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Herewith, the first part (six in total) of my travelling report from the fifth edition of the E34 ///M5 meeting in the Swiss, Italian and French Alps.

Please do not post comments in this thread as it will be expanded with three sucesive parts in time. Comments and questions can be added Here.

Thank you and enjoy reading.

References:

Story:
- Raymond Woertman
Pictures:
- ZweifelM5
- Dominik
- Kons
- Raymond Woertman
- Martijn

Previous editions:

- 2002: First edition Parts I & II, First Edition Part III
- 2003: Second edition
- 2004: Third Edition
- 2005: Fourth edition
- 2006: Fifth edition
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Friday

Whilst the planning of the sixth edition of our annual Alps tour progressed, it became clear that we were close to having visited almost all areas in the Alps in past editions. Although there are still some opportunities, these are not enough to cover a complete four day event anymore, hence that roughly fifty percent of the passes planned for 2007 were part of a past edition. The organization committee is fully aware that this only applies to the few that have attended all seven editions, which brings me to one of the original objectives of the Alps tour that was determined during the closing dinner of the first ‘unofficial’ Alps tour on 9 September 2001 were three members of the organization committee plus member GeorgeK and fiancée (now wife) brainstormed about a driving event for a few friends that was not limited to a few hours. It doesn’t need no further clarification that the world then was completely different then the world now and was way more liberal and pleasant to live in. All four of us were part of a global network of E34S owners, many of which expressed interest in participating. One of the conclusions of that brainstorm session was that we allowed other E34S owners as well, but limited the number of participating cars to a maximum of fifteen in order to keep the organization simple and allow us to participate in our own tour.

To achieve our objectives, the main tasks of the organization committee are limited too; set up and describe the route; and select and book the hotels. We do this for our own pleasure and thus organizing this event should be fun. That doesn’t mean we are not prepared to answer for our decisions, but since we are a small group, we are not able to negotiate the prices into the extreme lows. We could try to, but since we only need one night per hotel, they generally aren’t prepared to do lower their quotation unless we accept a lower performance level, which we obviously don’t want. The preparations for an event like the E34S Alps tour require a timeframe of eight to ten months. At first we evaluate the last edition, create a list of improvements, determine the agenda and most important set a date for the next edition. During the second phase, the route-proposal is worked out in more detail to check whether our ideas are realistic. When the OC accepts the proposal, the status of the route description will become preliminary after which some highlights are published in the first newsletter. This preliminary status is upheld up until about three weeks before the start of the event, after which drastic chances cannot be made anymore unless we see no alternative. This was the case in September of 2007 when we heard reports about large construction sites alongside parts of the Friday route. In these cases, the OC seeks alternatives in the case we see ourselves confronted with unacceptable loss of time. In these cases, the OC decides on-site whether or not to use the diversion.

The gathering point for Friday was located near Rankweil, a small city in the northwestern part of Austria close to the Swiss border and not far from the Bodensee. The distance from my premises is roughly 800km, a distance that can nicely be covered in about eight hours. The resulting average speed might not be that impressive, but bear in mind that during the weekend transport traffic isn’t allowed in Germany to progress and that many truck drivers try to reach their destinations that day or at least reach one of neighboring countries were there is no such limitation. Furthermore, one has to consider rush hour traffic and the associated traffic jams. A few hours before our departure, my father called me in the middle of the night to inform me that he suffered from a bad cold. He had these complaints for some time and now these got worse, he was worried about having pneumonia and wanted to visit a doctor first. Since there is no medical emergency, this meant we had to wait until 8.00AM and thus we would never be able to reach Rankweil in time. Fortunately the doctor ruled out pneumonia and diagnosed a serious cold that hadn’t cured yet for which he prescribed medicine. His visit to the doctor went well because he knew my father was going to the Alps for a few days and thus told him that he could come by without an appointment any time. In the mean time, I called Hermann to inform him about our delay and that we would drive to Fiss directly and if the journey went well, we would meet at the Bielerhohe on the Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse.

So instead of leaving at 4.00AM, we left at around 8.30AM shortly after my father received his medication at the pharmacies. Normally, my preferred route towards Austria leads over the A7 from Kassel to Memmingen. However this requires me to drive through Bielefeld or Bad Oeyenhausen (my choice) before entering the A2 towards the A44 in the direction of Paderborn. Unless one is very early, either two of these cities should be avoided so I decided for the shortest possible route over Cologne (A3), Karlsruhe (A5), Stuttgart (A8) and Ulm were I entered the A7 to the so called ‘Memmingen kreuz’ that we reached shortly after 2.00PM. This was early enough to consider joining the rest of the group in Bludenz so I called Hermann to inform about their exact location. Because they were still waiting before a construction site on the western side of the Hochtannbergpass (1675mtr) in the Grosses Walsertal, I could make it in time to Bludenz and meet with the rest before entering the Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse (2032mtr). However, the TMC system of my Becker Cascade head-unit informed me about delays before the Pfander tunnel in both directions, hence I decided to meet the rest of the group at the Bielerhohe from the opposite direction, i.e following the A7 until it ends near Fussen in the Allgau and from there towards Reutte in Austria by following the main two lane road. To avoid the boring Fernpass (1205mtr) towards Imst, we took the southern exit from Reutte and ‘Lechaschau am Lech’ after which we followed the B198 towards the Lechtal and Kleines Walsertal. A few years ago, in September 2005, we used the same route from our hotel in ‘Lechaschau am Lech’ to reach the 1894mtr Hahntenjoch between Elmen and Imst. Whereas the Fernpass has been adapted through the last decennia to cope with the ongoing growth of traffic, the Hahntenjoch didn’t change much and has maintained its attraction for the pro-active driver. Compared to 2005, the Hahntenjoch didn’t change much. Some parts on the Northern side have been renovated with new asphalt, but that is about it. For myself, the Hahntenjoch was a nice warming up exercise to get some rhythm for the next few days. During the ascent, I had to pass some much slower cars, with more then twice the speed, which can be intimating for some who aren’t used to such a speed difference. Although some drivers react with mimic signs or use their headlights the speed limit outside urban areas is unless otherwise indicated 100km/h.

Other then a few busses and cars there wasn’t that much traffic and thus we completed the section between Elmen and Imst in about thirty minutes. Since I didn’t buy an Austrian autobahn vignette, I used the B171 Bundesstrasse towards Zams and Landeck from where I wanted to drive towards the Paznauntal and the Bielerhohe. However, by the time we reached Landeck, it was well past 4.00PM and with people starting their weekends, doing groceries it was impossible to get out of Landeck into western direction. After being blocked in a huge traffic jam for about fifteen minutes I gave up and turned around towards Bundestrasse B180 towards the Reschenpass (1500mtr). Fiss, our destination for that day is not more then 25km away from Landeck of which the last six kilometers are a nice challenging climb towards the plateau on which Fiss and it’s neighboring village Serfaus is located.

Fiss is one of my preferred holiday destinations. It’s a lovely small village that mostly lives from tourism in winter as well in summer. In principle Fiss and Serfaus have a restricted access policy for cars. Only those who need to be in the village can drive through and between 10.00PM and 6.00AM, driving is only allowed over the shortest possible route in or out of the village. Actually one doesn’t need a car within the village either since everything is in walking distance. We stayed at ‘Hotel Garni’ Fernblick that is owned by Andi and Sylvia, a young enthusiastic couple. Andi is an avid motorcycle enthusiast and as such Hotel Fernblick (http://www.fernblick-fiss.at) openly welcomes the many motorcycle enthusiast groups who are touring through the Alps. We arrived at ‘Fernblick’ at around a quarter past five in the afternoon and were welcomed with coffee and in good Tiroler tradition’schnapps’. At around six a clock, the rest of the group arrived. Since we could use the parking garage from ‘Fernblick’ we first parked the cars in the garage with the exception of Dominik’s car that was parked in front of the hotel.



During the day, I exchanged some SMS messages with member Stevie, who was returning from a business trip and had the opportunity to catch up with our group on Saturday evening. Strange to my surprise, he called me at around halve past seven and asked me if I could arrange a room for one night. Friday night was more convenient for him as it allowed him to spend a full day at the Nordschleife before returning home. He was fortunate as Andi had one small room in the notch of the building available. This was good enough. After everyone got settled, we walked to restaurant Montana at the north side of the village where we booked a table at half past eight. Andi had arranged a waitress for the bar in his hotel so we could order a few drinks after we returned from ‘Montana’. At around ten, Stevie called to inform me that he was in the neighborhood and needed about thirty minutes to reach Fiss. His estimation proved to be precise and by half past ten, he made his entrance through the front door. The rest of the evening was spend behind the bar with the usual and normally unatractive for others petrol talk. However, some other guests at the bar were avid motorcycle enthusiasts who showed much interest in our E34S and were wondering where our trip went to.



Since I did not take part in the Friday afternoon etappe between Rankweil and Fiss, I missed out on the Furkajoch (1761mtr), Hochtannbergpass (1675mtr), the Flexenpass (1778mtr) and the Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse (2032mtr). What I heard from the others was that the construction sites between Damuls and the western approach of the Hochtannbergpass were not that bad, but that the Eastern part of this pass was more troublesome. The Silvretta Hochalpenstrasse always is a highlight, especially at the Bielerhohe where one has an excellent view onto the Piz Buin, a characteristic 3321mtr high summit in the Silvretta Alps. The following pictures from Han give a small impression.





The above pictures show the Hochtannbergpass towards the Kleines Walsertal and the Lechtal.



The car’s lined up at the Bielerhohe, in front of the Silvretta Stausee. Normally, the Piz Buin can be seen in the background, but this time, this peak was hidden behind the clouds.



From left to righjt: Marion and Werner, Han, and a bit more to the right, Adrian and behind Martin. From an organization point of view, all went well on Friday. The next day, we will drive from Fiss to San Vito di Cadore, a small village a bit south of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Italian Dolomiti region. Stay tuned for part II.
 

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Saturday

Imagine you live in the perfect world and have the impression that all cars are above all silent. Then suddenly, on your Saturday morning walk through the village, you hear strange rumbling noises escaping from an underground garage, after which you see an old five series driving out of the garage backwards and then suddenly, all hell breaks loose. Inside the garage, seven more cars are waiting and one by one start their engines and generate that typical loud rumbling noise that is so characteristic for an E34S, but what most people would never have heard before so in fact we can imagine that some locals and holiday guests were shaken and not stirred by this experience.



For the participants, the day started with breakfast at around 8.00AM. Some of us might have preferred a little later, but being part of a group tour, one cannot alter the planning that much. Stevie was not obliged to wake up early, but joined us outside just before we left Despite his long journey from Sicily to Fiss the day before, Stevie waved us out for the Saturday part towards ‘San Vito di Cadore’, a village in the Italian Dolomites, south of ‘Cortina d’Ampezzo’.



Due to the fact that some of us had to do some shopping, it took some time before we left. The awaiting E34S line up did draw some more attention and some of the locals and holiday guests seemed to realize that those old fives could be more special then others. After all, two of only 211 1995 E34S M5 Touring’s and another outside the line up is not a sight what you get to see each day. Martijn’s M5T, also nicknamed ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ is an immaculate example. Being only one of three originally Dutch delivered 1995 M5 Tourings, it is very rare indeed.



We left Fiss shortly before nine a clock. Since main road between Fiss and Ried is has an average slope of approximately eight percent, we used the alternative road over Ladis. This road allows a gentler warm up since it doesn’t require braking on the engine. Granted, after Ladis, the road towards Ried has a slope of more then ten percent, but with the oil already warmed up a little, one doesn’t have to worry for the engine speed to rise to 4000RPM. In Ried, we entered the main road towards Landeck, albeit for not more then a few kilometers until reaching the village of Prutz, where we turned right towards the Kaunertaler Gletscher strasse. Unfortunately, this forty kilometer long scenic road is not a pass as it ends in front of the weisssee ferner (glacier) on the northwestern flanks of the weisssee spitze (3518mtr). Instead, we used the small but lovely Pillerhohe between Prutz in the Oberinntal and Wenns in the Pitztal. This pass reaches an altitude of 1558mtr and thus doesn’t even reach the tree-border, but on the Prutz side, one has a spectacular view on the Kaunertaler Alps.

From Prutz onwards, the road towards the Pillerhohe runs through a series of small communities before it enters the village of Kauns, where we turned right towards Kaunerberg and Wenns. Actually, the Pillerhohe isn’t mentioned on the road signs and even on the maps, it just is a white road with no mention of it being a pass. This may be the reason why apart from a few tourists and locals there isn’t that much traffic. From logistical point of view, the Pillerhohe cannot be disregarded though. Not only is it the scenic alternative to the Pitztal, it also is shorter (albeit not faster) then the main road through the more then eight kilometer long Landecker tunnel for which one needs an Austrian autobahn vignette.

Despite being narrow on some sections, the Pillerhohe isn’t that difficult. The largest problem for the driving enthusiast is the single local or tourist who don’t expect groups of cars and or motorcycles. During our ascent between Kaunerberg and pass height, I spotted a Ford Fiesta with Munich plates driving down the pass from the opposite direction. With some goodwill on both sides, it is perfectly possible for two cars to pass each other without that much trouble, yet he choose to stay on the middle of the road and thus try to force ascending traffic, who normally have the right of way backwards. I already had positioned myself to the utmost right of the road when he suddenly stopped. Instead of driving backwards to the passing point not more then thirty meters backwards, he opened his window and said something. Due to the sweet sound of twenty-four valves, I was not able to hear what he said so I drove a little further with my cars front nose at just a few centimeters from his rear left fender and opened my window. An elderly male into his seventies accused me of going up the pass to quick and therefore didn’t want to give way. I replied that the entire group was driving within the applicable speed limit and that he must be aware that ascending traffic has the right of way unless other directions say otherwise. He rumbled a little more to his wife and passengers and drove a little bit backwards to the passing point to let us continue.

The Pillerhohe ends in Wenns, the first larger village in the Pitztal, which like the Kaunertal is blocked by glaciers that mark the end of the valley in front of the so called ‘Weisskamm’, a group of mountains of which the 3774mtr high Wildspitze, Austria’s second highest summit is part of. Our next goal was Imst, from where we followed the B171 towards Innsbruck for about eleven kilometers before turning south towards the Timmelsjoch. Since we were driving in a convoy at roughly 120km/h it was inevitable that the group got separated due to all that overtaking of slower traffic, reason why I stopped briefly for regrouping before entering the Oetztal at roughly 10.30PM. Since the B186 is a large main road that runs through several tourist towns and villages I expected the group to become separated again so I added another regrouping in Solden, which also is the last possible place to refuel before driving into Italy.



In 2005, we also intended driving the 2509mtr high Timmelsjoch, but technical problems with one participating car forced us to visit a BMW dealer in Innsbruck. By the time we could continue, we were two hours behind schedule and with the worsening weather conditions, driving the Timmelsjoch would be troublesome. Instead we drove directly to Vipiteno over the old Brennerpass before picking up our route at the intersection between the Jauffenpass (2094mtr) and the Penserjoch (2215mtr). This time, the weather was the complete opposite and all the cars were performing flawlessly. The trip up until Solden was uneventful other then the many overtaking maneuvers to pass slower cars, but Solden was reached without much problems where we regrouped at the petrol station as planned. After leaving Solden, the B186 ascends rapidly towards Obergurgl and Hochgurgl. This is a nice section that offers the discerning driving enthusiast a nice challenge, at least when there isn’t much traffic. During holiday season, one can expect lots and lots of tourists who in their effort to see as much as possible hardly reach halve the allowed speed. Not that it caused us many problems though; the vast majority could be passed in a fluent maneuver. Only one German driving a W203 C-Class estate didn’t like the idea of being passed by some old BMW’s and caused some trouble, but to no avail and thus had to accept that nine E34S cars passed him before reaching the Hochgurgl tollgate were we paid the required thirteen Euro for a single passage into Italy.



One by one, all nine E34S accelerated quickly out of the tollgates causing a very nice concert of fully warmed up S38’s. This attracted quite some attention from the many people in the direct vicinity of the tollgate. On the majority of the passes, the nimbler E34S would be able to outperform for instance the much more powerful E39S, but not so on the Austrian side of the Timmelsjoch. Not that we encountered one, but due to its ideal layout in an open high Alpine terrain there are no black spots, hence one can see what is coming from the other direction all the way up to the pass height. This allowed us to maintain a sustained speed of more then 120km/h. Within ten minutes, we arrived at the abandoned customs offices at the pass height where we stopped for about fifteen minutes to enjoy the breathtaking scenery.



The Timmelsjoch the Stubaier Alps from the Oetztaler Alps and dates back to 1241 a.d. Due too it’s geographic location, it is the only mountain passage between Reschen and Brenner that is not covered by glaciers. Only in 1959, the north side of the pass was constructed to the road that we know today but it took until 1968 before it was opened in both directions. The south side in its current form dates back to the pre WWII era. Due to the many steep sections, only light traffic is allowed and thus one doesn’t need to worry about trucks or any other heavyweights. After roughly fifteen minutes, we entered south Tirol and descended into the lovely Passeier valley.



I left the pass height a few minutes before the rest to find a nice location for making some pictures. Although the entire road was lovely, finding a suitable spot proved to be a bit difficult in the high Alpine terrain so I found myself standing on a 600ft cliff just a few meters from the road.



After everyone had passed, we resumed driving, but had to accept that a few cars came in between. It wasn’t before the last section that we could catch up, but only because we all had to deal with slow traffic. Eventually we reached St Leonhard in the Passeier valley were we immediately turned left towards the 2094mtr high Jauffenpass. Though not as high as the Timmelsjoch, the Jauffenpass is just as nice to drive with countless of hairpins and a relatively wide road. Off course we had to deal with the usual slow traffic, this time caused by a mobile home driving up the pass in ‘escargot’ pace. By the time we passed the long line of slow driving cars in front of us, we already found ourselves driving in the higher part of the Jauffenpass where we approached a Z4 3.0i from behind. He must have spotted those old E34’s as he suddenly accelerated in an effort to keep the lead. Though these cars have handling potential and a power to weight ratio that matches an E34S ///M5 3.8, the driver in the Z4 was not capable enough to fully exploit the capabilities of his car. One by one, he had to accept that these old E34’s passed him once he had to shift to third gear. We stopped briefly at the pass-height where we intended to stop for lunch, but a brief assessment of the crowded parking area forced us to continue driving until the next opportunity that we found in a restaurant a few kilometers further towards Vipiteno.

The Jauffepass is located in the province of South Tirol that originally was part of Austria, but after WWI became part of Italy. Despite the efforts by the Italian government to fully integrate South Tirol into Italy, a large part of the native population returned after many years living in exile. Today, South Tirol is an autonomous province proof of which is that the German language survived as the native language. This means that unlike in many other Italian provinces, there is no significant communication barrier.

After lunch, we left in two groups in the direction of Vipiteno, also known as Sterzing. Actually, the Jauffenpass and the Timmelsjoch are not that difficult to drive. Granted, the Timmelsjoch south side is steep has an ample amount of hairpins, but the quality of the pavement is excellent so one can rely on the cars handling almost anywhere. Both passes can be combined in a single round tour that include the old Brenner-pass (1500mtr) and the Kuhtai sattel (2000mtr) as well. Since this was not our goal, we turned south towards the Penserjoch shortly before reaching Sterzing.

Due to its parallel position westerly of the Brenner autobahn between Sterzing and Bozen, the Penserjoch usually is low on traffic. We drove this pass once before in September 2005 when the weather was determined by two cold weather fronts colliding above the Alps causing snowfall over 1500mtr. This time, the weather situation was completely the opposite with clear skies and pleasant ambient temperatures well above the twenty degrees mark. The north side of the Penserjoch begins just outside Sterzing at a large T-section directly in front of a large bridge of the Brenner autobahn. This must have been the reason that the group with Martijn and Werner who were driving a few hundred meters in front of me missed the directions towards the Penserjoch. I had the advantage of on-site knowledge and thus called Martijn to inform him about their navigation error, but they already discovered that and were about to return.

Like the vast majority of the other passes in the South Tyrolean region, the 2215mtr high Penserjoch is not that difficult to drive. The relatively short north side is rather steep and twisty, but overall, the Penserjoch has one lane for each direction allowing quick passing maneuvers without the need of precise positioning ones car with centimeter precision. Despite being low on traffic we were delayed by temporary stoplights that secured two construction sites. At one of these, I wanted to pass a small underpowered Italian green frog car at the exit of the construction site and already had positioned myself next to the ‘Pinda’ when I suddenly spotted a fast approaching motorcycle coming from the opposite direction. It’s speed forced me to abandon my overtaking maneuver, as the available power reserve probably was not enough to compensate for the 10% incline of the road. For the rest, the ascent went uneventful and we reached the Penserjoch within twenty minutes. Although visibility was excellent, I decided against a small sightseeing stop at the pass-height in order to quickly reach Bolzano, roughly forty-two kilometers to the south. The first twenty-seven kilometers through the Sarntal is a most challenging drive up, at least up until reaching the village of Sarntheim after which ‘driving fun’ is limited by the many smaller and larger villages that are separated by a series of small tunnels between which passing other cars can be a hazardous exercise. After exiting the last tunnel, the Penserjoch silently ends in the outskirts of Bolzano, South Tirol’s second largest city. We followed the directions towards the Brenner autobahn that took us straight through the city center of Bolzano. Normally, traffic in Bolzano can be quite hectic, but not this time.

Our next goal, Blumau hardly is six kilometers from Bolzano directly near the SS12, the main road to Strerzing and Brenner. Even though the Brenner highway runs parallel to the SS12, local traffic avoids the toll-obliged highway due to which traffic on the old provincial road is high. Combine that with the diversity of traffic ranging from fast cars, motorcycles, and trucks and slow driving tractors, hence we got stock into slow driving traffic. The other direction was just as crowded as well so overtaking the hundreds of vehicles in front of us didn’t make sense. After all, Blumau was no more then three kilometers more north so why not take it easy and concentrate on finding the exit towards the Nigerpass.

The Nigerpass (1688mtr) is redundant next to the Karerpass (1758mtr) as both passes merge just a few hundred meters west of the highest point of the Karerpass. However, the Italians constructed a new Nigerpass sometime ago to replace the old road that with an incline of 24% is one of the steepest passes in the entire Alps. However, coming from the south the Nigerpass is not indicated on the road directions when entering Blumau and to avoid missing it, I decided to take the next best exit into Blumau as I knew that once past Blumau, we had no other option to reach Canazei over the shortest possible road anymore other then turning around which would have delayed us with thirty minutes at least. In Blumau, we followed the ongoing road into eastern direction that took us outside the village straight into a lovely twisty mountain road. I assumed this to be the right road, but my satellite navigation reported otherwise so it was time to look onto the maps but it wasn’t until a few kilometers higher up into the mountains that I saw a small open area in which six cars could safely stop.



My detailed Dolomites map gave me a quick answer. For the Nigerpass, we had to leave the SS12 at the most northern exit in Blumau. With other words, we didn’t drive the intended route, but to turn around and find our way through Blumau? Fortunately that wasn’t necessary as we weren’t on a dead end, but on the road towards Welschhofen on the west side of the Karerpass. Not bad, and with five other passes in the Dolomites still on the program, it didn’t make sense to return to the Nigerpass. After briefing the others about this minor route-adjustment, we resumed driving into the Dolomites towards Welschhofen, a small village that we reached in about a quarter of an hour. Here, we turned east towards the Karerpass and the hart of the Dolomite region. On itself, the Karerpass is a nice road; especially the twisty eastern side. However, being a main route, it usually is crowded with traffic and opportunities to pass the slow driving Italians are rare, very rare, hence we stayed in convoy up until reaching Vigo di Fassa where we turned north towards Canazei, a village that lies amid a dozen of excellent passes and just a bit west of the impressive glacier covered Marmolada massive that rises 3352mtr above sea level. Since I had gained a small lead just before reaching Canazei, I was able to stay in front of a large camper before entering the road towards the Pordoijoch and the Sellajoch. The others had to stay behind, allowing me to increase the gap in order to find a nice location for making some pictures. The lovely Avus Blue touring in front belongs to Werner and Marion, the Mauritius Blue 3,6 sedan belongs to Oliver and last but not least, the illustrious ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ from Martijn, one of only four originally Dutch registered E34S M5 Tourings



Despite that the shortest route towards our destination in San Vito di Cadore would be the Pordoijoch (2242mtr), we turned north towards the Sellajoch (2240mtr) since this allowed us to include the Grödnerjoch (2137mtr) and the Passo di Valparolla (2192mtr) as well. In the end, it doesn’t make much difference since both variants end at the 2117mtr high Passo di Falzarego towards Cortina d’Ampezzo. After my small photography stop, we quickly drove away to catch up with Adrian, Werner & Marion and the rest. They still were stuck behind the slow ascending camper and were nearing the crossing between the Sellajoch and Pordoijoch when I approach fast. Martijn must have seen my intention to turn left, but Werner and Marion probably couldn’t have seen this or relied on their navigation system for the fastest route towards San Vito di Cadore and followed Adrian. At first, Oliver who was driving in front of Martijn, also drove towards the Pordoijoch, but quickly turned around after he saw Martijn and myself taking another direction.

The Sellajoch is a lovely pass with numerous hairpins with a layout is very much suited for an E34S. What followed was a lovely full throttle hill climb with three M5’s in consecutive order in which two strong HD91 models were in hot pursuit of the single HJ91 model. Whilst accelerating out from the many hairpins, ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’s’ S38B38 engine proved to be very strong and I had difficulty keeping up when accelerating from low revs. I could slightly reduce distance upon braking before the next hairpin and during turning in, but that is about it. The traffic situation was rather light and only a few kilometers before reaching the Sellajoch’s highest point, we had to pass a few cars, some of which didn’t like that very much, but lost against the S38’s midrange acceleration power. Nevertheless Martijn created a one-car gap and took a lead of a few hundred meters due to which he missed our sightseeing stop.



Strictly speaking, the Dolomites are not part of the Alps as it is a separate mountain range that once was a seabed floor due to which the structure of the Dolimites is completely different then the Alps that mostly consists of solid granite. Made of a particularly rough grey limestone, the Dolomite summits typically soar up from the surrounding forests and pastures in blocks, towers and pinnacles, which are famous for going pink or bronze at sunset. The following picture shows Dolomites highest summit, the impressive 3342mtr high glacier covered Marmolada massive.



We resumed driving after about ten minutes into the direction of Wolkenstein. After a relatively short decent, we reached the junction between between roads S242 and S243 where we turned east towards the Grödnerjoch (2137mtr). Like the Sellajoch, the Grödnerjoch doesn’t require much driving skills as all the Dolomite passes in the area have been extended into two lane roads to cope with the increasing traffic. Most of the Grödnerjoch allows full throttle, even in the hairpins, but the many slow driving Italians must be taken into consideration as they can drastically spoil the fun. Although they can be passed quite easily as they don’t cause much trouble, many Italian have a habit of using the ideal line and not looking into their rear view mirrors. This was not the case with a German registered A6 3.0TDI and a Swiss registered Lexus RX model though as on the descent of the eastern side towards the Grödnerjoch they tried to block me on several occasions. Every time, I positioned myself into the hairpin for the inevitable overtaking maneuver, the driver of the A6 streered to the other side of the road using his low rev torque to prevent me from passing him. Due too the many consecutive hairpins, he could keep me behind for a few occasions until I could safely use the inside of the upcoming hairpin. He clearly didn’t expect that, but desperately tried to close the gap to the Lexus RX in front of him, but I was already driving next to him so he couldn’t use his torque without the risk of excessive under steer. This gave me the leading edge that I needed to fully use the advantage of my old but still strong high revving racing heritage engine.

The diver in the Swiss registered Lexus RX must have seen that small battle and didn’t like the idea to be passed either and made him self as wide as possible in order to keep me and Oliver behind. At first, he succeeded but after a small analysis of his tactics, I decided he could be passed in a small left-right curve that came soon after where I benefited from a lower center of gravity and the nimble and neutral handling characteristics of my E34S. We reached Corvara soon after Oliver also managed to pass both cars, where we turned left towards Passo di Valparola.





With 2192mtr above sea level, the Passo di Valparolla is the most northern member of the Dolomites pass-triangle east of Cortina d’Ampezzo that can be included in a loop or used as entrance or exit road towards of from the Passo di Falzarego which is part of the main East-west connection between Cortina d’Ampezzo, Canazei and Bolzano. Due too its isolated position in the pass-triangle, one doesn’t have to deal with that much traffic so it is a nice driving road, but like the other passes in the region, the best time to drive them is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. During World War I (WWI), this area has been a huge battlefield between the Italian army and the Austrian/ Hungary army taking positions high up in the mountains. Ruins and artifacts can still visible be seen and some of the corridors, bunkers and gun-positions can be visited today as part of a large open-air museum such as can be found on the junction between the Passo di Falzarego and the Passo di Valparola.





After a short sightseeing stop at the lift installations near the junction with Passo di Falzarego (2117mtr), we descended this pass eastwards into the direction of Cortina d’Ampezzo, just outside the province of ‘Alto Adige’, the Italian designation for South Tirol. During the descent, we quickly entered our destination for the day in the navigation system, which whilst driving spiritedly through all those hairpins is a challenge on its own. After arriving in Cortina, we turned south one more time for the last ten kilometers towards San Vito di Cadore where we arrived roughly twenty-five minutes later as last of the group. The navigation system directed me straight towards hotel Roma where we spotted a few of the others on the terrace for a well-deserved drink.

Though not high summer, we had an excellent day with pleasant ambient temperatures in dry weather. We drove a little more then 350km over some very challenging roads and through spectacular scenery. After arriving, Dominik kindly collected and handed over the keys to our hotel rooms. After a quick refreshing, we all gathered in the dining room for well-deserved dinner. Our hosts at the hotel also arranged an excellent buffet with salads and cooked vegetables so we had nothing to complain. After dinner, some of us retreated into their hotel rooms. The rest walked to the café near the hotel lobby for some last drinks and viewing the many pictures that were taken that day.



After a last round shortly after midnight, the hotel owner had to close the café, which was convenient for us as well since we had to wake up early for the long day that was lying ahead of us. With a total distance of roughly 550km, the trip towards Acqarossa in Switzerland may not seem that long, but most of it will be driven through narrow mountain passes such as the notorious 2621mtr high Passo di Gavia in Lombardy. With no highway sections to increase the average speed, Sunday already proved to be a real challenge in the planning stage. With other words, a calculated risk. Stay tuned for the next part.
 

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Sunday part I

Already in the advance planning stages, we discovered a discrepancy between our goals and our requirements. One of these requirements is sufficient time for stops to chill and socialize, which can be met if the driving distance is kept under 400km on a single day. For Sunday, this simply was not possible with another goal, closing the meeting in an idyllic region in the Swiss Alps near Schwyz. The first route drafts resulted in a distance of almost 700km, almost double that is written in the requirements. To solve this constraint, I put a pencil strike through two of our goals, the Passo del Manghen (2067mtr) east of Trento and the Passo di Croce Domini a bit west of the Garda Lake. But this only led to a reduction with 170km for which we had to accept driving through large provincial roads between Fondo and Chiavenna with only the Passo del Tonale (1883mtr) and the Passo di Aprica (1100mtr) in between. Though this southern approach would have saved time, such a long part over normal roads does not meet the intentions and spirit of the E34S Alps tour.

After some deliberation we decided to maintain the finish in the Acquarossa, a small settlement near the Lukmanierpass in Switzerland and accept a longer route then usual. We even managed to replace the section between Ponte di Legno and Sondrio for the more rewarding alternative over Bormio and Livigno without increasing the driving distance that much. With a total of 538,5km Sunday the 16th of September 2007 would be the longest day in the history of the E34S Alps tour, hence why logistically it was split up in two parts. The 224km long first part contains five lovely passes before reaching the Tonale winter sport region, after which we could proceed with the technical far more difficult second part.



When we checked in hotel Roma on Saturday evening, the hotel manager informed us that Sunday’s breakfast would not be served before 8:00AM. According to the planning, we wanted to depart at 7:30AM sharp so this little bird came to a surprise. One of the receptionists spoke English and thus must have heard the members of the OC discussing the consequences of this delay and offered to prepare some basic breakfast at 7:30AM. When we arrived in the hotel lobby at 7:30AM the next morning, we were greeted by some of the staff that woke up early to prepare a full breakfast for our group. Needless to say that this token of flexibility came much appreciated and allowed us to depart at 8:00AM.





After having breakfast and completing the basic checkout procedures we all drove off towards Cortina d’Ampezzo between 8:00AM and 8:15AM. Against the explicit OC advice to fuel up the cars the day before, some of us (including me) didn’t do so and used the first opportunity in a small village just before Cortina. I only filled my petrol tank till 60 liters, sufficient to reach Livigno where fuel costs less then one Euro per liter.



We reached Cortina shortly after where we turned west and ascended towards Pocol for the starting point of the Passo di Falzarego. Since we were driving west, we used the same route as the day before, but then in opposite direction. There are some alternatives, amongst others the Passo di Giau (2238mtr) and the Passo di Fedaia (2067mtr) just south of the Marmolada massive, but these roads are too small for maintaining an average 60km/h average speed until reaching the Tonale region. Despite that on the maps, the Falzarego doesn’t seem that impressive, it’s many hairpins and overall twisty layout makes it a rewarding pass to drive, especially with virtually no other traffic on the road. Some of us used that opportunity to explore the balance of their cars and take them into a drift. Some pictures of Simon doing so exist, as Han skillfully positioned himself through the double sunroof of Martijn’s ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ in a difficult attempt to do so.



‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ is a nickname that refers to the vehicle identification number of Martijn’s touring, a coincidence discovered by Stevie who visited us on Friday evening. ‘Kaiser Wilhelm’ is a lovely preserved (and maintained) example that proves the outstanding durability of these cars. I was close to buying it in the spring of 2006, but my wife didn’t like the idea of having three hobby cars so I had to give up. Martijn still jokes that he has to send her a postcard to express his gratitude for that (LOL). When we reached the Falzarego’s pass-height we continued following road S48 towards Andraz and Arraba where we turned west into the direction of the Pordoijoch. Despite not having separate lanes for each direction, the east side of the Pordoijoch is wide enough to allow passing the occasional ordinary car in a single and swift maneuver. The many serpentine shaped corners offer the driver an excellent though not really difficult challenge, hence why it is considered being one of the best high Alpine roads in northeastern Italy. During the last five kilometers before reaching its highest point, the ‘Pordoi’ enters a high alpine plateau in an open terrain from where a breathtaking panoramic view arises onto the surrounding Dolomite summits.



It was too early for a coffee break, thus ignoring all those bars and restaurants at the 2242mtr high pass-height and descended the ‘Pordoi’ on its west side. After a few kilometers, the ‘Pordoi’ crosses the Sellajoch before reaching Canazei lower down in the valley. From that point, we used the same road as the day before, but then in opposite direction towards the village of Vigo di Fassa where we turned west towards the 1745mtr high Karerpass.



The Karerpass itself went uneventful before reaching the narrow section just before Bolzano were we got mixed up in slow traffic with an irritating German registered Audi A4 Avant driving in front of me who also got stuck behind some very slow driving Italian natives, but lacked the courage to pass. Granted, in the relatively narrow section through the gorges, this is not as simple as it seems, but opportunities arise always. My father who was driving saw one, passed the Audi and a moment later two or three of the tourist drivers. The Audi driver reacted as if he was bitten by a mosquito and followed aggressively without realizing how far he could go. After passing the first series of cars, traffic coming from the other direction forced us going back in lane, which caught the Audi by surprise as he had to brake violently to avoid hitting the rear of my E34S. I couldn’t see the others in my rear view mirror, for that the gorge was to narrow and the road to twisty. After descending into the valley, we reached the main junction with provincial road S12 and highway A12 where we turned north to Bolzano until reaching the intersection with road S38 towards Merano.

Participants of previous Alps tours will be recognize Passo Mendola from previous events in 2003 and 2005. With an altitude of 1312mtr it does not match up the majority of the Alps passes, but this little gem just south of Bolzano can hardly be avoided when planning car and or motorcycle trips in South Tirol and Lombardia. The western (Lombardian) side towards Fondo is not that spectacular, but the eastern side from Bolzano and the ‘Strada del Vino’ is not only lovely from a scenic point of view, but also a first class drivers challenge with it’s dozens of hairpins and corners in between the valley and the pass height more then 1000mtr higher. Some sections are literally cut through the rocks with only a lovely brick wall offering some sort of protection between the road and the abyss on the western side.

Just after we completed this spectacular part, we approached a series of slow driving cars just before entering the second halve that contains the majority of all the hairpins. Given the fact that my father who was driving had on site knowledge of this pass, he managed to pass them without much delay in between the first two hairpins. The others were not able to, as there was too much traffic coming from the opposite direction. Usually not that much of a problem when using the hopping technique, but to do so, one must be certain that the drivers in the cars about to be passed can cope with such a swift action. As some of them were elderly people, this was difficult without passing them in a single maneuver. I had the advantage to do so, but Oliver, Marion & Werner, Martijn & Han and Martin and Adrian had not. As the second part towards the Mendola was clear of traffic, my father and I gained a significant lead that was too much for the others to catch up with so after passing the Mendola towards Fondo, we slowed down to forty kilometers per hour, which is low enough for the others to compensate the loss off time. We sustained this pace until reaching Fondo where we had to change direction towards Passo Tonale. Even though the route description was accurate, I called Martijn to inform about their situation and progress. As the Tonale was our next goal, I told him that I would drive straight to its pass-height where I would wait for them. It later turned out that they stopped for a few brief moments on the Mendola shortly after I unintentionally pulled away from them.





The distance from Fondo towards the Tonale is close to sixty kilometers or roughly one hour. The first part of road SS42 is a secondary road amid large grape yards and small villages with some funny radar-controlled stoplight systems that are a creative solution to enforce the speed limits. Driving within the limit is rewarded with a green wave whilst driving through the villages but if the radar detects a violation, it will switch to red causing a stop and go penalty that lasts roughly halve a minute. In Livo, we turned west towards Dimaro after which we followed the directions to the Passo Tonale at the end of the Val Vermiglio valley. The Tonale itself is not that difficult to drive, as it is relatively wide without difficult sections.



We arrived at the Tonale shortly before noon meaning that the 224km long Sunday morning section of the route had been completed within four hours. I knew that Konstantin and Dominik were already somewhere on the Passo di Gavia, but the rest including Hermann, Andy were still en route towards the Tonale. In a telephone conference with Hermann, he suggested not to halt at the Tonale, but continue driving in order to take full advantage of our good position on the schedule. Although his motives were very valid, I decided to wait for the last group at a small Kiosk in the Tonale village where my father ordered cappuccino with cake whilst I was looking for a nice spot on the terrace. As Hermann already informed me, they didn’t stop at the Tonale so they passed us roughly ten minutes after our arrival. The rest of the group needed another twenty minutes and arrived around half past twelve, roughly half an hour behind schedule.

All in all, everything went rather well, but it had to be since the second part is 330km longer then the first part during which we will drive nine more passes making a grand total of fourteen on Sunday alone! The main difference between the morning and afternoon parts of this day is the type of roads. Until now, the route took us over relatively easy roads, but that will change soon after descending the Passo del Tonale where we will turn north towards the narrow and difficult Passo di Gavia, that with an altitude of 2621mtr is one of the highest passes in the Alps. Look out for part II.
 

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Sunday part II

We used the regrouping at the Tonale’s pass-height for a coffee-stop, even though I was very well aware that the remaining distance of roughly 330km would be a huge challenge to comprehend in a single afternoon, hence we could not afford a lengthy coffee break at this time of the day. With other words, from a planning point of view, it was necessary that we resumed driving as soon as possible. As I didn’t want to give a false signal by staying (which I preferred), I decided to resume driving towards the planned lunch stop in Maloja, just south of Sant Moritz. After I informed Martijn (in my native language), my father and I left Tonale at about a quarter past one. Another reason for me doing so was that when I found a nice location for a photo shoot, I could catch the others at the most dramatic part of the Passo di Gavia, but that would be impossible as later turned out.

To reach road S300A towards the Passo di Gavia, we descended the Passo del Tonale for about ten kilometers until reaching the first junction that is situated in between two hairpins during which one can easily achieve 120km/h and more. Suffice to say that it is easy to pass this point without knowing before one reaches Ponte di Legno, a village lower down in the valley. In the end, it doesn’t really matter other then the need for reorienting on ones navigation and the need to enter Ponte di Legno itself. After making the sharp right U turn we entered road S300A towards the Passo di Gavia. The first part descends a little further until reaching half open terrain with a few stables and houses. It stays that way for a few kilometers until the road seems to reach a dead end in front of a forest. Only on the very last moment, a small opening in the forest appears and only a small road sign just behind the opening confirms that one about to enter one of the most fearsome passes in the Alps. The dense vegetation results in a significant reduction in daylight during which the road also narrows down to hardly more then the size of an average car!

The first few kilometers of road lead through the forest during which one already has ascended a two to three hundred meters before the vegetation grows lower until reaching an open high Alpine terrain with slopes angled forty-five degrees and more. The extremely small radius hairpins are a challenge on their own as some can hardly be driven in a single maneuver with large cars such as our E34S’s. The biggest problems arise with upcoming traffic and although ascending traffic has the right of way, lack of appropriate passing points forces one to be creative in such cases as it is not unrealistic that one is forced to drive back a few hundred meters to find a small cut-out in the mountainside. Lacking any significant Armco fencing and without any room for errors on both sides, I’d rather prefer to give the other person the right of way even though I don’t have to. It’s a lovely road in a surreal landscape that can easily distract from staying focused on the road; hence one must stay concentrated on the driving.

Fortunately traffic was low, only a few descending Opel Tigra convertibles had to wait in the hairpins, but they positioned themselves wisely so it was easy to steer around them, but whilst doing so, I already passed the few photo locations that I had in mind. Given the above analysis, it is close to impossible turning around, at least until reaching the only reconstructed section at roughly 2200mtr altitude. Originally, the Gavia was routed outside a huge cliff with slopes of eighty degrees and more on both sides. It doesn’t require much imagination that even in the summer season it is difficult to maintain a high availability of the road, and that is probably the reason why the Italians constructed a tunnel with a length of three to four hundred meters to eliminate the risk of landslides at that point.

The tunnel also marks the point where a semi-tundra terrain changes into very rough Alpine terrain that is mostly dominated by large rock formations. Despite that the Gavia stays very narrow, the height difference on each side of the road reduces significantly until reaching the pass height at 2621mtr. As I forgot to find a suitable location on the Gavia’s south-col, I decided to move ahead and drive directly towards the planned lunch stop in Maloja, about fifteen kilometers south of Sant Moritz. This decision proved to be the right one as later the afternoon, I heard that Martin’s car broke down and I would have wait endlessly without realizing about their problems. They also were not able to contact the organization committee, as the Italian telecom companies didn’t feel the need to include the admittedly very remote and isolated area around the Gavia within the coverage of their mobile networks. By the time we could be informed about the break down of Martin’s car, some members of the organization committee already had progressed as far as the Splugenpass, to far to turn around. We do have instructions to handle cases like these, but the protocol relies on mobile phone communications to inform each other, but when there is no network coverage it is impossible that situations like these occur, hence we expect some self supporting qualities of our participants, reason why we simply cannot accept any applicant with an E34S.



Since Martin’s car lost a significant amount of oil they feared the worst, but fortunately this happened on the widest part of the Gavia, shortly after exiting the tunnel. They quickly secured the site which was not only required because of the position of Martin’s car, but also because the inflicted oil spill on the road.



After the oil spill was dealt with, it took some time before Martin’s car cooled down enough to investigate the cause. It turned out that the hose between the oil cooler and the oil filter house was torn. Given the fact that this is an application specific hose that was not at hand, they had to resort in temporarily patching the leak with duct tape.



All in all, it took them roughly two hours before they could proceed. By that time, I had already past Livigno towards the Forcola di Livigno (2315mtr) and I still didn’t know anything. Although Martin’s car could be temporarily repaired, this repair wouldn’t hold that long and certainly not for the remainder of the route. They did proceed driving the Gavia, but during their fueling stop in Bormio, Adrian selected the least demanding route that would give Martin’s car highest change of reaching Acquarossa.

Even though the Passo di Gavia reaches an altitude of 2621mtr, the surrounding summits are much higher, some well above the 3000mtr. The first part towards Bormio, despite being narrow and twisty is rather straightforward and not that technical due too which one can take some time to enjoy the rough scenery with some of the surrounding summits rising three thousand meters and more.



At this point one enters the southern regions of the Stelvio National park with one of the highest mountain ranges in the eastern Alps. During the first four or five kilometers, the Gavia doesn’t descends that much. That chances after leaving the high Alpine environment at roughly 2300mtr, after which the road descends towards Bormio. The many hairpins can be driven at speed due to which it is easy to maintain an average speed of more then sixty kilometers per hour. Fortunately, there wasn’t that much traffic and that there was could easily be passed without much delay. I arrived at Bormio shortly before one a clock where we entered the famous S38, the road towards the Passo dello Stelvio (2758mtr). Not for long though as just outside Bormio we turned west towards Passo di Foscagno (2291mtr).

The Passo di Foscagno is one of three roads towards a Livigno, a tax-free region much like Samnaun, but a bit more normal and thus significantly cheaper. The Passo di Foscagno is a lovely driving road that is constructed as a two-lane road, one for each direction. Even though one stays within Italy, Italian customs have a permanent checkpoint at the Foscagno’s pass height to look for smugglers traveling from Livigno to Lombardia. Traveling into Livigno, usually is not that much of a problem and thus delays are uncommon. After passing the Foscagno’s pass height, the road descends for about three or four hundred meters before approaching two lovely wide radius hairpins, that if traffic permits can be used to practice throttle over steer. From that point, road S301 follows the natural flow of the valley for about seven kilometers. This valley connects the Passo di Foscagno with the Passo d’Eira (2208mtr) before descending to Livigno. In between these passes, there are some signs of urbanization, but activity is limited to one large Agip petrol station and a few tax-free shops and off course the many lift installations for the winter. After passing the Passo d’Eira, we descended over a lovely twisty road for about seven kilometers before reaching the southern outskirts of Livigno where I filled the almost empty fuel tank with Agip Super unleaded for less then one Euro per liter before proceeding towards the Forcola di Livigno and the Swiss border a little further on.

The 2315mtr high Forcola di Livigno begins a few kilometers south of Livigno where it follows the natural flow of the valley in an almost straight line. Combined with the sixty kilometer per hour speed limit, its north side is not rewarding especially not when there is a lot off traffic in and out from Livigno. Granted, one can opt for the big-hop, but for that one needs to ignore the speed limit, which usually is not a problem, if not the Italian customs have an excellent overview on this pass from their checkpoint at the pass height. In between the Italian and Swiss customs, the Forcola di Livigno is a lovely road from where the grandeur of glacier covered Piz Palu emerges to the south. The Piz Palu is part of the Bernina massive and is just four meters short of reaching four thousand meters, but it cannot be missed.

With the upcoming Swiss customs checkpoint just before the Berninapass in mind, it didn’t make sense to pass the few cars in front of me as I expected a line-up of cars before entering Switzerland. This turned out to be true and progress was slow as they checked almost all the passing traffic. The motorcycle driver in front of me was instructed to stop at their office a little further to the right when I heard someone say: “der fahrt auch mit fast abgefahrene Reifen”, which translated into English means: “It also drives with close too worn tires”. On my turn, I handed over my passport after which the customs official asked about the purpose of my visit to Switzerland and if I had anything to declare. I replied that I was just driving around towards Acquarossa in Tessin, which is the truth, but for some reason, he asked for my driver’s license and instructed me to park my car behind the motorcycle and wait.

It took approximately five minutes before two colleagues arrived and asked me to open the trunk of my car. Whilst one of them carried out the inspections, I tried to lighten the atmosphere a bit and started a small chat. This worked rather well, but the inspecting officer was surprised to see the spare parts and tools that I carry with me on trips like these. However, he didn’t make any fuss about that. After a few minutes, they returned my documents and wished us a safe journey and a pleasant stay in Switzerland without mentioning the worn front tires.

We turned right and entered the Berninapass in northern direction towards Pontresina. In itself the Berninapass is an easy pass to drive with a perfect layout for high performance cars to fully exploit their potential. However, since the Bernina is a main road, one can expect the Swiss police to regularly enforce the speed limit. The Berninapass runs alongside the eastern slopes of the Bernina massive with large glaciers coming from the 3996mtr high Piz Palu. With other words, the scenery is breathtaking, especially for those who do not spend that much time in the Alps. The Piz Bernina itself is a tad higher and reaches 4049mtr, but stays out of visual range until entering the forests lower down the pass towards Pontresina.

Lunch was planned at the Maloja Kulm roughly fifteen kilometers southwest of Sankt Moritz. However, I received a SMS-message from Adrian in which he informed me that they would arrive in Sondrio at roughly four a clock in the afternoon. As Sondrio is not a part of the route, I called Martijn to enquire for more information. At that moment I first learned about the problems with Martin’s car on the Passo di Gavia and the consequences this had for the last group.Soon after, I received another phone call from Hermann who informed me that the restaurant where we planned lunch had closed its doors and that they stopped for lunch in Aquacalda, a small village on the border between Italy and Switzerland.

The Westside of the Malojapass is a lovely road that from a driving point of view is a complete contrast to the east side coming from Sankt Moritz. Whereas the eastern side is rather straightforward and runs alongside a lake, the west side towards Chiavenna is a lovely road with lots of challenging serpentines. The main problem there is traffic so the best time to drive this pass would be between midnight and sunrise. On daily hours, the usual local and tourist traffic dilutes the driving-fun a bit. Local traffic isn’t that much of a problem. They usually are adapted to driving in the mountains and adapt themselves easily. Having said this, the main difference between the Italians and native Swiss is that the Italians are dead slow and prefer to drive significantly below the speed limit whereas the Swiss are more progressive. However, they both are assertive drivers. This unlike the many tourists coming from northwestern Europe where traffic is a whole lot more congested. The vast majority of these simply don’t have the training or expertise to drive dynamically. They usually keep small gaps to the car in front of them in order to prevent passing maneuvers from other cars. They can accept that from the natives, but certainly not from those who are not. This results in the usual headlight flash and in some occasion’s pathetic attempts to close the gap in front of them. A German male driving an Opel Corsa on Hamburg Plates showed it all. He first used the full potential of his seventy to eighty horsepower lawnmower engine to prevent me from steering to the right and when that didn’t work, he flashed his lights, used his claxon and from what I could see in my rearview mirror showed his outrage with physical and verbal expressions. Oh dear: “get a life and resume working”.

After entering Italy a few kilometers before Chiavenna we turned north towards the Splugenpass (2115mtr). Already in Chiavenna, the Splugenpass ascends mildly for a few kilometers until reaching the first hairpins that mark the beginning of one of the most dramatic roads in the Alps. From here, the road is a never-ending series of hairpins and tunnels that are literality cut and constructed in steep cliffs. Despite the rough terrain, there are some villages and although these are small, I could not live there, as the noise and congestion of the bypassing traffic must be intense. I can image that the native inhabitants have learnt to live with that through the years, but it must be difficult through the summer season. With other words, it is important to respect the applicable speed limit.

The Swiss side of the Splugenpass is hardly congested, so one can fully exploit the terrace shaped road directly after the customs checkpoint that invites to full throttle exercises. Again, smaller cars have the advantage, as the road is rather narrow. But the tarmac also is bumpy so a proper suspension setup that is in good health is another requirement as well. Needless to say that the Splugenpass ends in Splugen from where we turned southwest into the direction of the San Bernardinopass. From an absolute point of view, the old San Bernardino Pass does not reach an impressive altitude (2066mtr) and although not as dramatic as the Splugen(s)pass it will satisfy any driving enthusiast.

We followed the old road all the way down to Mesocco. It is not as fast as the highway towards Bellinzona, but much more fun to drive as there was hardly any traffic to spoil the fun. We followed the directions towards Biasca where we left highway A2 in favor of the Lukmanierpass (1914mtr), the last pass before arriving at our hotel in the vicinity of Acquarossa. We arrived at roughly a quarter to eight, roughly half an hour after Hermann et all. The rest of the group (Martin, Martijn & Han, Werner & Marion, Oliver and Adrian) restricted to using highways and larger main roads in order to increase Martins changes to reach the destination but had yet to arrive so we waited with dinner for another half an hour.

By 8.45PM the last group had still not checked in. It turned out that they got stuck in heavy traffic around Lugano due to which they estimated to need an hour more. We couldn’t expect the kitchen to keep all those meals warm for such a prolonged time so we agreed to begin with dinner. The remaining meals were not a problem though and we arranged these to be served after the arrival of the last group. They checked in between 9:30PM and 10:00PM. The problems with Martin’s car were a disappointment. Not only for the organization, but above all for the participants who stayed with him and thus were not able to drive the planned route. We do have a protocol for such cases, but exceptions can occur and unfortunately this was one of them. On behalf of the organization I would like to thank those participants who offered the helping hand. At around 11:00PM it was time for all of us to call it a day. After all, we still have a lovely route with four passes lying ahead of us after which we will close the meeting in the vicinity of Schwyz.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Monday

Even though ‘Albergo Acquicalda’ is situated directly near the Lukmanierpass, its location is somehow remote. It definitely is not a wellness hotel and I have the impression that its owner(s) aim at backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts. Its facilities are basic, but more then sufficient for car-and motorcycle enthusiasts on a multiple day trip.



After having breakfast, which was simple but more then adequate I walked outside to make some pictures and check out my car. After a few minutes, Dominik called for a mini OC-conference in which he made some suggestions to compensate for the disappointment some of our participants might have. The outcome was that the entire group would stick together with more photo-time on the pass height without worrying about the time schedule. With other words, more time for petrol talk to compensate for lack of that the day before.

As Adrian had an appointment on Monday morning, he already departed on Sunday evening. Martijn and Han had a similar obligation for which they had to return to Holland in the afternoon. Despite that they would join the group until Wassen. Martin decided to take the shortest route to highway A2 in an attempt to drive home on the temporary repairs.



Although the cobble stone covered Tremola road in the Gotthard massive would have been a must to drive, it would add another hour to the route, part of which over the bring A2 between Biasca and Airolo. As we try to avoid using highways we decided against this and use the Lukmanier-and Oberalp passes instead. After a small briefing, we departed at around 8:30AM towards the Lukmanier pass height (1914mtr).



During the Alps tour of 2006, three of the HD91 owners (3.6litre) agreed to refit the Style 31 rims back to their cars. Dominik and Oliver lived up to that agreement, but I wanted to grid blast and powder-coat my turbines prior to fitment. Unfortunately that process ended up in disaster as some parts disintegrated making them unusable. With only one new cover left in storage it would take too much time to obtain some new.



The Lukmanierpass is driven mostly in third and fourth gear. On some spots, fifth is more appropriate meaning it is a fast road. As we had just begun driving and our S38 engines had not reached their optimal operating temperature, we didn’t benefit from the lovely wide radius hairpins towards Disentis, a small town between Chur and the Oberalp where we turned west towards the similar named pass towards Andermatt.



Some of the cars were low on fuel so we stopped at a small garage / petrol station in Sedrun that still sold some of the good old Super Plus 98RON. Not all the tanks where empty, but five cars times 70ltrs in average makes for a nice revenue. Off course, this draw the attention of some of the mechanics and the workshop manager who suddenly realized that he had two of the very rare 1995 M5 Tourings on his premises.



After roughly fifteen minutes, we resumed driving in a convoy for which I arranged the three tourings to drive consecutively in a row in front of me. This allowed me to capture this unique moment on digital film for which I used my 70-200mm telezoom. Although the tarmac was rough and bumpy, the optical image stabilizer and fast continuous auto focus allowed me to capture some nice shots even with the focal length of 200mm.



The Oberalp itself doesn’t begin in Distentis, but roughly fifteen kilometers more two the west after having passed the last village in the valley. Although the road narrows down from this point and begins to ascend mildly, it stays a nice two-lane road for a few kilometers more when the first hairpins are reached. These mark the beginning of a nice hairpin rich section up until reaching the Oberalp pass height at 2044mtr.



Monday usually is a better day for driving passes then on a Sunday when most people have a day off and use that opportunity to go out on a day-trip or a family-visit. Due to this, it is difficult to stay within the margins of the schedule let alone gaining back some lost time when this is required. From the point of view, we should shift the Alps meeting to weekdays when we have more control on our position and arrival time. However, we all need to work for a living so that is not always possible, especially when one has a family or girlfriend / wife.



Although the panoramic view on the pass-height of the Oberalp is restricted to the surrounding summits of the Gotthard massive, it has excellent parking facilities making it an ideal location for photo-shoots. Although it’s not a tradition, we lined up the cars and opened the hoods, like we did on the Nufenenpass (2478mtr) in 2002 and the Col de Sarenne (1999mtr) in 2004. Most of us used this opportunity to inspect each other’s car, which resulted in a few interesting discussions.



Time flies when having fun and since we had to close the meeting later the afternoon; it was time to proceed driving towards Andermatt by descending the lovely west-col of the Oberalp. The east and west-col’s are separated by a tunnel alongside an lake that is about one to two kilometers in length.



It takes approximately one kilometer of driving before reaching the tunnel passage towards the west-col, after which the Oberalp descends towards Andermatt for about eight kilometers. We resumed driving in a convoy at a moderate pace. Just low enough to stay together but significantly faster then the other descending traffic so we all had our fair share of overtaking maneuvers.



In Europe, we know of an expression that says that all roads eventually lead to Rome. In modern days, this expression is used in a more figural sense and suits Andermatt rather well as there are four main roads that lead towards this lovely village. Besides (1) the Oberalp from Graubunden these are; (2) the Furkapass (2431mtr) towards Gletsch in Wallis and (3) the Gotthard pass (2108mtr) towards Airolo in Tessin. Actually there are two passes across the Gotthard massive. The primary road is the large St Gotthard pass. Although this is a relatively new road, it has been rendered obsolete with the opening of the Gotthard tunnel many years ago. However, the Swiss have kept a little jewel that is widely known as the Tremola-road. This cobblestone covered road dates back many centuries ago and is much more rewarding then the new pass that runs parallel to it. Finally there is the road through the ‘Schöllenenschlucht’, a narrow and deep gorge between Andermatt and Wassen.



The ‘Schöllenenschlucht’ is one of the most impressive gorges that can be reached by car or motorcycle and when traffic permits, it can be driven aggressively. The many acceleration runs through the tunnels caused some reflection in sounds caused by the lovely and always impressive S38 engine. Some environmentalist would classify this as unacceptable noise, in contrary to the fine taster car that appreciates the sweet sound of twenty-four valves as art.



The ‘Schöllenenschlucht’ ends near the northern entrance of the Gotthard tunnel of highway A2. Despite that the highway is the quickest route towards Altdorf, we didn’t follow Han and Martijn who had to leave us at that point. Instead, we followed the more scenic Bundestrasse towards Wassen and Altdorf.



At the moment, the Swiss are constructing a huge railroad tunnel under the Gotthard massive that when finished will be more then fifty kilometers in length. Their main goal is to divert transit traffic away from the Gotthard tunnel that has already reached its maximum capacity. When finished, (transit) traffic will be put onto the train that ‘ferries’ between Altdorf and Airolo.

The distance between Wassen and Altdorf is more or less 25km for which we needed slightly less then half an hour. Upon reaching Altdorf, the enormous effort that is needed for tunneling through the Gotthard massive cannot be missed. In Altdorf, we followed the directions towards Glarus, a city roughly seventy-five kilometers more to the northeast. To reach Glarus, we had to drive over the famous Klaussenpass (1948mtr). Despite that it is not that high, it is one of the longest passes in the Alps.



For some reason, the Klaussenpass hasn’t been reconstructed to handle more traffic. This preserved authenticity due to which the Klaussenpass is more appealing to the avid driving enthusiast then many other passes. Despite the narrow middle section between the last village in the valley and the pass-height, the west-col isn’t really difficult to drive, but one has to be cautious for not being carried away on the relatively straight sections and miss the brake point for the next bend. Even though balance in an E34S chassis would be able to turn-in without braking, one needs the entire width of the road, which is a problem with cars coming from the opposite direction.



Roughly two kilometers before the pass-height, the road widens to two separate lanes after which the ‘Klaussenpasshohe’ emerges at the horizon.



I just had exchanged lenses on my DSLR and installed the 70-200VR when suddenly I spotted one of the other E34S’s returning from the pass-height. This would have made for a nice image, but as he passed in a blink of an eye, there was no time to determine composition. But I knew he had to return and that I got a second chance after arriving at ‘Hotel Klaussenpass hohe’ soon after.



Back in the late 19th and early 20th century, economy prospered throughout the western world and many could afford to travel around. However the privilege of owning a car was limited to the happy few and used public transport instead. Train networks throughout Europe expanded rapidly, even in the high Alpine regions such as for instance the 3543mtr high ‘Jungfraujoch’ in the ‘Berner Oberland’. Despite the many bold initiatives, the old coach network kept playing an important role well within the 20th century for a few more decades until capable buses were readily available to take over their function. ‘Hotel Klaussenpasshohe’ has seen it all and dates back from the late 19th and early 20th century.



We took our seats at the terrace outside and ordered ‘a-la Carte’. This gave us enough time to reflect back to the meeting. The only noise was caused by the slight wind, the cowbells on the background and the occasional car that passes by. With other words, not disturbing at all. The kitchen of the ‘Klaussenpasshohe’ lived up to their expectations and it was easy to forget about time, but by 13.00 it was time to leave, especially as the most of us still had some driving to do after the meeting. Hermann made a friendly gesture and already had taken over the entire bill (Many thanks mate).



I had asked for a ten-minute lead so I could find a nice location for making some action shots, which I found just a kilometer after passing the pass height. I positioned myself just before a hairpin where I could track the driving dynamics that is typical when descending a mountain pass.



I found a nice location just before the first hairpin on the north col for which one has to turn-in left first before taking the first hairpin. With a late turn-in, one enters the hairpin way off the ideal line causing excessive under steer unless one brakes hard and loses momentum. Hermann demonstrated the ideal approach, which was far from spectacular but very efficient. He hardly braked and turned in early due to which he could rely on the balance of his E34S to complete the hairpin. The following picture, albeit a bit static clearly shows that.



On the following picture one can see Andy approaching the left bend on his ‘own halve’ of the road. Although traffic safety organizations prefer such an approach, the turn in is too late



Andy missed the ideal approach for the upcoming hairpin due to which the balance in his car was disturbed a bit violently. Although the severe under steer is far from critical, Andy’s car was forced to the outside of the road in such a way that his car lost momentum whilst exiting the hairpin.



Werner’s approach is almost identical to that of Hermann allowing him to stay on the ideal line whilst driving through the hairpin. But Werner was driving more relaxed and thus one cannot really compare driving techniques.



Dominik’s approach was a tad more aggressive than that of Hermann’s but otherwise the same. Note the difference in sway and dive between both cars.



Despite the excessive sway that Dominik’s car suffered whilst accelerating out of the hairpin, he didn’t loose momentum. Andy demonstrated a similar amount of sway and also drives a HD91 version and thus has to do without EDCIII that clearly has demonstrated its capabilities.



Oliver also drives a lovely HD91 version that unlike the other HD91’s is a bit lowered, but as far as I know still using the original shock absorbers. His approach also is close to the ideal line and similar to that of Werner. Oliver’s car behaved similarly to the other HD91’s but due to a lower cornering speed, his car didn’t have as much sway whilst accelerating out of the hairpin.





After Dominik had passed I waited four a minute to witness Dominik and Werner driving through a lower section. Eventually Dominik passed Werner and Marion pass shortly before entering the narrow and steep section towards Linthal. With an estimated average of 15mtrs/sec, the gap had grown to 1800mtr, which is too large to catch up before entering Linthal. That doesn’t really matter, as the route to the Klöntal was relatively short and should pose no difficulty. As catching up didn’t make much sense, we continued in a relaxed way to enjoy the breathtaking scenery with the 3621mtr high Todi dominating the horizon. Unfortunately, the weather started to deteriorate a bit. The weather forecast predicted some sunshine and occasional rain for the afternoon, but that an approaching low pressure weather front would cause dropping temperatures and poor weather in the evening.



Technically, the Klaussenpass ends in Linthal, roughly twenty-five kilometers more to the north. We followed the direction towards Glarus, a mid-size Kantonal city at the north side of the Swiss Alps. This part is roughly twenty kilometers in length and both sections combined make for a challenging drive, but bear in mind that seasonal and weekend traffic can spoil the driving fun. In Glarus, we turned left towards Riedlern and the Klöntalersee. The location of this lake is spectacular with steep mountains rising vertically from the eastern shores and a small country road on the western shore.



After passing the lovely Klöntalersee, we started ascending the Pragelpass, a very narrow road between the villages of Riedlern and Stoos. A few kilometers after the Klöntalersee, I noticed that Dominik was driving behind me and for some reason; I sensed that he wanted to make something clear so we stopped for a brief moment.



Dominik informed me of some trouble that he had with a native retiree who for some reason didn’t really like our presence in this region and went as far as using his car to block the road. Dominik wisely decided against escalation (its not in his character anyway) and returned to the Klöntalersee where he waited until the situation cooled down a bit. Granted, our cars generate more noise then an average car, especially with an engaged viscous clutched fan to compensate for lack of airflow, but why that local retiree felt it necessary to play his own judge.



It wasn’t just Dominik who experienced trouble with other visitors to the Klöntal. Konstantin also reported an argument that he had with another visitor after arriving at the pass-height. Admittedly we were driving a bit above the speed limit, which at 30km/h was too low for the viscous fan-clutch of our cars not to engage and thus disturbing the silence. Maybe this agitated some when they couldn’t hear the birds and the trees anymore.

We arrived at the Pragelpass roughly at 14:45. Although the schedule planned for a later stop in the village of Stoos to finish the meeting, we saw the weather deteriorate from the North. As myself, Werner & Marion and Oliver still had some driving ahead of us; I called it a day and suggested to officially end the meeting at the pass-height. We only had to wait for Marion and Werner who stopped en-route to Glarus to do some shopping. They arrived roughly fifteen minutes later.



At roughly 15:15 we all said our goodbyes and drove of to descend the tricky northwest side of the Pragelpass towards Stoos and Schwyz. The northwest side is just narrow as the east side in the Klöntal, but with slopes peaking at twenty percent it is much steeper and therefore a more technical drive. About halve way down, we had to give right of way for a light truck coming from Stoos and with seven cars driving in a convoy, this meant we had to be creative. Fortunately, this occurred near a small junction, allowing us to efficiently clear the road. Despite the upcoming rain, the convoy-descend put a lovely climax to our meeting. In Stoos, we followed the main road towards Schwyz from where our roads separated.

I have to admit that I also could join Konstantin towards the Austrian border and Bregenz after which I could follow the A7 towards Ulm and Wurzburg. This would have increased the distance with about 100km, but would gave me the benefit of avoiding the congested roads around Basel, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt due to which it would be quicker, but as Werner & Marion and Oliver had to drive over Basel and Karlsruhe, I decided to join them. Since Dominik had to drive to Basel, he took the lead to take advantage of his knowledge of the roads. We entered the highway shortly after 16:15 after which we drove in convoy from Schwyz to Basel, which in itself was uneventful. Dominik efficiently guided us alongside the Zurich rush hour due to which we reached Basel shortly after 18:00. Instead of the direct route towards ‘Weil am Rhein’, we left the highway at Pratteln for a small fuel stop in an industrial zone. Dominik kindly guided through the Basel suburbs whilst avoiding the rush hour traffic. After he took us towards the autobahn entrance at Rheinfelden, he left the group and drove to his home nearby.

Werner & Marion, Oliver and myself still had a long trip ahead of us so we hoped to pass the German customs without delay. Unfortunately for us, German customs felt it necessary to check the two HD91 limousines, a routine procedure that set us back for about ten minutes. After they waved us through, we entered the southern black forest highway shortly before 19:00 after which we followed the directions to Weil am Rein and from there, to Freiburg and Karlsruhe.

The journey north went rather uneventful other then that rain pored down upon us when we closed in on Karlsruhe. At nine o’clock, I thought it was time to eat before driving into the night so we stopped one more time at a Raststatte between Karlsruhe and Speyer. We didn’t stop for too long and by half past nine, we thanked Werner and Marion for the wonderful days and wished them a safe and quick journey to their home. They left the A5 at Speyer where they entered the A61 towards Koblenz. Oliver and we drove together for four hundred more kilometers when entered highway A1 to Bremen whereas we continued to follow the A45 towards Oberhausen. They rest of the trip went well and at 2:00AM in the morning, we arrived home safe and sound. This gave me just four hours of sleep before I had to wake up again to go to work.

Such a late return was not really what I had in mind, but a logical consequence for taking our time in the Morning and afternoon to compensate for the stressfull Sunday. The happenings on Sunday gave us some valuable experience and information though and we will use that for future events.
 
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