Dominik and Andrew already had the new viscous clutch in their hands and whilst Andrew installed it, the friendly driver from the service mobil watched the process. It turned out that he is a car enthusiast also, hence is interest in our classic ///M5’s.
By the time, we left Unterberger-Denzel we had lost almost two hours. This meant that the Kuhtai sattel was not an option anymore and thus we had to skip the Timmelsjoch (2506mtr) and the Jauffenpass (2094mtr). After some discussion, we decided to pick up the planned route in Vipiteno in Italy. But first, we had to fight our way out of Innsbruck! Getting out of the area in which most large retailers are located was the biggest problem, but once we reached the four lane main road through Innsbruck, we where free to go. Before leaving the city, we stopped at a petrol station to fill-up our cars with Super-unleaded. To cross the Brenner, one has two options. The first option is the Brenner-autobahn which is constructed on large bridges high above the valley. For commercial traffic, this autobahn is of huge importance since it is the only autobahn across the Austrian Alps that takes one directly into Italy.
The second possibility is known as the ‘old-Brenner’, the old transit route into Italy before the Brenner-autobahn was constructed in the sixties and seventies of the last millennium. With heavy trucks and other transit traffic banned to the autobahn, the ‘old-Brenner’ is the scenic route through the valley towards the village of Brenner at the Austrian / Italian border. Today, it is the preferred road by tourists and locals who avoid the toll-required Brenner-autobahn. This makes the ‘old-Brenner’ a nice route to drive, however there is quite a lot of traffic and overtaking isn’t always easy. Blunt said: There are a lot of sections where overtaking is prohibited, but where the overview is excellent whilst there are many twisty sections where anticipation is difficult and overtaking is allowed. This does make some sense?
Outside Innsbruck, the ‘old-Brenner’ ascends a few hundred meters before directing south towards the village of Brenner directly behind the border. The entire section between Innsbruck and Brenner and from there to Vipiteno in Italy could be described as a ’big hop’, a constant overtaking of slower cars. Some of the cars that we passed where rather irritating as their drivers where so slow that they’d hardly drove faster then 40km/h!! On a road with an 80km/h limit!! With eight cars in a single group, such ‘obstacles’ meant that we got divided anyhow since it is impossible to pass them as an entity, especially then when we approached an urban section or there where passing other cars becomes prohibited.
Nevertheless, we managed to stay within close proximity of each other since everyone had to face his own challenges and there where we drove in visible range, the collective strength of the group became apparent when the rest could benefit from the anticipation from Dominik who was leading the group a few hundred meters in front. This allowed successive cars in the group who couldn’t anticipate well enough on their own to successfully pass other cars on the ‘token’ send by Dominik. Despite the poring rain, we managed to reach Vipiteno (Italy) in slightly more then one hour, which is not that bad at all. The short-cut over the ‘old-Brenner’ gained us about one hour back and if we would skip lunch, we would also gain the second lost hour. However, with all that improvising and driving, everyone needed a break and off course lunch so we stopped at a restaurant near the intersection between the Penserjoch (2215mtr) and Jauffenpass (2094mtr) just outside Vipiteno.
Even though we gained back one hour on our original time schedule, we used lunch to discuss some alternatives to proceed the day. The weather didn’t improve and with snowfall above 1500mtr altitude, both the Penserjoch (2215mtr) and the Passo di Gavia (2621mtr) where question marks? An alternative option approach would be the Jauffenpass (2094mtr) followed by the Gampenjoch (1518mtr). This reduces the total driving distance to Bormio with an estimated fifty, which equates to roughly one hour of driving.. The downside however is that with this approach we could throw the original route in the waste-basket. With only one hour lost in Vipiteno, I didn’t feel that we needed to reschedule the route, especially not since the Jauffenpass also reaches almost 2100mtr, a mere 100mtr less high then the Penserjoch. Some other arguments for both the Jauffenpass and Penserjoch were thrown into the discussion and eventually only the reduction of the driving distance was a valid argument. Off course, we discussed other topics, mostly the usual ‘gear-head’ and ‘petrol-talk’.
Despite that the Jauffenpass (2094mtr) and the Gampenjoch (1518mtr) is the shortest route to Fondo we decided that five hours were more then adequate to complete the remaining 200km to Bormio. And thus, after lunch we left Vipiteno in the direction of the Penserjoch (2215mtr). Apart from my father, no one of us ever had driven this pass that connects Vipiteno with Bolzano. Granted, I had been there during my childhood years during a vacation with my parents, but that is a long-long time ago. On the northern side, the Penserjoch reaches its highest point after a mere 19km, making it a steep, but entertaing drive.
It rained slightly until 1500mtr above sealevel, after which the ambient temperature dropped below zero degrees and the rain changed into snow. Despite that the summer seison of 2005 lacked really warm weather, one weekend of cold weather certainly is not enough for the earth to loose its stored warmth. With other words, the snowfall didn’t cause many problems other then the usual slippery spots.
Despite our RWD and ‘summer tire’ handicap in winter-like weather conditions, we reached the highest point of the Penserjoch after just twenty minutes. Konstantin, Herman and Dominik needed even a few minutes less which allowed Konstantin to put his Canon EOS-20D to good use. On the following picture, you’ll see Martin’s 1995 E34 ///M5 just before arriving at the Penserjoch. Please note the ‘snow-chain’ sign just behind his car.
Fortunately, the Italians didn’t use salt against the snow. Granted, using salt makes reduces the risk of accidents, but I don’t like its destructive impact on my cars! Especially not since my car has never been used in the winter season which preserved the chassis and the body of my car in very good condition.
Since we already lunched in Vipiteno we didn’t feel the need to enter the restaurant on the Penserjoch itself. Maybe if we had an fifteen minute advance on our timeschedule, we would have used the opportunity for a small coffee break, but not today. Besides, it was pritty cold outside and with dense fogg blocking the panoramic view onto the surrounding mountain-world there wasn’t much to see either.
The two pictures above and below clearly show the tricky driving conditions caused by the remnant snow on the tarmac. Don’t get fooled by the small amounts of snow as this is enough to cause an unintended spin at even a tiny driving error. Since there was no reason to stay on Penserjoch, so after a short break we returned to the comfort of the heated seats and continued driving in the direction of Bolzano.
With a length of nearly 50km, the section between the Penserjoch and Bolzano is one of the longest descends that I know of. The road is challenging and since there is hardly any village in the higher part of the valley, the entertainment factor is high. The tarmac is not as smooth as on the north-side of the Penserjoch, but to be honest, that is comparing apples to oranges because the north side was renovated only just recently. Wait for one or two winters and then compare them to get a good impression. As said, the fun factor of the Penserjoch its south side is high. Despite all the bumps and trenches, one can drive pretty fast and at some spots we where descending with more then 130km/h! I try to use the ideal line when entering corners and hairpins, and where possible approach them as wide as possible. The overview on the road, especially on the other side of the apex is excellent and allows one to maintain momentum without the need for abrupt steering corrections. Besides, when exciting the apex or corner, one has the choice between two lines. The (very) narrow line in case there is traffic from the opposite direction, or the wide line in the case the road in front is clear.
The first villages appeared after roughly twenty kilometers, after which the pass continues to descend towards Bolzano into a narrowing valley where the pass leads alongside steep mounatin walls and through a series of tunnels. I simply lost count, but there where at least a dozen of them , all relatively short and in close proximity of each other seperated by not more the one kilometer of open road. One of the major pain in the *** problems are those stinking old diesels driving in front of you. Add to that the habit of many Italians driving in smaller cars not to allow others to pass them. Oh by the way, where are the blue flags? The only safe place for overtaking where the tunnels themselves and I thought about that, but simply hesitated too much so I didn’t. When reflecting back, I was too cautious, especially since overtaking wasn’t prohibited and the overview inside the tunnels is excellent.
To avoid driving straight through Bolzano, we added a small change to the original route and used a short-cut between the suburbs of Bolzano towards road number S38 that connects Merano with Bolzano. During the planning stages of this trip, I did spot this short-cut on my maps, but no references were shown. Without those and without previous knowledge of the area, we where suscpeptible to navigation errors without noticing, hence why I didn’t add this shortcut. However, Martin and Tobias have satelite navigation systems in their cars, so we decided to give it a try. Another bonus for using this short-cut was that we where close to another shortcut towards the Gampenjoch (1518mtr) which would reduce the driving distance even further.
The ad-hoq added detour started in one of Bolzano’s suburbs and took us to a valley higher up in the mountains. Given the excellent condition of the road until this far, I suspect that there is quitte a lot of communiting traffic from the few villages in this valley into Bolzano each day. However, the further we drove through the valley, the narrower the road became. However with the twisty road we hit the jackpot. With the many up-and down hills it was like we were riding in a rollercoaster.
It seemed as if the decision to ‘bypass’ Bolzano worked out excellent. We made good progress whilst driving through the lovely countryside, mostly farmland with a few smaller communities. However, we trusted the navigation system to direct us towards the S38 further west and all went well untill the navigation directed us to turn right. Without knowing exactly where we were, I didn’t notice that this was the wrong direction which brought us to the middle of nowere! The road itself was paved, but very narrow and due to the rain and mudd on the tarmac slippery as well. However, the train steamed on rapidly, a little to fast for my taste, hence why I slowed down a bit to increase the gap to Andrew who was driving in front of me. Suddently, I spotted the first cars in our group to halt about 200mtr in front of me. Noah noticed that a second to late and this missed his braking point and couldn’t avoid hitting Hermann’s car in front of him.
Both cars came out relatively undamaged, but needed some provisoric repairs before they could continue. On Noah’s car, one of the fan-shroud-mounts collapsed and needed to be removed to gain enough clearance for the fan to operate. And thus, our back-yard hack mechanics Andrew and Konstantin faced the challenge to remove the viscous clutch in less then ideal conditions for the second time within a few hours.
On Hermans car, the rear-silencer dropped a few inches to the ground. After removing the rear bumer, we discovered that the exhaust mounts had collapsed. It only costs a few minutes to remove the rear-bumper of an E34. Only four nuts have to be removed, after which the rear bumper can be slided backwards. Dominik replaced the broken exhaust mounts with a few windings of electrical hook-up wire.
At roughly 17.30, the temporary repairs on both cats where completed, after which we quickly realized that we had lost approximately ninety minutes due too this small incident. With over 150km still on the program, this meant that we would arrive in the hotel not earlier then 22.00. After reviewing some of the options, we quickly realized that the last pass on the program, the 2621mtr high Passo di Gavia is a potential risk. To reach the beginning of this pass, we had to drive roughly 120km in Western direction. This equates to roughly two hours of driving which meant we would have to cross that pass in the dark! Those who know the Gavia will realize that this pass is asking for trouble in these weather conditions. A second option is the Passo dello Stelvio, which is located north of Bormio. However, with an altitude of 2758mtr above sealevel, this pass surpasses the Gavia with more then 100mtr! With both the Passo dello Stelvio and the Passo di Gavia ruled out, we where looking for the shortest possible detour around either one of these passes. From experience, I know that the detour around the Passo dello Stelvio is twice as long as the detour around the Passo di Gavia. With an additional 100km, this is a lot, but still managable. To reduce the distance to Fondo and from there on the Passo del Tonale (1883mtr), Tirano and Apprica we could use the Gampenjoch (1518mtr) instead of the planned Passo Mendola (1312mtr). This would save us 30km, or roughly 30min.
But first, we had to turn around and return to the main road that would lead us towards the S38. The danger of relying on guidance by GPS based systems is that one becomes a bit naive for navigation, or lack of it. Since the area wasn’t that well documented on the old-fashioned paper maps, we had to option other then using the navigation system to bring us back on track! This time, the navigation system used the required four GPS satelites well enough and the software didn’t fool around. After about fifteen, we reached the S38 somewhere between Bolzano and Merano. The next objective was finding the short-cut towards the Gampenjoch (1518mtr).
In my head, I navigate by making polynomes between the possible roads within my knowledge and rely on my detailed Michelin maps for determining the route on smaller roads. However, I forgot to take these with me so I couldn’t follow the navigation. When the satelite took us to the wrong road for the second time within two hours, I realized that pursuing shortest route towards the Gampenjoch would be contra productive compared to the original route over the more Passo Mendola (1312mtr), roughly thirty kilometers south. At that point, I intervened and suggested to drive towards Bolzano and from there follow the S42 until the intersection with the Passo Mendola (1312mtr).
Bolzano is located at the southside of the Alps within the influence of the Mediteranian. The softer climate and the lower absolute altitude allows more agriculture, hence why there are many vineyards in this region. Although I have driven the Passo Mendola quitte often in the last decade, it still is a challenging road. With 1312mtr above sealevel, the Mendola doesn’t cover spectacular high mountains. However with the altitude of the valley on the eastern side no more then a few hundred meters above sealevel, the eastern side of the Mendola covers an altitude difference of more then 1000mtr. This is comparable to the north side of the Col du Galibier in France, a pass that reaches an altitude of 2645mtr! The first section towards the Mendola ascends through the many vineyards untill the outer edge of the valley that marks the Western end of the valley. There are many sections where the road is constructed alongside steep abbyses with little or no vegetation and where one can enjoy a lovely panoramic view to the south. It started to rain again and with all that water on the road, the hairpins offered a perfect drifting opportunity. My main concern however was to keep the pace in the group high in order to reduce the delay.
Italian drivers can roughly be devided into two main categories. The first category owns or drives relatively large and powerfull cars whilst the second category owns and drives small cars. Needless to say that the second group is in the majority of which a large part seems to have a complex with cars from the first group! With other words, some drivers don’t like to get passed and will try to stay in front of the traffic jam at all cost. Normally, the Mendola is wide enough for overtaking, even in the twisty sections, but when someone uses his/her car as a blocking tool?
The green Smart on the above picture is such an example. Its driver tried to prevent me from passing him by using a few tricks from his magic box! At first, he tried to outrun me by squeeziing every little pony from his three-cylinder turbo charged engine develloped by Whoooo-Whooo Daimler-Chrysler. When he noticed that was not enough, he used another trick that was still within the magic-box of his cookie-monster, narrowing the overtaking space by crossing the lines in the middle of the road. Oh yes, we are driving a larger car and need space! Errrr, for a small moment yes, but with the next hairpin closing in, he had a small moment of weakness and the gap was just about wide enough to position the nose of my car in, after which the Smart driver choose eggs for his money and moved over. With roughly 150mtr of road left, the sheer power of 7200RPM in second gear was enough to pass him and position myself for the turning-in point. Mostly one sheep that crosses the dam is enough, but the Smart driver felt the need to resist Hermann who was driving behind me also. After Hermann passed the smart on a similar manner, it’s driver must have realized that the sheer power of his three-cylinder turbocharged power-house is no match for a normal aspirated three-cylinder engine after which he ended the skirmish, allowing the other six ///M5’s to pass him without problems.
Another example, a red Fiat Panda that I encounterd a minute or two after passing the Smart didn’t give me much problems. I approached him with at least twice the speed and he probably didn’t notice that until I was driving in front of him. This must have triggerd the Italian fury in the Panda’s driver as the others told me that its driver went crazy once he was passed by Hermann! Similar story and despite the pooring rain lot’s of fun!
A few more words about rain and the wet weather conditions that we experienced on the Mendola, but also in general during this day. One would think that a rear wheel drive (RWD) carz like the E34 ///M5 without any electronic watchdogs such as traction control or stability prograns is a handfull in the wet. Especially owners of all wheel drive (AWD) cars (did I say quattro?) are biased about the superiority of their cars in less then ideal driving conditions. Whilst AWD certainly offers an advantage in wet-and winter weather, superior is not the right word to use, especially not because there aren’t that many AWD cars that handle as balanced and neutral as an ///M-car. Both the E34 and the slightly older E32 are both versatile cars in many weather types. Granted, an RWD car is more susceptible to driver error(s), but with the brake-and turn-in points correctly chosen, one doesn’t need any electronic watchdog at all. In my honest opinion, these are only meant to spoil the fun. With a car like the E34 ///M5 or its other ///M siblings of the same or past era, for example the E28 ///M5 and E30 ///M3, its up to the driver, not the electronics. Dominic once described this very well as “Mann and Machine becoming a unity”.
I already passed the highest point of the Passo Mendola when I looked in my rear view mirror and spotted Konstantin flashing with his head lights. I realized that something was wrong, so I slowed down and stopped at the first opportunity. Noah’s car definetelly was not OK as white smoke escaped from his engine compartment. After opening the hood, we disovered that the coolant overflow line between the reservoir and the radiator that was once kept in place by the fan-shroud had been damaged by the fan. Fortunatelly, the coolant reservoir still contained a few centiliters of coolant so we didn’t have to worry other then repairing the broken overflow hose. This was a nice job for our back-jard hack mechanics Konstantin and Andrew who patched the damaged overflow with some vulcanising rubber and tie-wraps.
In the mean time, I tried to contact the Hotel in Bormio to inform them about our delay and that we would not arrive before 23.00. The phone was answered by a woman, who didn’t speak any other lanuage then Italian. She didn’t listen to what I had to say and constantly blathered a phone number of a certain Giovanni. Giovanni was my contact person when booking the hotel, but that was a drama itself. Not Giovanni, but reaching him. It started to rain more and with the ticking sound of it against my car, it was impossible to listen let alone write down the phone number anyhow that someone on the other side was trying to speak out in a broken mix of Italian and German. Despite the language barrier, I tried to leave a message, but with no succes. Eventually the woman on the other side hung up without even trying to listen to a few simple words from my side! I hardly concider that as customer friendly, especially since in modern days, one may expect that hotel receptionists are able to communicate in more languages other then their native tongue. I attempted twice calling them, with the same result. It was as if I was listening to a voice-recorder with play-back. I did manage to write down Giovanni’s phone number which I also tried, but no one answered the phone! I stopped calling them and walked back to Noah’s car where Andrew and Konstantin completed the emergency repairs. However, it wasn’t certain that the patch wold hold so we stopped at the first petrol station just before Fondo to buy some universal fuel hose just in case.
According to the original route, Bormio required roughly 130km of driving. It was already dark and with ambient temperatures dropping below the freezing point, the last 35km over the 2621mtr high Passo di Gavia was not an option anymore. This meant, we had to use the detour over Passo Apprica and Tirano, which adds onother 70km. The guys with the navigation systems kept on telling that the shortest route from Fondo to Bormio leads to the Passo dello Stelvio. On the maps, this may be the case, but in reality, this pass is even higher then the Gavia and due to its location close the the almost 4000mtr high Ortler mountain group, the snowfall above 1500mtr is even a bigger problem then on the Gavia. With other words, the Stelvio was not an option either.
I would like to use the opportunity to give a small advice to the software engineers of satelite navigation systems. In the mountains, the shortest possible route is not always the best option, especially when the detour around the shortest route is significantly longer then the detour around the route that is a little longer. We faced a similar situation in Fondo. With both the high Alpine passes unsafe to drive, the decision maker was the shortest detour, which is the detour around the Gavia, and not the Stelvio! The unaware relying on his/her satnav is then in for a big surprise. I would like a satnav that adds such services as otherwise, these systems are worthless to me other then in urban area’s.
To reach the Passo di Gavia or Tirano or whatever, we needed to cross the 1883mtr high Passo del Tonale first. This pass is roughly 750mtr lower then the Gavia and therefore not that much of a problem. To reach the Tonale, we had to drive roughly 70km, or slightly less then two hours. However, it was getting dark and I noticed that the ‘big hop, i.e passing cars didn’t went that smooth anymore. To prevent the group from being spreaded over a long distance, I reduced my average speed to think about alternatives to the hotel in Bormio. My main concern was fatigue and loss of concentration. Even if we where able to maintain an average speed of 40km/h instead of the usual 55km/h to 60km/h, we needed at least one hour more to reach Bormio, which would be after midnight! My father tried to call our hotel in Bormio once more, but again with no succes.
One of the options I thought about was to skip the hotel in Bormio and find a hotel in the vicinity of the Tonale. This should be possible as the region around the Tonale is a huge winter-sport area and therefore there are many hotels in the area. However, the winter season has yet to start and most of the hotels are closed during the transition period from the summer to winter season. The ascend of the Tonale is a nice route, especially whilst driving through the various villages of which some are idylically located close to the mountain ridges on both sides of the valley. Above 1500mtr, the landscape left and right was covered with up two two inches of white powder. Fortunatelly the road itself was clean, but due to the sub zero temperatures, the meltwater coming from the mountains was freezing up and thus with every meter that we progressed towards the Tonale’s highest point at 1883mtr, the road became less and less predictabe. There is a large concentration of hotels at the top of the Tonale, but unfortunatelly all of them where darked out and therefore assumed to be closed. I didn’t expect to find a suitable hotel until much lower in the valley towards Apprica, when I suddenly spotted light in a building roughly five minuts after crossing the Tonale’s highest point. I stopped to check out whether it was a hotel and if so, if it was opened. This was also the first opportunity where I could share my thoughts with the others and they all agreed not to drive to Bormio, but stop at the first opportunity.
The hotel looked large enough and with the lobby opened, it seemed open, but empty. The reception was occupied by a friendly Italian young woman. She did speak English as well, which was a relief to me as I had so much trouble with another hotel receptionist in Bormio earlier that evening. Anyhow, I asked if they where able to host a group of ten people for one night, which indeed was the case. The downside was that the kitchen was closed and we couldn’t order ‘a-la carte’ or from the daily menu. We didn’t really care as we where already glad that we didn’t have to drive the 100km that separates us from Bormio. Besides, we already used the break in Vipiteno earlier that day to eat warm. As a token of gesture and service, the hotel presented us a sandwich buffet dressed up with many sorts of raw meet and cheese.
Stopping shortly before 19.30, we didn’t drive any longer then scheduled, but the downside was that we didn’t reach the planned destination. If the Passo di Gavia would be safe to drive, I would not have hesitated to continue driving, but the conditions we already experienced on the Tonale, prooved that we made the right decision not to use the much higher, narrower and also more dangerous Gavia. Those who have been there know what I mean. Even though we stopped at the first best hotel, it turned out to be an excellent find. The rooms were modern, clean, and comfortable whilst the rest of the hotel gave a splendid impression. During the rest of the evening we reviewed the hectic day with all its positive and negative experiences and discussed route for the next day. But there was also time for the usual petrol talk and Konstantin some of the Top Gear video’s that he has stored on his notebook. Especially, Sabine (from the ringtaxi) in the Ford Transit on the Nordschleife gave us a great laugh. To bad that the battery of his notebook collapsed before the footage ended! Somewhere in the evening, I did receive a phone cal from the hotel in Bormio, but again, they where unable to communicate so it was pointless to explain the situation: “The passes are closed and we simply can’t reach Bormio”. I don’t know about the others, but at 23.00, I called it a day and went upstairs to get some sleep.
What will the next day bring us? Will Murphy play an important role on the next day? With 400km to drive, the route will lead over six passes, of which the last one, the Klaussenpass (1914mtr) will bring us to the finish of this years Alps tour in Glarus, south of Zurich. Stay tuned for part III.
After a good night sleep, I woke up at around 6.00AM in the morning. We agreed to use breakfast at 7.30AM and drive off at 8.30AM so there was some time left to walk around. I had my worries about the cold front from the day before. If it also was active during the night, it could have brought us a few more centimetres of white powder. With the hotel located at an altitude of an estimated 1700mtr, snowfall could be a serious threat for our time schedule for today. Although it was very chilly outside the hotel, there was no snow. The fog limited the visibility above 1800mtr, where there where some traces of snow, but not as much as on the eastern side the evening before.
After shooting a few pictures outside, I walked back inside the hotel where Hermann, also an early bird, just entered the lobby from upstairs. We discussed some options for the day, but also Noah’s intentions not to continue the meeting, but drive back to Karlsruhe instead. The breakfast room was opened from 7.00AM onwards and I was positively surprised to see some others behind the table. The breakfast buffet was excellent and sufficient. At around 8.00AM, we completed the formalities which took more time then usual s nice the hotel receptionist combined all expenses in one bill.
Although it would have been possible to pick up yesterday’s route and drive towards Bormio by using the Passo di Gavia (2621mtr), we decided against that as this would extend the driving time with more or less one and a halve hour. Instead, we decided to pick up the route a little north of Tirano at the beginning of the Berninapass (2328mtr), Deep South in the Swiss canton of Graubunden. From the hotel, this is a mere hour of driving which is about the same as from Bormio to Tirano. With other words, the difference in driving time is negligible and we wouldn’t have to change our original time-schedule. Noah would join us until Pontresina at the north side of the Berninapass, where he would leave the group to follow the road to the Albulapass (2315mtr) and Chur.
The fog from 6.30AM had almost completely disappeared, meaning that the weather prospects for at least the south side of the Alps were promising. After briefing the rest of the group into the first part of the route, we checked our cars and drove off shortly before 8.30AM
Whilst descending the Tonale, we also passed the intersection with the Passo di Gavia. The Tonale ends in Ponte di Legno, however the road stays downhill until Edolo, further west. This means that it took quite some time before the engines in our cars reached their operating temperature. In that respect, it would be wiser to climb the Tonale first as this would have reduced the warm-up cycle significantly.
Somewhere in the near vicinity of Edolo, one can find another small pass that may be considered as a short cut around Apprica. With its altitude of 1852mtr, the Passo di Foppa is nowhere near as high as Gavia, but Jaap Kroon, who participated in 2002 and in 2003 once told me that the Foppa with its extreme slopes (>23%!), is an funny pass to drive. It certainly is located on my short list, but today we have a different program, hence why we avoided it today and favoured the quicker Passo di Apprica (1118mtr) instead.
The Apprica already starts to ascend a few kilometres outside Edolo and ascends up until the village of Apprica, 1118mtr above sea level, after which it descends towards the city of Tirano, more then 500mtr lower in the western valley. Since the S42 is a vital road in the region, one can expect intense commuting and transport traffic on this road. On Sunday however, there is not much to do, other then the usual regional traffic of Italians visiting their families, hence why road workers must have been working on a Sunday. If it were Holland or north Germany, this would certainly not be possible to avoid insulting the Luther religions. The western side of the Apprica descends rapidly and contains lots of curves and hairpins. Overtaking isn’t always allowed or possible so it was a challenge to pass the many slower driving cars, some which were driving less then 40km/h!
The Apprica ends a bit west from Tirano where we turned right towards Bormio, roughly 50km further north! After we passed the centre of Tirano, we left the S38 and entered the S38A towards Switzerland. The S38A only is two kilometres long and ends at the Swiss/Italian border, after which this road continues as Road no 29 towards the Berninapass (2328mtr). This was also the reference point from where we would commence according to the route description, but also according to the time schedule. Since all that overtaking during on the Apprica caused some larger gaps between the cars in our group, we stopped for a brief moment in Madormo di Tirano, one of Tirano’s suburbs.
One of the items to think about whilst planning a route through various countries is fuel stops. The most part of the route is driven in remote areas where there are little or no petrol stations available, some of which also closed during the weekend. We anticipated for that and used the large capacity of our fuel-tanks (90ltr) and the relatively low fuel consumption (Ahumm) of our cars to our benefit. This meant that we could avoid using the services of the petrol stations in Italy who have to charge higher prices due to hefty mark-ups caused by the Italian government.
I was the last who left Tirano and unfortunately I had to give right of way to a few other cars before the border. Since the tax free region of Livigno also is nearby with the Berninapass being one of the main routes into Livigno, the Swiss and Italian customs are eager to check their own nationals whether or not they have bought to much tax free products. This meant that the Italians and Swiss who were driving in front of me caused some delay which prevented me from catching up with the rest of the group. The distance from the Italian/Swiss border towards the Berninapass is roughly 30km of which the first ten kilometres, through a series of small villages and alongside a large mountain lake.
The actual Berninapass starts roughly fifteen kilometres after passing the border. It is a wide two lane road with many curves. This allows high average speeds well into the three digits. This is nice, but this also means that the average speed of the traffic coming from the opposite direction also is travelling fast. Unless one is able to maintain momentum, it is not advisable to pass other cars on sections where there is little opportunity to anticipate. I ended up driving behind a series of cars and one camper! Needless to say, all the cars wanted to pass the camper and kept the distance to the car in front small. My father had no other option other then joining the convoy in the rear and wait for the next best option, i.e. another car successfully passing the camper. Most of the cars simply lacked the power to do so, but two of them were able to leave the train behind the camper. When another car more close to the camper finally managed to pass it, the car in front of me, a 2004 Audi S4 Avant used that gap to pass about seven cars or so. The S4 was now close enough to pass the camper in a single hop, which he did soon after. When the S4 left the train for the second time, my father already started our ’hop’ around the seven or eight cars in front to use the gap that was left behind by the S4. During this ’hop’, we also passed Andrew who also found himself trapped in this convoy. For a brief moment, we anticipated for Andrew to start his passing manoeuvre, but since e didn’t, my father closed in on the gap that was left behind by the S4!
With the S4 still in visual range and only two cars and the camper still driving in front of us, the second ’hop’ was much easier to carry out and it didn’t take long before we joined ranks with the S4. By that time, we almost reached the intersection with the Forcola di Livigno, the 2315mtr high pass towards the tax-free region of Livigno. It is suffice to say that a large part of the traffic out of Italy, but also from Switzerland is destined towards Livigno where fuel costs less then one Euro per litre! Now compare this to the Euro 1.50 that Shell charged for a litre of regular super unleaded in my country (The Netherlands).
If you take a closer look at the next picture, you’ll see the fences that mark the check-point of the Swiss customs for traffic in-and from to Livigno. The Swiss/Italian border itself is located a few kilometres further to the north whilst the check-point of the Italian customs is located even further at the highest point of the Forcola di Livigno (2315mtr).
For the Berninapass itself, the Swiss customs checkpoint is of no importance and one simply passes it unless one wants travel to Livigno. From this point on, one is rewarded with a breathtaking view on the Bernina massive that arises high at the horizon. The second peak from the left is the 3996mtr high Piz Palü. Not visible from the Southside of the Berninapass however is the Piz Bernina itself. With its 4049mtr, it is the only peak in the eastern alps that surpasses the four thousand meters and together with the Barre des Ecrins (4102mtr) in France and the Gran Paradiso (4062mtr) in Italy only one of three such peaks with a remote location from the rest that are located in and around the Swiss canton of Vallais.
Most of the snow that fell the day before had melted away and only above 2200mtr some snow remained. Given the fact that the skies around the Bernina massive cleared up, we could safely assume that the weather for the rest of the day would be significantly better then the day before. We stopped for a brief moment at the highest point for a small break and to wish Noah all the best for his trip home to Germany.
On the northern side, the Berninapass descends towards Pontresina. With its many wide radius hairpins, the Berninapass is perfect for playing with the cars balance and enforcing power over steer. The road towards Pontresina also is perfect for bombing down with a highly illegal speed. However, unless one has money to burn this is not such a good idea. After entering the forests lower down in the valley, one is presented with a magnificent view at the Piz Bernina and its largest glacier.
Unlike in 2003 where we stopped in Pontersina for lunch, we now passed this small city in the direction towards Sankt Moritz. This also was the point where Noah left us and turned right towards the Albulapass (2315mtr). In Sankt Moritz itself, we stopped at a petrol station to fuel up the cars. Hermann did report some problems with his exhaust and was afraid that he couldn’t continue driving unless someone could provide a more permanent solution to replace the temporary hook-up wire from the day before.
Someone of us recalled that Noah was carrying a spare exhaust in his touring, but we quickly realized that he almost had to have passed the Albulapass, and thus calling Noah wasn’t really an option anymore. Instead, Hermann called the emergency service of BMW Switzerland, who referred him to their service station in Sankt Moritz itself. This was perfect as it would only cost about one hour, and not the entire day as yesterday. Since it almost was noon, we altered our planning by stopping for lunch on the Malojapass (1815mtr) roughly ten kilometres further on. This allowed Hermann to have his car repaired by the emergency services of BMW Switzerland whilst we waited for him during lunch. Suddenly I spotted one of my favourite classic’s coming from the Malojapass. Despite a quick sprint to my car ten meters further, I was just a few seconds short to snap a low position picture from the front side of this vintage 300SL convertible.
After Hermann drove back into Sankt Moritz, the rest of us drove to the Malojapass (1815mtr), roughly twenty kilometres further west. The altitude of the Malojapass is about the same as Sankt Moritz itself so from the east the Malojapass, from a driving perspective is far from challenging. However, the view on the surrounding mountains with the Bernina massive to the South-east is lovely and spectacular. We stopped for supper at the Maloja-Kulm, an old and high profile restaurant at the highest point of the Malojapass.
Since we had to wait for Hermann to return from Sankt Moritz, we had enough time to look at the splendid view onto the Western side of the Malojapass. Whereas the eastern side hardly may be called a pass, the western side with its serpentine layout is the complete opposite. The western side is the most challenging and if one is in the possession of an early brochures of the E39 ///M5, one recognizes the pass from the infomercial report about Prinz Leopold from Baviaria and ’E39 ///M5’ from Munich to Monaco.
During an event like this, we make full use of the camera equipment that we carry with us. Some say that pocket sized camera’s are ideal, but they lack the flexibility and speed that is required to snap these action-shots both inside and outside the car, hence why DSLR’s like the one that Konstantin uses on the picture below are becoming increasingly popular all over the world. In my honest opinion, a DSLR is essential if one wants to combine a high optical resolution (which does NOT relate to the number of mega pixels) with high shooting speed and instant shutter-response.
As said, we stopped for supper in the Maloja Kulm and because we had to wait for Hermann to return from Sankt Moritz, we had plenty of time available to order supper ‚a-la carte’. We were served by a waiter who spoke German with an Italian accent and who also was eager to achieve 100% customer satisfaction. Whilst this was comical to see, he was a little stressed while doing so. This in contrary to his boss, who despite a supervisory role in the back ground stayed relaxed and regularly enquired his guests to measure customer satisfaction.
Most of us already had finished supper when Hermann rejoined the group in the restaurant. After a break of roughly ninety minutes, it was time to move on towards Chiavenna and the Splugenpass (2113mtr). Paying our bills was also quite comical. For simplicity reasons, restaurants generally like to add up the bill and divide the amount by the number of persons. Whilst this works when everyone has enjoyed the same or about the same menu, this is time consuming when dining ’a-la-carte’ or when one like some of us relied on credit cards for payment. Although the Euro is generally accepted throughout Switzerland, acceptors charge a penalty of a few percentage points to cover the exchange costs. Although 5% is a fair percentage, one would be stupid to pay that if one has access to a credit card. The restaurant happily accepted cards, but a single process took so much time to complete that it looked as if they still rely on smoke signals to communicate. All jokes aside and the receptionist apologised for the slow progress, they did use an electronic system, but it seemed as if it was transceiving with 100baud, maybe even two hundred, but certainly not a single bit per second more.
Outside, the sun broke through and the clouds higher up in the mountains dissolved. We left the Maloja Klum at roughly 12.45PM and descended the Malojapass in western direction towards Chiavenna in Italy. The following picture shows the Malojapass in the valley towards Italy.
After leaving Maloja, the Malojapass descends several hundred of meters. The road itself is a two lane road, and also rather busy. The first part was driven rather slowly as we got stuck behind other descending traffic in some sort of traffic jam caused by an ascending touring car from the Swiss postal services. These large touring cars need lots of room whilst driving through the many hair-pins. It is good custom for descending traffic to give right of way to ascending traffic and thus, the descending cars have to stop to allow the touring car to drive through the hairpin. Needless to say that this dead-slow process took some time, but at least it helped in dividing the long line of cars behind the touring car into a few small groups. After we left (passed) the touring car behind us, we only had a few cars in front of us that needed to be passed. From that point on, it was pretty bombastic all the way down to the Italian border.
It didn’t take much time before we entered Italy again. Since the Italy is part of the EU and has signed the Schengen treaty and Switzerland is-and did not, we had to pass the routine customs checkpoint of both the Swiss and Italians. For some reason, the Swiss customs have more interest in their own nationals leaving their native country then foreign nationals entering / leaving theirs and Dominik was stopped for a routine check. This didn’t take long, but long enough for the cars that we bombed by on the Malojapass to pass us again. Oh dear!
From a driving perspective, the road from the Swiss / Italian border towards Chiavenna isn’t that spectacular but the valley stays rather narrow all the way down towards Chiavenna and with relatively high and steep mountains, the scenic view towards the west is pretty nice.
The Splugenpass (2115mtr) begins in Chiavenna, a small city to which three or four valleys come together. The majority of the villages are located on lower ground relatively close to Chiavenna.
The Splugenpass (2113mtr) connects Italy with Switzerland where it ends in the village of Splugen, near the San Bernardino Pass (2066mtr) and San Bernardino tunnel. Soon after, but still in the outskirts of Chiavenna, we were presented with the first series of hairpins that climbed rapidly alongside the eastern mountain-ridges. Since the valley is so narrow, certainly not more then a few hundred meters on some spot’s lower in the valley, there is little room for the road, let alone for the many villages alongside the Splugenpass.
In reality, the Splugenpass (2115mtr) is a complete paradox to the way it is printed on almost every road map I know of. On the maps, the Splugen(s)pass is drawn as a single straight line towards Switzerland, but for me, this was one of the funniest passes I have ever driven and I certainly would rewards it with five stars on the scale of best passes in Europe!
Given the fact that the Splugenpass is an important road between Italy and Switzerland, but also for the higher located villages in Italy self, I almost felt sorry for the locals living there who have to endure all that traffic through their villages. In that respect, I cannot understand drivers who feel the need to play with their throttle whilst driving through these villages. Fortunately, the rest of our group felt the same about this and only used the playing ground between the villages.
During the first twenty kilometres, there is hardly a straight section that is longer then a few hundred meters. It’s a continuous series of hairpins, twisties and funny tunnels with one or even more corners. Off course, we had to cope with slower traffic and like yesterday, we had trouble with smaller cars whose drivers didn’t like the idea about getting passed by faster driving cars. Eventually they had to give up their resistance, but unlike yesterday on the Passo Mendola, it was impossible to use the anticipation of the front-man. This only allowed for small hopping, i.e. passing one car at the time.
After passing the 1800mtr,s in altitude, the appearance of the Splugenpass changes dramatically. Whereas below that altitude we drove through many villages, countless tunnels and even more hairpins in a narrow gorge, the Splugenpass enters in a wider valley surrounded by mountain peaks between 2500mtr and 3000mtr high. All the melting water from these summits is collected into a large basin, roughly two kilometres wide and four to five kilometres long. The S36 runs alongside the Eastern shores of this lake, at some spots over a few dams that limit the size of the lake in case there is a surplus of water supply. In this stage, the overview on the road, allowed me to spot Andrew, who I estimated was driving roughly one kilometre in front of me. On the northern side of this lake, at roughly 2000mtr, we drove through another settlement before beginning with the last climb towards the border at the highest point at 2113mtr. This settlement was not more then a few road-side cafes’ annex restaurants/hotels and I suspect that in the summer season these are aimed at tourists travelling into and from Switzerland.
The last climb towards the pass-height at 2113mtr leads to the checkpoint from the Italians, after which we stopped in ’nobodies land’, a few hundred meters before the checkpoint of the Swiss customs.
We resumed driving after roughly five minutes where we drove towards the Swiss customs a little further on the descend. Whilst the other could enter the road almost directly and in front of the three cars that came from the Italian side, there was not enough room for my father to do the same and had to give right of way to these cars. These were driving so slow that already before passing the Swiss customs checkpoint; we lost touch with the others. Add to that, a Swiss customs official who waved a few motor-cycle drivers that just left the offices of their premises to enter the road before us! I was really pissed because of that, since I knew that the Swiss side of the Splugenpass is really nice and would allow me to shoot some interesting pictures during the terrace shaped section towards Splugen with at least nine straights and eighteen hairpins. Instead, we got stuck up behind three slow driving Italians and two motor cycle drivers. We passed them off course, but the others where already driving out of sight or to far away for the focal length of my lens to catch.
The Swiss side of the Splugenpass is roughly nine kilometres long and ends in the village of Splugen at an altitude of 1457mtr. Since I didn’t know whether or not the others would take the old road towards Via-Mala and from there to Chur or would use the vignette required San Bernardino highway towards Chur, I had to guess in Splugen. Fortunately, I spotted Andrew and Tobias entering the highway whilst we left the forest about one kilometre before entering Splugen. Splugen itself also is a major intersection between three passes. Apart from the Splugenpass towards Italy, there also is the San Bernardino highway and the old San Bernardino Pass (2066mtr) that connects Chur with Bellinzona in Ticino. Since we really enjoyed the old road during the 2002 trip, we also considered adding it to the route for this year, but decided against that to include the Klaussenpass (1914mtr) between Altdorf and Nafels at the north side of the Swiss Alps.
To save about half an hour, we used the San Bernardino highway instead of the old road alongside Via Mala. Our next goal, the Oberalppass (2044mtr) begins in Reichenau, but that is the new road, which is a bit boring. What few people know however (including me) is that the old Oberalppass begins in Bonaduz, roughly fifteen kilometres before Reichenau where it intersects with the new road in Illanz. Between Bonaduz and Illanz, the old Oberalp is narrow at times, especially there where the road is constructed around the gorges just north of Via Mala, one of Europe’s deepest gorges. Unfortunately I didn’t shoot any pictures of the old Oberalp as thoughtfully freezing moments was difficult since I constantly had disturbing objects in my viewfinder that had nothing to do with this event. No offence, but an old Volvo 440 isn’t exactly a nice object to appear prominently on one of my digital stills.
Due to it’s location around some deep gorges, the old Oberalp is a much nicer road to drive then the new road around Reichenau. The old road ends in the village of Illanz, where it crosses the new road towards Disentis, thirty kilometres further west towards the highest point of the Oberalppass at 2044mtr.
Although we included the Oberalp (2044mtr) in previous editions (2002 & 2003) of this tour in before, one can’t deny it for being an ideal traverse between Canton Graubunden in the East and Canton Uri in central Switzerland. Since our final destination, the city of Glarus is located in Uri, we couldn’t avoid it unless we accepted a much longer and less appealing route. During the twentieth century, the Oberalp has been reconstructed several times to increase its capacity towards Disentis where road no 19 splits into two directions. The Lukmanierpass (1914mtr) to the South and the continued Oberalp to the Unlike the section between Illanz and Disentis, the last twenty two kilometres toward the border between the Graubunden and Uri Cantons haven’t been reconstructed that often and as such, its serpentine layout with numerous hairpins has been preserved. Together with the old-road between Bonaduz and Illanz, this is the most rewarding section to drive. However, unless one is coming from the Lukmanierpass (1914mtr), there is no way to avoid the boring long section between Illanz and Disentis, but that is something we have to live with. After arriving at the Oberalppass at 2044mtr, we stopped for a brief moment to talk about the last part of the route to Glarus and off course snap some pictures.
For some reason, I have never been at the Oberalp in really good weather. Whereas the sun did some good work in Bonaduz, roughly seventy kilometres back east, grim clouds closed in from the West and kept the mountain peaks around the Oberalppass hidden. Some snow was visible, albeit not as much as yesterday on the Penserjoch in Italy.
After a short break, we continued our route towards Andermatt, ~650mtr lower in the valley. I took over the steering wheel from my father who already had driven from the beginning on the Passo del Tonale. As one can see on the above pictures, the Oberalppass enters a tunnel alongside the northern shore of the mountain lake. Needless to say that with eight E34 ///M5’s driving behind each other, the sonic virtues of our S38’s was put to good use. That this must not have been too everyone’s taste is perfectly clear, especially not under full throttle up until redline in second gear. After exiting the tunnel on the western side, the Oberalps quickly descends towards Andermatt over a wide two lane road with near perfect ’on-camber’ hairpins allowing throttle over steer without the risk of the car making sideways steps towards the outer edge of the road!
Since there was hardly any traffic, we reached Andermatt (1447mtr) within less then ten minutes after leaving the Oberalppass. Andermatt is not unknown to the regulars of the Alps tour since we stayed the night there in 2002 and 2003. However, this time we choose Glarus, a city southeast of Zug as finish place for the 2005 event so we could add the Klaussenpass (1914mtr) in our route. In Andermatt, road no 19 ends on road no 2 between Goschenen and the St Gotthardpass. One may conceder the section between Andermatt and Goschenen (1106mtr) as a part of the St Gotthard pass.
With the opening of the Gotthard tunnel between Gosschenen and Airolo many years ago, the old Gotthard route was relieved of the ever growing traffic between the Cantons of Uri and Tessin. However, the pass is the scenic route, but also the one and only road towards the Furkapass (2431mtr). Especially during the summer season, the Gotthard pass is chosen by many to escape the lengthy traffic jams on the highway before the entrance of the tunnel tubes.
The most part of the road between Andermatt and Gosschenen runs through avalanche diversion tunnels constructed into the mountain side. These tunnels are partially open, meaning that passing other cars is allowed. Fortunately for us, there wasn’t much traffic on the road, only a few cars coming from Goschenen and a few slower cars in front of us. For some reason, the Swiss try to prevent traffic coming from Andermatt using the country road towards Altdorf. The road automatically leads to the entrance of the highway whilst the continued bundesstrasse has to do with a small exit. Although the autobahn is the faster alternative towards Altdorf, the old country road is much nicer to drive. After all, there still is a nice descend of more then 500mtr towards Altdorf and who wouldn’t prefer the twisty country road over the boring autobahn.
The Klaussenpass (1914mtr) begins in the city of Altdorf, on just south of the so called ’four cities lake’, one of the largest salt water lakes in central Europe. The Klaussenpass is well known for the Klaussenrennen, originally a car-race between Nafels and Linthal during the pioneering years of racing in the first halve of the twentieth century. Seventy-five kilometres separate Altdorf and Nafels, making the Klaussenpass one of the longest passes in the Alps. For that, one is rewarded with lot’s and lot’s of hairpins, steep climbs and wonderful panoramas on the surrounding alpine world, especially on the Glarus side where with good visibility the Todi (3621mtr) dominates the southern horizon. Many parts are constructed alongside steep cliffs and deep abysses, some of which more then 300mtr deep. With only thin iron fences, at least fifty years old, providing for some sort of protection for bicyclists, but in no way sufficient to stop a >1700kg car at speed, there is no margin for making errors even with good visibility. With so little room to play and with visibility less then 50mtr above 1300mtr, it was impossible to follow Hermann who was now driving on his native soil and has the advantage of knowing each and every part of the Klaussenpas in detail.
I simply enjoyed the view, from that what was visible mind you and took it easy up until 1800mtr, above which there was a small opening in the dense clouds and a wonderful scenic view emerged in front of us. Since I was driving, I didn’t snap any pictures and used the last two kilometres before reaching the ’pass-hohe’ of the Klaussenpass to make full use of the S38’s qualities for one last time before completing the last ascend of the 2005 edition of the Alps meeting for E34 ///M5 owners.
Only 40km and a long challenging descend separated us from the Glarnerhof in Glarus. The opening in the clouds disappeared again and thus visibility was poor at first, but once below 1800mtr, the skies opened up, allowing spirited driving all the way down to Linthal, the first village in the valley below. As said, the Klaussenpass has been preserved in original mid twenty century condition rather well and lacks those stupid tunnels or bridges that eliminate sections with a high avalanche risk. This means that on some spots, the road runs over small and narrow traverses alongside deep cliffs. In my honest opinion, mountain passes should stay that way and should definitely not be improved with short cut tunnels-or bridges to bypass steep abysses. This all gives the Klaussenpass that sense of drama and one cannot imagine that there once were (heroic) people who raced the Klaussenpass in the first halve of the last century with crappy brakes and instable suspensions with speeds well above what even today is considered as safe.
After a quick descend, we arrived in Linthal roughly twenty minutes later. From Linthal to Glarus was nothing more as a formality and shortly after 18.00 we drove into Glarus. We only had to find the Bahnhofstrasse, but as the name implies, that was difficult and therefore, we reached our hotel, the Glarnerhof shortly after.
By arriving in Glarus, the driving part of the 2005 meeting was formally ended. We checked in and dumped our luggage in the hotel, after which we took our seats in the dining room for the rest of the evening. Since Glarus is relatively close to Zug and Basel, Dominik and Hermann who had to work the next morning could take it easy and join us for the closing dinner before they drove home. The rest of us stayed in the hotel until Monday morning when each went their own way.
After a last breakfast with the remainder of the group, my father and I left Glarus at roughly 9.45AM. The weekend was over, but the work was not. Not only did I have to write this 'travel report', but also because we have to start the preparations for next year. See you in 2006.