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Friday

It now is 8.23AM, September the 8th and I am currently sitting in the train to travel to my work in Enschede. This may seem strange for someone who owns two ///M5's and travels more 2700km in just one weekend to meet with other E34 ///M5 owners during a weekend of driving in the Alps. But for me the train is a comfortable means of travel, as otherwise I would have to spend 30mins in a traffic jam.

The third edition of the annual Alps meeting for E34 ///M5 owners took us to the Swiss and French Alps for four three days of driving over more then twenty mountain passes and Col's (French for passes), many of them famous from the Tour de France. Since the French Alps are located rather South when compared to the rest of the Alps, Hermann proposed to gather in Zug at noon and from there drive to the hotel in Cluses, a distance of 330km.

The distance that I had to travel to Zug is 810km, so my father and I already left at 4.15AM in the morning. My reasons for that early departure where twofold. First, avoid the rush hour in the German Ruhr area and second, pass Freiburg in the German black Forest before 10.00AM. Whether or not this was feasable depended on the traffic on the A5 from Karlsruhe to Basel, a two way autobahn. The shortest route to Basel is the autobahn A3 from Cologne to Frankfurt, but for that, we had to travel straight through the Ruhr area. Not a good idea, especially an hour before the rush hour starts to peak. Instead, I choose the A45 from Dortmund to Hanau, a.k.a the Sauerland autobahn which is famous for its challenging hills and high speed corners. This route is roughly 50km longer in distance then the A3, but usually is faster. At roughly 8.00AM we passed Frankfurt where we came into the peak of rush hour, but the highways are mostly four lanes on each side so we continued to make good progress. Even though the A5 from Karlsruhe to Freiburg was crowded, the average speed stayed above 100km/h so by 9.30AM we passed Freiburg, roughly 30 minutes in front of my schedule. The rest of the trip to Zug went rather well and at 11.30AM we arrived at the meeting point in a suburb of Zug where Hermann was already waiting in front of the local BMW dealership.

Apart from us, three other cars with five persons where on their way to the starting point in Zug. Karl and Anders from Sweden arrived around noon. Andrew arrived roughly half an hour later and Tobias and Andy arrived at 1.00PM. The rest would be picked up later in the route or drove directly to Cluses.



When Tobias and Andy arrived, we where already an hour behind schedule so we left Zug shortly afterwards. The first part of the route took us to Luzern where we left the autobahn in the direction of Interlaken and the Brunig pass where we arrived fifty minutes later. Dominik was already waiting there and after a short stop, we travelled further in the direction of the Brienzer See where we took the highway to Spiez.



The highway to Spiez runs parallel South shores of the Brienzer-and Thuner lakes. For a brief moment the Jungfrau (4158mtr) was also visible, but at 120km/h there is little time to shoot a well composed picture. The Northern shores of the Brienzer lake would be much nicer to drive, but this would have cost us at least another.



Near Spiez, we left the highway and followed the main road to the Saanen valley, but traffic was intense and eventually we lost track with the others. I tried to catch up, when just before the last stretch to Gstaad I noticed Andrew and Tobias waiting on a parking area near a cabin-lift station. They also lost track with Hermann and Dominik, but Tobias was low on fuel so we drove back into the last passed village where we spotted a petrol station before.



Starting in Gstaad, the Col de Pillon (1546mtr), the first true mountainpass in this route, connects the German-and French speaking parts of Switzerland. Mountain passes are very good to compare the cruising abilities of our cars and especially the difference between a 3.6 and 3.8. With spirited driving, it depends on the driver whether or not he is able to pursue the most of his car. But in crusing mode with most of the hill climbing in third gear, the difference between a 3.6 and 3.8 is very pronounced. In this case, Tobias, the owner of the purple violet ///M5 was driving in front of me. He could stay in third gear most of the times whereas I had to shift back to second more often to gain momentum after a hair-pin or an corner with low visibility. I didn't used the rev's of my engine, but stayed in cruising mode. The 3.8 just delivers more low-end torque and thus I lost track with Tobias. Another difference certainly is the Nurburgring suspension that in a sedan, allows for a more precise positioning.



At the pass height of the Col de Pillon, Dominik and Hermann were waiting for us and after a brief stop, we drove further in the direction of Col de la Croix (1778mtr). We now entered the French speaking part of Switzerland in Canton Vallais. Hermann told Noah that he should wait at the Monthey train station where we would pick him up at around 4.00PM. Since it was already past 3.00PM when we left Col de Pillon, we didn't stop at Col de la Croix.



While Hermann and Dominik picked up Noah in Monthey, Andrew, Tobias and myself drove further in the direction of Pass the Morgins (1369mtr) where we waited just before the Swiss-French border. In Monthey, Hermann managed to find Noah and arrived at the border roughly 30 minuted after us. In the mean time, Karl and Anders also managed to keep track with us.



Noah participated in 2002 already with a 1992 E34 ///M5 3.8. In 2003, he had to skip the event as he had to serve in Iraq. But this year, he could join us again and this time with his recently acquired 1995 E34 ///M5 Touring with Orinoco paint. According to Karl, only four tourings in this color exist. The nice part of Noah's car is that it has exactly the same color and interior as the Orinoco colored E34 ///M5 LE models that where sold with limited numbers in the UK during the last production year.





After we welcomed Noah, we passed the border with France and descended the Pas de Morgins, after which the route would have leaded us to the Col de Corbier (1237mtr). But at one point it was blocked by the French police. At first I thought they wanted to catch us, but it turned out that there was a ralley going on above the mountain and that the road was blocked. This meant that we had to turn around and drive the next Col, the Col du Grand Taillet (1035mtr) which is located 10km more to the North.

At pass height, we stopped for a moment to wait for Noah and Karl. But when we already gave up on waiting we heard the scream of two S38 engines through the valley below. We didn't spot any car yet as they where driving in the forests below. Suddenly One black ///M5's came out of the forest, followed by another ten seconds later. At every hairpin, we could hear their tires screaming followed by the sound of an S38 engine at full throttle revving up to it's redline. I had enough time to shoot a few action shots of which the following shows Hermann balancing his car out of the last corner before the highest point of the Col.



One can clearly see the smoke coming from underneath Dominik's car, a sign that both the driver and the car have worked very hard indeed.



At pass height, the Col du Grand Taillet splits in two directions. We took the more panoramic route upwards as according to the maps it was shorter then following the Col itself. After a kilometer, this road turned into a gravel road which is real fun when you want to have some power oversteer. But I prefered to keep the paint on my car so took it rather easy and enjoyed the panaramic view on the Geneva lake. After a few kilometers, there was a panoramic view point near the road where we stopped for a brief moment just before sunset.





We where given a big surprise when we saw the road ending near a restaurant that I recognized from a Summer holiday, now five years ago. But then, I walked to this point from the other side of the mountain and realized that the road ended here. So we had to turn around and take the normal descend of the Col du Grand Taillet. Nevertheless, the panoramic view over the Geneva lake was worth the extra time.

With the completion of Col du Grand Taillet, the Friday afternoon ettape was almost completed. From here we followed the main road to Morzine and Cluses, where Hermann booked a hotel for the group. Ten kilometers before Cluses, we spotted Noah again. He didn't drive the Col du Grand Taillet, but used the quicker main road instead. After a small search through Cluses, we managed to find our Hotel where Finn, Hermann, Dominik and Karl where already waiting. Apart from Konstantin and Sabine the entire group was complete, but they where expected to arrive within twenty minutes.



After Hermann divided the hotel keys between the participants, we took our places at the dining table as we where all starving. After all it had been a long day for most of us. Just before the main table was served, we heard another S38 engine entering Cluses and a minute later, Konstantin and Sabine arrived also.



With the arrival of Konstantin and Sabine, our group was complete. For some of us, this had been a long day, but the route from Zug to Cluses with six passes and Col's was well worth the early departure. The rest of the evening was spent on the terrace enjoying the rest of our dinner and afterwards a few drinks with the usual petrol and car talk.



In the mean time, I took a few long exposure night shots. On the picture above from left to Right: Konstantin's MY95 ///M5 Touring, Hermann's MY92///M5, Dominik's MY89 ///M5 and Finn's MY91 ///M5 (with the M parallel rims). Below, Karl Marks stunning Avus Blue MY95 ///M5 Touring.



The following day already starts early with a departure at 8.30AM. The route looks very promising with nine Col's to drive, of which two surpass the 2600mtr mark. To be continued!!
 

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Saturday

Compared to the 1150km that we traveled on Friday, the estimated 350km for Saturday seems not that much. But unlike Friday, where most part was autobahn (for some of us that is), the Saturday program only promised small country roads and mountain Cols where sheer power is not the determining factor, but the combination of car & driver makes the difference. Ideal territory for an ///M-car thus, that with it's outstanding 50/50 weight balance and neutral like handling feels like being at home.

After a good night sleep, we woke up at 6.30AM and started an hour later. Outside the hotel, we where welcomed by clear and cloudless whether and Herman who already completed the formalities with the hotel management. Breakfast was the usual French croissant with some additions and a (large) cup of coffee so no big deal. In that respect I prefer the comprehensive breakfast buffet's that for instance the Austrian hotels are so famous for. But hey, we are in a different part of Europe with a different culture so ultimately, we are the ones that should adapt ourselves. Breakfast wasn't to bad after all and at 8.15AM, we all went outside to our cars checked them out and discussed the route of that day.

Since Konstantin discovered his broken engine mount only the day before, this was the first opportunity for him to visually check the condition of these parts. It turned out that the mount on the passenger side had complete collapsed, but the mount on the driver side was still OK. The following picture, show Konstantin (standing upright behind the hood), Andrew (in the middle with his hand on the radiator) and Anders (on the right) looking into the engine compartment and dicussing the options, one of which was going to the BMW dealer in Salanches, roughly 10km more towards Chamonix. Herman (as translator) even called that dealership, but it was Saturday morning and they probably didn't have the parts in stock anyway so Konstantin decided against that. He already covered more then 3000km with a vibrating engine, but as he discovered the cause of it only the day before he didn't anticipate much problems by joining the 'tourist' driving group



The Col de la Colombiere starts directly outside Cluses, but some of us needed to buy some fuel first. I had been on holidays in that area some years ago and from that I remember an Esso station somewhere near a Super market, but I couldn't remember its exact location anymore. After some sightseeing through Cluses, we managed to find a super market with a petrol station, but not from Esso. Doesn't matter, fuel is fuel isn't it? Anyhow, some of the group fueled up there, but why on earth can't the French at least put some English explanations on their funny petrol stations. At first, we where standing in front of an installation that only accepted cards. I don't know what cards the French use, but the very common and international widely accepted VISA or Mastercard where not accepted. Instead, we had to drive to the other two installations for which one had to perform some hefty manouvering, but where one could pay with cash and maybe, just maybe with Credit Cards. I still had roughly 50litres left so I called it a day and drove to the exit where I waited for Konstantin and Karl who managed to get some fuel. From there, we had to find our way out of town and even though we managed to find the main road, it seemed as if we had seen the entire city of Cluses. Oh yes, at the last roundabound before the Col, we saw the Esso station that I remembered from my vacation in 1999. ARRRGHHHH!

With its 1980mtr, the Col de la Colombiere isn't one of the Alps giants, but it’s a great pass to start the day with. The prelude to the Colombiere are a series of small villages in the Cluses valley, followed by forests once the road reaches the mountain slopes. From here, the road starts to climb rather steep untill it reaches another valley located higher in the mountains. This first part went rather well and despite his cars handicap, Konstantin managed to keep track in the group. He did loose quitte some ground when accelerating from the corners, but compensated for that more then enough on the longer straights where he used the torque advantages of his 3.8. After roughly 7km in the forests, we approached a group of slow driving cars that where driving in front of us. An estimated number of seven mobile homes where crawling up the mountain with no more then 30km/h!!! A true S38 nightmare. To make matters even worse, there where three 'green frog' cars driving behind those mobile homes and who who didn't leave enough room to play the big 'hop' 'hop', a tactique in which one passes one car at the time in a series of acceleration bursts in which the car behind can follow safely to use the spot that just has been cleared. Since passing them would be difficult, at least for the entire group, I decided to stay behind them until the real Col begins. From there, I knew that visibility on the road is much better as there are no more villages or dense forests that hide the road. But finally, in the last village just before the Col de la Colombiere begins, all those mobile homes left the road (probably to a camp site), but those 'green frog' cars where still driving in front of us. The term 'green frog' applies to small cars with very small engines such as Renault Clio's or Opel Corsa's, so they usually are not a problem to pass, but in the French Alps they are used by a great diversity of drivers and some of them can show some kamikaze behavior. Nevertheless, the Corsa 1.2i ECO (what a mouth full) was passed shortly after the actual beginning of the Colombiere.

Oh, if you think that passing other cars is simply a matter of using full throttle, then your are dead wrong!!. On small and narrow mountain roads like the Colombiere, you need to anticipate through the twisties, (re)position your car and then hop around the car in front of you. Not that tricky when you outaccelerate them from the apexes and use the straights section afterwards for passing, but when hopping around other cars in a twisty section, you also need to reposition your car at least one time. The narrower the road, the more it comes on a fluent driving style. Only when you are in front of the other car, you are safe enough to use the engines power.

In the mean time, the second 'green frog' car, a Clio 1.4 (That sounds much better) managed to gain some distance on the Corsa, but it was still in sight so a quick power burst was enough to reach him. Konstantin managed to pass that Corsa shortly afterwards with the Clio being our next 'target'. From there, I couldn't see Tobias and Andrew who where driving behind Konstantin anymore, but the Colombiere now reached the 1600mtr mark, meaning a lower vergetation and thus a better visibility.

With no other cars in sight, it was just a matter of positioning, braking, balancing and accelerating out of the corners. During this process, I try to be as fluent as possible, meaning that I use the entire width of the road to get that ideal turn in. Sometimes, the corners don't allow for anticipation and in that case, I brake a bit harder and shift back to second gear before the corner. This allows me to choose the utmost right line, a few inches from the mountain wall. This line does not interfere with the ideal line from the other side so if a car comming from the opposite side follows the ideal line also, there still is enough room to safely outaccelerate out of the corner in second gear.

We reached the Colombiere's pass height at roughly 9.30AM and stopped there for a short moment to enjoy the perfect whether and beautifull sight over the mountains. Even though it was only 9.30AM, the ambient temperature had already reached 25°C, so it was obvious that the A/C wasn't build on out cars for no purpose.





Finn equipped his car with Dunlop Formula-R tires, which are race tires that have been approved for public road usage also. On dry roads (or about to dry up), these tires offer much more adhesive and abrasive grip and thus allow for much higher corner speeds then what normal high performance tires like the Dunlop SP Sport 9000 or Bridgestone S03 would allow. The downside though is their abilities to safely divert water is limited the point where the car starts to swim (aquaplaning) is reached much sooner. Another compromise is the limited tire life as the tread-wear index is very low.



During our stop, the usual petrol talk continued, but not for long as we still had 310km of driving ahead of us. While descending the Colombiere, Finn demonstrated the abilities of the Dunlop Formula-R tires by braking very late before hairpins and entering them with a speed that just seems impossible for a car weighing over 1700kg. This makes one wonder why one shouldn't buy tires like this, especially if one (like me) doesn't drive too much and when, then in dry whether only!



The Colombiere ends in a small town called 'La Clusaz' and from there, we followed the directions to Col des Aravis (1486mtr). This Col doesn't start in la Clusaz, but in a smaller village a few kilometers later. But due to a road construction signs, we where not able to find the exact starting point. Fortunatelly, Finn has a very usable navigation system that guided us through the main road through that village to a very narrow bridge that we had to cross, after which the Col des Aravis starts. The ascend was a really nice drive, especially since there where not that many cars on the road so we could drive as spririted as we wanted. This also meant that we reached the Col in a short time, in fact within ten minutes!



The French countryside in the Haute Savoi just is a wonderful area. It was remarkable how 'green' and 'fresh' the vegetation looked. Although this is remarkable for the time of the year, the summer of 2004 was rather mild with only a few really hot days. This unlike 2003 when the summer was exceptionally hot.

The Haute Savoi in the French Alps, offers a great diversity of scenery. In the villages, it seems like the time has stood still. If it weren't for the modern cars or the satellite disks, one would imagine being in the fifties or sixties decade of the twentieth century. Some would say that progress is going slow, but why is it that these places are so relaxed? You simply can't get bored with driving through the Alps. We already drove two Col's in just 90 minutes and we haven't even completed the tour's prelude and there was more to come. In Flumet, we headed for the Col des Saisies (1650mtr), the first Col on which we didn't stop.



Although the first part of the Saturday route has been very nice, it was nothing compared to the Col's that where still ahead of us. Starting just outside Beaufort, the Cormet de Roselend offers a complete different driving experience when compared to the Col's we have been driving on untill then. With it's 1967mtr it isn't one of the giant Col's, but with it's long ascent with countless apexes, the climb upwards was very nice and again there was not much traffic. Apart from Domink and Herman who where driving a different (faster) pace, the group consisted of Andrew, Konstantin, Noah, Tobias and myself. Also Finn was driving in front of us while Karl was a few minutes behind. Until 1600mtr, the Cormet de Roselend is surrounded by rather dense forests, but once the dam get's in sight, the vegetation opens up and a large artificial lake becomes visible. The Col is routed around this artificial lake and it seems as if it's highest point is reached. But once the Col has reached the other side of the lak, it starts to climb again for the last 400 meters or so, but then in a rocky surrounding.





We saw some café's annex restaurants in the direct vicinity of the lake, and we all agreed that it was a good idea to stop for a small moment to buy a cup of coffee at one of the terraced. I proposed to stop at the highest point of the Col so we drove further. In the mean time, I gave my father the keys as I did the all the driving and I wanted to take some pictures from the car. With a small point shoot camera, it's not difficult to drive and shoot at the same time, at least when you moderate the speed a bit. But my Nikon D70 with 18-70mm lense weighs close to a kilogram and that is just nor managable. Besides, to achieve a proper composition, you need to draw out between ten and twenty seconds as otherwise, you just have to rely on plain luck to achieve a sharp image.

The following picture has succeeded rather well I think. Konstantin and Sabine where driving directly behind us, followed by Andrew in his beautifull ///M5 Winckelhock and last but not least, Tobias and Andy in Tobias his individual colored ///M5 3.8.





The last section of the Cormet de Roselend was breathtaking. At some spots, we drove between meters high rock combinations.



At the Col's highest point, there where a few large parking areas, but we found no café or restaurant to stop for, so we just continued without stopping. The descent was as nice as the ascent. Sometimes we had to maneuver around some flying roadblocks, but for the most part, the road was clear.





The Cormet de Roseland ends in Bourg St Maurice, a larger town where we stopped for a moment where some of us tried to buy some fuel. And again, we had difficulty with understanding the (French) system of seperating installations with the required paying methods. A very long time ago, I was bleshed with two years of high school French, but I skipped that class in my third year already and since then, I have forgotten all about it. Anyhow, I saw something that looked like a sharknose in a washing-box on the other side of the road and since I also own the sharknosed predecessor of the E34 ///M5, I decided to investigate.

With the D70 on my neck, I walked to the other side of the road, saw a familiar looking badge on the cars front. "Would it be?", "That would be a coincidence!" crossed my mind when I recognized the '///M' symbol. This could be an ///M535i, and a **** good one. Then, the elederly owner drove it out of the washing box and I quickly shot some pictures. This English registered E28 wasd indeed an ///M535I and a very clean one if I may say. Especially the original TRX rims amazed me a lot. One doesn't see these that often anymore as most often their owners have replaced them with imperial sized rims and tyres for cost reasons.



After we managed to get some fuel again, we continued out drive in the direction of Val d'Isere, where one of the Alps giants, the Col d'Iseran starts. With it's 2770mtr, It is the second highest paved road in the Alps. Only the Col de la Bonette that is located roughly 80km from the Mediterranean is a bit higher (2802mtr). The first part of the road started badly. A few hundred meters after we left Bourg St Maurice, we got stuck in a traffic jam that didn't move. After we sticked in position for ten minutes, I looked at the map for an alternativie route, but apart from a few very small roads with no road numbers, there wasn't any. Some cars where already turning around when we could pregress a few meters. Slowly but steadily, the cars in front of us gained pace and we entered a city where they celebrated their liberation from Vichy France and the Nazis, now sixty years ago (4-Sept-1944).

The road to Val d'Isere and Tignes was excellent. No surprise as these places must have an excellent reachability in the winter season when hurdes of tourists visit this area. In the beginning, we got stuck behind a few Peugot 406 and my father almost passed one when he suddenly noticed someone waving in the next corner, approximately 200mtr in front of us. One of the 406 drivers, some retired Frenchman didn't like the idea of other cars passing him and tried to close the gap. Given the fact that there was an unknown situation in front of us, my father had no other choise to break off the overtaking manouvre. Otherwise, it was just a quick burst on the throttle to increase the gap. The situation in the corner was caused by a accident in which a single motorcyclist lost control of his bike and hit the mountainside. This accident must have happened only a few moments before as there was no sign of police or an ambulance yet, but there where enough people at the scene already, mostly motorcycle drivers from (probably) the same group so there was no need to stop. During the next few kilometers, the 406 driver dint't leave much room for passing him, nor did the 406 driver in front of him so without knowledge of the road we had to wait for the next best opportunity that came after a few kilometers. During the climb, a hughe dam became came within our sight. At first, it was located high above us, but once the climb progressed, we drove alongside the lake behind it.



At this point, one can change direction to Tignes, one of the largest ski resorts in France, but the Col d'Iseran starts in Val d'Isere, another large ski resort so we continued following the D902.



Unlike many other French ski-resorts that mostly consist of simple concrete apartment blocks, Val d'Isere is completely different. I have been in Val Thorens some years back and I really liked skiing there, but the appearance of the town was less appealing, something that Val d'Isere appareantly learnt a lot from.





Once we left Val d'Isere, I let the others pass. Until then, it was me that leaded the convoy and although I felt that the others where quite happy with that, this wasn't the best position to shoot pictures of the other cars.



Tobias his violet ///M5 3.8 also is an individual colored car. Konstantin and Sabine are driving in front of him.





Compared to the almost as high Stilfserjoch (2758mtr), the pavement of the Col d'Iseran is excellent. Also the road is wider and the hairpins have a large radius, but one can't really blame the Italians for this since the geological conditions are so different. In the French Alps there simply is much more space available then for instance in the Ortler mountain group where the Stilfserjoch is located. But nonetheless, the Italians can take an example of the excellent French roads that simply are much safer then for instance on the Southern side of the Passo di Gavia (2621mtr) that we drove in the 2003 edition of this event.







When we reached the Col at 2770 meters above sea level, we where awaited by Dominik, Herman and Finn who arrived up to an hour earlier. They already enjoyed lunch and where about to leave for the second half of the route. As usual, Konstantin prooved again that he never misses an opportunity to amaze (or surprise) the rest us: "Oh something is making some straight noises underneath the engine compartment, so let's open it up." BTW, His engine compartment was opened almost at any stop in any case so that was no surprise after all. But the question of the month is: What does not belong in there? Ooh, and don't cheat by looking at the next picture.



Normally, one can expect from a backyard hack mechanic to know where his tools are, and once the job is completed to remove them from the engine compartment, but hey we can't be perfect or can we.



Noah arrived roughly ten minutes behind us. In Bourg St Maurice, he was still with us when we left the petrol station, but somewhere on our way to Val d'Isere, we lost him, probably because he got stuck in the traffic jam at the site where the motorcycle driver crashed.





From left to Right, Hermann, Konstantin and Dominik shortly before Hermann, Dominik and Finn resumed driving. It had just been past 1.00PM so we had enough opportunity for lunch at the restaurant at the other side of the road.



Andrew's ///M5 Winckelhock flanked by Karl's ///M5 Touring (left).



Konstantin and Karl, without a doubt two of the most knowledgeable persons about the ///M5 Touring caught in a small tété a tété. I don't think that we have to guess about what topic is being discussed.



At 2770 meters above sea level, you shouldn't expect much luxury, especially not where there are not that many people trespassing. Inside the brick building, one first enters a small shop and then, a small restroom with one desk counter that make the restaurant. One could choose between three or for options from the menu and as the only two people within our group that understand French had left, the majority choose the most obvious, a sandwich.





Lunch took us about 40 minutes, after which we went outside to enjoy the scenery. Unlike the valleys where there was not much wind and the outside temperature easily reached 30C, there was a firm wind that made it feel rather chilly. In the mean time, I hat almost used up the capacity of my Compact Flash and uploaded the data to my notebook. Noah had the same problem, but did not have a notebook at hand, but Konstantin gave him the helping hand.



After a small moment, we left for the next part of the route that took us to the Col de telegraphe (1565mtr). The descent is 14km long and ends in Bonneval S. Arc.











Bonneval S. Arc is a rather small village at the end of a valley that is flanked by mountains of approx 3000mtr. This was also the end of the Col d'Iseran, but the descent continued until Lanslebourg 19km later.



Before we descended the Col d'Iseran, Noah informed me that he didn't manage to buy some fuel in Bourg St Maurice and that his BC indicated a mere 100km left. This meant that we had to search for a petrol station in the vincinity of Lanslebourg, but that was just 33km so it should be safe. As I was the leader of the pack, it was my task to look out for one, but I only realized that after we passed Lanslebourg. With a roughly estimation that Noah just had 10 litres or so left, finding a petrol station that also is open, became rather important. Especially with the first larger place, St Martin located 50km more to the west. Fortunatelly, the entire road went downhill so Noah's fuel consumption should be rather low, even though his engine ran very rich, probably caused by a malfunctioning oxygen sensor. The valley we drove through did have smaller towns, smaller and larger castles, but no petrol station.



Suddenly, I recognized something familiar, and indeed this was a price board of a petrol station so we all stopped at a parking place and send away to get some Fuel. The rest of us waited in the shade where the temperatures where just bearable. But after fifteen minutes of chatting and drinking water and soft drinks, there still was no sign of Noah so I walked to the petrol station where Noah walked from the opposite direction. Apparently, the shop owner didn't accept Credit Cards, but Noah did have US dollars, but was short on Euro's. Anyhow, I borrowed him the missing amount and after five minutes, we continued our drive to St Martin and the Col du Télégraphe (1565).

We wanted to prevent the autoroutes, France's excellent highway system, but at one point we where stopped by a road sign that warned of a construction site. There was a detour, but all the road signs to St Martin directed to the autoroute, but as that is a toll road I was hesitant to do so. Tobias and Andy where not so hesitant and entered the highway to Grenoble. The others followed him so I had to do also. Oh well, it just is a few Euro's on toll so no big deal, but the detour over country side would have been more rewarding to drive. Another reason why I was reluctant to enter the autoroute was that there aren't much exits and if one misses one, it takes a while before there is a next opportunity to turn around. St Martin was still 25km in front of us so taking the highway would gain fifteen minutes so it wasn't too bad, especially since at we didn't have to pay anything once we left the highway near St Martin. The operator of the toll gate told us that we pass through since the only other road was blocked. Isn't that an excellent service?

The Col du Télégraphe, just is the prelude to the Col du Galibier (2645mtr). The Télégraphe is a long climb from St Martin to a higher located valley, after which the road stays level for about 20km. This probably is the reason that the Télégraphe and the Galibier are two separate Col's, but from a driving point of view, there only is one. A similar situation exists in the Livigno area where from Bormio, the Passo di Foscagno and the Passo d'Eira are the main passage roads from Italy to Livigno. But there, the tarmac stays above 2100mtr between those two Passes, but the idea is the same: Two separate passes, but only one in experience.

The Col du Télégraphe is a serpentine shaped road that secludes a higher located. Passingf other cars isn't that difficult as the roads are wide, but the ascend is rather steep and one needs higher revs. But in front of the cologne, I recognized a blue colored motor cycle that could be gendarmerie (French police). I wasn't for sure as the distance was 100mtr at best and there where a few cars driving between us. But without certainty, passing the cars in front could be tricky without risking a fine as the pace was roughly 60km/h and for passing, speeds beyond the legal limit was necessary. During the ascend, I came close enough to recognize him as just a private motor cycle driver as he was wearing jeans a grey suit and that the motorcyle lacked the police specific equipment. In the mean time, we already reached the pass height of the Col du telegraphe, after which the Col continues as a relative twisty, but flat road in the mountain side. I passed a few cars that where driving in front of us, but the group behind didn't have the space to safely overview the road so they stayed behind. The Col du Télégraphe ends in a small village, after which the main road continues in the direction of the Col du Galibier, another giant Col. Apart from a motorcycle driver in front of us, traffic was low and we could drive the desired pace. While driving upwards, I recognized that the motor cycle driver in front of us didn't have much experience as his driving style wasn't that smooth and we continously had to brake at the exit of the corners. This meant that he/she approached the corners with a higher then ideal speed, probably caused by a wrong gear selection, something that became evident after we saw him/her shifting a gear lower upon exiting lot's of corners.



I experienced a similar case once before on the Stilfserjoch when I was a guide for my brother who was driving his Audi S2 coupe some years ago. Even though the S2 is notorious for it's habit to extreme under-steer it was considerably faster. But the motorcycle driver clearly wanted to stay, and while doing so, he chose the wrong lines over and over again. At some point, just below the 'summit', he approached an apex wrongly that forced him to exit the apex at the outside. At the same time, a small van came from the opposite direction and the motorcycle driver got caught between that van and the mountain wall. Somehow, the van didn't hit him, nor did he crash in the mountain, but the margin was so narrow that he must have had a hart beat of over 200. If he approached the apex appropriate, he could have exited it on his own side of the road and he would have stayed kept a healthy hart beat. Even though motor cycles are fast on straight sections, they can't keep up with a well-driven car on twisty roads and/or Narrow Mountain passes like the Stilfserjoch's north side.

But this time, we where driving on the Col du Galibier which, a much wider road that reaches almost as high. Despite the much safer conditions, we didn't pass the motorcycle as there was no need to do so anyhow. Besides, the Galibier is surrounded my colosal mountains that reach between 3000mtr and 3300mtr in height. The last ten km of the Galibier is a bit more narrow with lots of apexes that lead to a hugh plateau at roughly 2500mtr. I the recent years, the French have build a tunnel to cross the last mountain ridge. Undoubtetly, this extends the opening frame of the Col during spring, summer and autumn seasons, but as the 'old' road that leads to the Col's summit at 2645mtr still exists, we took that route. It's just another two more km for a 100mtr climb to the small ridge that seperates the Provence Alps Cote d'Azur and the Haute Savoi regions. The panoramic view to the South includes a view on the Barre des Ecrins, an isolated 4000mtr massive seperated more then 100km away from other peaks that surpass this altitude.



A bit funny was that we saw Noah driving through the tunnel and not taking the 'old' Col where we all where. From the Col's summit we could see both sides of the tunnel and when he left it, I tried to call him as we wanted to stop at the restaurant at the Southern entrance of the tunnel for a small coffee break. But the mobile phone network didn't allow for a proper connection so I couldn't reach him.



A small hiking road leads to a 50mtr higher located ridge where the view also includes the panorama to the west only takes another 5 to 10 minutes walking.





We spend roughly halve an hour at the Col itself before we drove down to the restaurant where we stopped as intended.





Even though it was past 4.00PM, the sun still very effective at 2500mtr and thus the temperature was high enough to make us take seats at the terrace. The coffee break lasted longer then intended, but at some point we realized that Dominik and Hermann would already been waiting in Alp d'Huez for some time and would bite their teeth about when we would join them so after an hour or so, we left for the last 40km to Alp d'Huez.



With a length of just 8km, The South Side of the Col du Galibier which isn't that long, after which it ends on the Col du Lautaret (2058mtr), an important road between Italy and Grenoble. Nevertheless, the Galibier stays impressive with it's huge mountain walls. The Galibier also lacks protection fences to the valley side, but the tarmac is wide and smooth enough for feeling comfortable so there is no real need for it either. One can spot a few cows on the road, but that just has it's charme.





I don't really know how to identify the Barre des Ecrins massive, but on the maps, this mountain group must be part of it.



After a descent to 2058mtr, the Galibier stops and one has to choose between the Eastern and Western descend of the Col du Lautaret. We choose the western descend in the direction of Grenoble. Since the Col du Lautaret is used for transit traffic between Italy and France, it is a busy Col and during weekdays the ever present heavy trucks kill your pace, especially when the traffoc on the oppositie doesn't allow for overtaking. Fortunatelly, it was Saturday and already late in the afternoon, so apart from a few French registered cars, there was not much traffic. With more then 30km, the descent is long, but when one pays attention, one can see the glaciers high above on the Southern located mountain group.



Taking pictures in tunnels without in Aperture priority mode without using flash does give a surprising result.



If you have followed the Tour de France, you will have heard about or have seen Alp d'Huez, that winter sport village high in the French Alps that is reached by a steep mountain road that for byciclists is of the 'exceptional' category. On the majority of the maps, this is the only road, but surprise surprise there is another Col that leads to this famous village. It's a very small and narrow road, and it is described as route pastorale. The Col de Sarenne (1966mtr) isn't even mentioned on the road signs in the valley so traffic is limited to a few crazy tourists and off course the locals living in the valley. Byciclists hardly ever use this Col is the tarmac reminds to the Passo di Gavia (2621mtr) in italy.

I learnt from it's existance when I was driving a daytour of 550km through the French Alps. My wife (then girlfriend) wanted to visit Alpe d'Huez for once, something to which I opposed as there was only one road. But a closer look on my Michelin maps gave me more insight so I agreed. I liked driving the Sarenne very much, much more then I did enjoy the normal road that the byciclists and motorcycle drivers use so it was an easy decision to choose Alpe d'Huez as a finish place for our tour. Only, apart from the days around the Tour de France and in Winter, Alpe d'Huez is a dead place with almost all hotels being closed so I wonder how Hermann managed to find a hotel owner that was willing to open his hotel for just one night. Kudos to him for arranging that.

From the valley, one has to follow the directions to Besse. This is the largest of a series of smaller villages before the Col du Sarenne begins a bit higher in the valley. Someone must have had a creative mind for building a small house next to a big rock.



The Col du Sarenne is one of only few Col's that is constructed on one face the mountain it is located at. The majority of the apexes are just to narrow for stopping, but some are. The following picture clearly shows the road that we followed up until our stop. If you look close enough, you can spot that funny build house that is mentioned above in the center of the picture.

Unfortunately, I forgot to buy a polarization filter for my lens so the contrast between the air, the mountains and the foreground is rather thin.



As Usual Kalle and Anders arrived a few minutes after the rest. We stopped for a moment to take some pictures, after which we continued driving. From the eastern side, the Sarenne climbs to its highest point at 1966 meters. But from there, it still takes ~8km to reach Alp d'Huez at roughly 1800mtr. From here, the road crosses an upper located valley where the road surface seems to worsen.



That is one of the reasons that the Col de Sarenne isn't popular amongst byciclists and motor cycle drivers. It is mainly used by locals and farmers instead. In the last five or so km, there are also deep trenches that function as a water deversion. There are between ten and twenty of them and they are deep! Our E34's just had no more margin then about an inch left when crossing them. They require a stop and go approach as otherwise, your spoiler lip will capitulate.



We decided to stop for a moment again to shoot some pictures. I don't remember who suggested it, but the idea to open the hoods for photography was a good one. Hasn't this done before? It was not only me who was shooting picture. Also Sabine tried to shoot some, but over and over again, the others where standing in the way to talk about cars. This lead to a small chit chat between Sabine and Konstantin and Sabine to which one can identify couples that are married for a longer time.





In the recent months, the difference between the German and Swiss E34 ///M5 3.6 version was debated intensively on the German E34 ///M5 forum. The differences are very subtle and difficult to notice. But the most noticeable difference is what the German's call "Der Schweizer Russel", the plastic air intake pipe that is mounted in front of the air filter house. Together with my father, Sabine and Andy, I was watching from a small distance and enjoying all that fuss when the topic was discussed again high in the French Alps, when suddenly Konstantin remembered that my originally is a Swiss market car ad thus should have "Der Schweizer Russel". He asked me if I would permit him to take out that stupid part to which I agreed as it's just one Philips-head screw to take it out.

"Der Schweizer Russel" actually is a Helmholz resonator that damps the intake noise, a measure that was required to meet the Swiss noise regulations. The debate on the German forum is about the trade off it causes. The engine specs for the S38B36 aren't different for the Swiss and Euro versions, but I agree that the 'Swiss' version could flatten the engine responsiveness.

Anyhow, within a minute Konstantin triomfatilly showed that stupid part to proove that it indeed existed. I never really cared, but I am planning to buy the normal version that isn't bended just as an experiment to see if the claim that the Swiss version has no trade off is true.



Alp d'Huez was only a few minutes distance and since we guessed that Hermann and Dominik would have bitten their teeth out aready we drove away. Wen we entered Alp d'Huez, it was like a neutron-bomb had hit earth. A deserted village with no sign of life. It took a few minutes before we found our hotel where we found Hermann, Dominik, Finn and Noah on the wooden terace.



The parking strip across the hotel was soon claimed by the classic ///M5's. Even though my lens has a minimum focal length of 18mm, it was difficult to catch all this cars in one shot, at least from sideways. This is caused by the fact that the image sensor of my D70 is APS-C sized thus about 1.5 smaller when compared to conventional 35mm film. This means that the focal length must be multiplied by the same factor, resulting in 27mm wide angle. Nevertheless,



Dominik experienced some bad luck as he lost his spoiler lip somewhere during the day. He claimed that it was a hostile earth wal that attacked him, but between you and me, I think that it was the other way around.



Shortly after, Hermann handed over the keys to our rooms so we could quickly enter our rooms to dump our luggage after which we where expected in the dining room for dinner. Unlike the hotel in Cluses, we couldn't choose from the cars, but had a choice of one menu. That is understandeble given the situation that the hotel normally is closed during these months. The food was rather good actually so we could not complain.

After dinner, I took some long exposure shots in the dark. Camera on a tripod, aperture wide open, shutter set to longest time-frame and even at lowest ISO value, the result is very nice if I may say.



Hermann had reached Alp d'Huez on his fuel reserves and he wanted to try to get some fuel in the valley before the next day. Unfortunately for him, all the petrol stations in the valley where closed so he had to leave his car behind. He already anticipated on that, hence the reason that Finn drove behind him just in case. The rest of us got settled in the hotel lounge and since there was no staff present, we had to get our own drinks from behind the bar where the beer tap was still working and a few bottles of whine where available.

Since we had another day of driving ahead of us, I called it a day just after midnight. Even though the total distance of 350km was rather short, we compensated for that by enjoying longer breaks. The whether was extremely good and apart from Dominik 's spoiler lip, no one sustained any damage. But will that also be the case next day? For that, you have to wait for part three!
 

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Sunday

With so many of those famous Col's already driven on Saturday, Sunday could feel like an anti-climax? One could consider it that way, but one can also try to add more value to the last day by either a new variant of an existing tour or by adding more time. For the OK, the difficulty was that apart from the Col de la Croix de Fer (2067mtr) and the Col de la Madeleine (2000mtr), only the Glandon (2100mtr) was in the direct vincinity. The rest had already been driven or (like the Cime de la Bonette (2802mtr) are located South of Alp d'Huez and require an extra day to reach. Adding the Col de la Colombriere (1700mtr), Northwest of Aix les Bains was an option, but this would extend well into the 400km driving range. Instead, we decided to keep Sunday rather short. 250km at the most, to allow for usefull breaks and an early arrival in Annecy. It also allowed us to leave Alp d'Huez one hour later and take more time for breakfast that was excellent. Unlike in Cluses where we were presented a cup of coffee or thea and two croissants, "Hotel Grandes Rousses" presented us a comprehensive breakfast buffet of very good quality.

Like the day before, Sunday started very good with blue skies and a temperature that surpassed 20 degrees Celcius already early in the morning. Like many other French winter sport resorts, the lift installations are build throughout the village, making it a part of the ski routes. This may spoil the 'horizon', but remember that Alp d'Huez lives solely on the demanding winter tourist that doesn't want to use his car or a ski-bus.





After a short morning talk on the hotel veranda, we walked to our cars and fired them up for the descent to le Bourg-d'Oisans. Herman got a lift from Finn as due to fuel shortages, Herman had to leave his car in the valley below the day before.

For the descent, we used the main road that also is famous from many Tour de France events. The linkage to the 'Tour' is made clear by the name of each and every hairpin that carries the name of an important winner of 'Alp d'Huez'. As usual, the entire road is covered with chalked drawings and writings that are created by the spectators. It is estimated that in 2004, about one million spectators inhabited Alp d'Huez mountain slopes!!! Incredible.



Even though Alp d'Huez looks deserted in the summer season, the traffic on the main road leading to it isn't. Each year, thousands of amateur byciclists are trying to enter the footsteps of the real pro's and are willing to give it a try. Many of them need the time and space so every of our overtaking manouvre required carefull anticipation from us. At one point we got stuck behind a mobile-home with a stinking diesel engine. That sucks!!



Upon arrival in the lower located valley, Finn dropped Herman at his car while the rest drove directly to le Bourg-d'Oisans to feed the cars with 'Super Plus'. Needless to say that with a volume of almost 90 liters, Herman's car showed the highest greed!! The rest of us could do with between 50 and 70 liters. This was a good start of the day. At least for the owner of that petrol station.



Even though the route is fixed and known beforehand, navigation is critical on tours like this. Satellite navigation is handy, but apart from Finn, no one in the group has one installed. The rest of had to navigate the old fashioned way, thus using road maps and briefings. I offered others to take the lead, but no one was interested so it was me who had to set the pace and direction again.



The first Col on the program was the Col de la Croix de Ferre (2067mtr). To reach that Col we had to follow the (boring) main road in the direction to Grenoble for about 10km, after which we left the two-lane autoroute in the direction of the Col the la Croix de Ferre. After driving through a few small villages, the road starts to climb slightly and seems to end in front of a large dam. However, a few hairpins seperated by pencil straight sections are constructed in the dam wall to reach the road on top of it that takes one back to the other side of the valley. This was a really nice drive. Between the hairpins, the straight sections where roughly 1km in length and with the road surface being exceptionally smooth, the hairpins could be approached without releasing the throttle. As leader of the pack it was difficult to set the pace as the road was so nice to drive and even when one appraoches other cars with double the speed, it seems rather slow. Noah was driving behind me and was playing with the gears and throttle in almost every hairpin. I must admit that his car runs exceptionally well since he closed the gap between his car an my car without much difficulty. In fact, it was two different worlds. I suspect that he used first gear upon accelerating from the hairpins as once I reached 4500RPM in second gear, I gained a few meters back. My brake points where also a bit closer to the corners and my turn in speed a bit higher as I shift back to second gear only when I have to.

The second part of the Col leads to a another dam higher up in the valley up until the road is surrounded by forests. There wheren't that many hairpins either. Just a wonderfull twisty road that allows for an excellent spirited drive. When the dam gets in sight, the Col first descends for about 100mtr just untill the dam's foundations after which there is a steep ascend with a few hairpins that are constructed in an almost vertical mountain face with low vegetation. There where some rocks on te road that I could avoid without much trouble, but at one point I missed Noah and the others in my rear view mirror. Hmmm, what going on? I stopped near the road and walked out of my car to climb 10mtrs higher where I could get a better view on the road. There I saw that the others stopped at a parking place just after the dam, probably for sightseeing? Then, I saw Dominik entering the road again so I 'jumped' back to the road where Dominik informed me about Noah's mishap with a rock that punctured one of his rear tyres. I asked my father to drive my car back and since the distance was rather short, I walked back.

Fortunately Noah managed to keep control of his car while the tire collapsed under the immense pressure caused by the stone. It not only punctured the tire. Also the rim got damaged beyond repair. That must have been a large rock indeed. Fortunately no other damage was done to the car and fortunately the E34 has a full size spare tire and not such a stupid 'home-bringer' as that would have slowed us down considerably.



Konstantin and Andrew already started working on Noah's car to replace the broken rim/tire. Ironically, they needed some rocks to secure the car while it was lifted.



They just needed a few minutes to get Noah's car back on the road, which IMHO is an excellent achievement, especially if one considers the less then ideal working circumstances. The unfortunate 'stop' gave the rest of us the opportunity to look around and enjoy the scenery.



The third section of the Col de la Croix de Ferre is a rather straight section that despite being curvy does not have many hairpins. As there is hardly any vegetation at altitudes like this, the overview is excellent. At some points, one can anticipate through a series of curves and complete them as one section.



A few kilometers before the highest point of the Col, one can change direction to the Col du Glandon (2105mtr) that is a bit higher. We didn't do that and continued to follow the main road that from that point on enters a narrow mountain ridge that leads to the Col's highest point. It was our intention to stop there for a photo session, but as there where to many tourists present there, we where forced to drive further and search for a proper location lower on the Northern side of the Col.

From an earlier trip, I knew that there is a small lake at about 1km distance and yes, from a distance we could see three E34's parked alongside the waterside. The spot that Herman selected to stop can't really be considered as a parking space. There is a small road, with enough room for a few cars, let alone nine E34 ///M5's. It took some maneuvering before the cars where in position, as one can see on the following picture.



This is one of few occasions that I would love to have a 12-24mm lens. I do have an 18-70mm lens, but that just wasn't wide enough to catch all the cars from a close position.









During the 45-60min stop, there was enough to for exchanging petrol talks. The atmosphere was excellent as can be seen in the following picture that shows Karl and Noah in a small chat.



After roughly an hour, it was time to get back to the road for the next Col, the Col de Madeleine (2000mtr). The first part of the descent is rather narrow and contains more hairpins then the Southern side, after which the 'Ferre' enters a series of villages where the average slope decreases and the hairpins are changed for a twisty country road. The Col de la Croix de Ferre ends St. Jeanne de Maurienne, but we hardly completed 10km from when we a 'Route Barree' blocked the rest of the Col. This forced us to use the diversion over the Col du Mollard (1638mtr) that according to the road map also ends in St. Jeanne de Maurienne.

Actually, the diversion wasn't that bad at all. It took us to the other side of the valley where Col du Mollard ascends up to 1600mtrs before it descends to St. Jeanne de Maurienne. It's a smaller road that normally is used by locals who live higher in the mountains where there are a few villages that combined with farmland dominate the scenery until the highest point at 1638mtr, after which the Col du Mollard descends rapidly in the valley below. A large part of the Northern side of the Col du Mollard is constructed in a near vertical mountain face and thus there always is that abyss to take into concideration. One or two cars had to be passed off course, which isn't always easy on small mountain roads.

In St. Jeanne de Maurienne, we picked up the intended route again that would bring us to the last large Col of the day, the Col de Madeleine (2000mtr). Granted, we still had a few smaller Col's to look forward too, amongst others the Crêt de Chatillon (1699mtr) that is located just before Annecy, but the Madeleine is the last 'giant' Col for the 2004 event.

But how can one define 'giant' with cars that have more then 300bhp? Well, in 'our' terms, a giant Col is at least 30km in length, exceeds the 2000mtr mark and offers a great drive where it is possible to exploit the cars potential. Especially the larger and higher mountain passes are perfect for that as traffic usually is rather low and there are no intersections between the villages at each end side of the Col (or pass for that matter). At the risk of making wrong comparisons, I dare to say that on some specific sections, mountain roads offer track like driving conditions without the need to enter the drivers licence red danger levels!!

The South side ascent of the Col de Madeleine isn't really that difficult. Up untill roughly 5km before it's highest point, there are separate lanes for both directions and the hairpins are wide enough for third gear driving. That is not exactly the idea, but Konstantin couldn't go lower because of his broken engine mount. On the ascend, both myself and Tobias created a gap of two to three hundred meters until Konstantin, Dominik and Andrew. But as I sais, Konstantin was limited to third gear driving whereas the others could go back to second or when necessary first gear. On the first part of the ascent, we approached an Audi A6 2.5TDI that was driving rather quickly also. These cars have plenty low end torque and can be difficult to pass, especially when there is note enough room to play the S38's trompette above 5000RPM. I still remembered the same type of car that blocked me on the Gross Glockner Hochalpenstrasse for some time, because he couldn't stand that an older BMW was quicker. This time, passing him was more easy. I choose the inside corner of the hairpin to start my passing attempt, forcing him to stay on the right side of the road and thus not able to use his torque in the ideal line. At the exit of the hairpin, I had already reached 4000RPM in second gear so he didn't have any chance anyways as he had to shift to third gear wheras the S38 still has >3000RPM left. I didn't think the Audi driver really tried, but one never knows with those diesel drivers. The second part of the Col leads to a wintersport region, that like Alp d'Huez is deserted in the summer. Alongside the main road, there are hughe parking areas, allowing an ideal line or when one desires, enough space for forcing power-oversteer. After the last village, the tarmac gets a bit narrower and also steeper until the highest point of the Col. Driving this side of the Madeleine is hughe fun and therefore I can imagine that Dominik who was driving alone in his car and therefore much lighter then the rest, passed Konstantin, Tobias and myself to enjoy the hill climb.

Hermann and Finn where already waiting at the Col for about thirty minutes or so. The whether was still excellent, but clouds where covering the Alps in the North, keeping the almost 5000mtr high Mont Blanc massive out of sight.



With the detour around Col de la Croix de Ferre, we already covered about 130km so it was time for a lunch break at the 'petit' restaurant. The waitress not only spoke French, but English as well so we had no problem with interpreting the 'menu'. I ordered a 'Salade du Chef', one of the more comprehensive salade menus. On the following picture (from left to right) are Finn, Anders and Karl enjoying their menu's. Finn had to wait just a little bit longer though.



On the next picture, you can see my father behind his 'salade du chef'.



Dominik and Hermann stayed with the cars and after about an hour Dominik came to our table to tell that he has a small surprise for Karl. We where all wondering about what that surpise was untill another gentleman came up and presented himself as another ///M5 Touring owner. He was on a round tour on his motorcycle and was surprised to see all those ///M5's in one place. Karl, Konstantin and Hermann spoke with him for about 15 minutes or so, after which it was already 3.15PM and with roughly 120km seperating us from Annecy, it was time to hit the road again.



The North side of the Madeleine is a bit more narrow, but a blast to drive. Back in 1999, I drove this Col also, but then on Michelin MXX3 tires that provided excellent dry whether grip and a superior steering precision when compared to my current Dunlop SP9000's. The Dunlop's are brilliant in the rain and longevity departments, but I am not satisfied with their dry whether abilities. Needless to say that I won't buy SP9000 again, but will return to the newest generation of the Michelin tires, the Pilot Sport II, but depending on tire size availability, I am also considering the Pilot Sport Cup tires that are used as OEM tires on the E46 ///M3 CSL.





On the descent, Dominik gave his car a good run as can be seen on the next picture. Dom, Is that a well timed and anticipated passing maneuver?



During the last section of the Madeleine, I gained a distance on the rest and decided to wait at the intersection where we had to change directions to Albertville. This allowed me to take some close-up's of each car in action of which the following is really nice with two MY95 ///M5 Tourings in a row.



During the descent, Finn made a small movie clip from each participating car. With the Col de Madeleine, we had completed the last large Col of this year's event. We still had three smaller ones on the programm, but apart from the last one, the Crêt de Chatillon (1699mtr) these are relatively small by comparison. The next part of the route took us over the autoroute to Albertville, where we had to follow the route dirctions to Annecy over provincial road N90.

Call it stupidity or ignorance from my side, but I hardly ever use a seatbelt. Yeah, I know that the first thing you'l learn with driving lessons is to fasten your seatbelts, but that is already a very long time ago and since then, not using my seat belts has grown in a custom. I also have never been pulled over for not wearing one, something that in Holland will be 'rewarded' with a fine of 90 Euro's when noticed by the police. So the reason that I never received a fine in Holland has more to do with me not driving that much in my home-country and when I do, it is in the evening hours or weekends. I guess it is plain luck until sofar.

It appeared that that luck ended in Albertville when two French 'gendarmerists' on motor cycles drove past the ///M5 convoy and quickly inspected my car. But instead of pulling me over, they made it clear that I was not wearing my seat-belt and I should do so right now!!

In my country, an officer would already have grabbed his ticket book to write out a fine to meet his 'quota' that is written in the performance contract between the Dutch 'home office' and the police precints. Not meeting this performance contract results in represailles for the police-managers involved and on lower levels can result in disciplinary actions against officers that do not coorporate. As a result, the priority of the Dutch police isn't 'to protect and to serve' (anymore), but 'grabbing' in civilians wallets instead.

But not so these French police officers. They where satisfied with me fastening my seatbelt and simply continued their patrol and thus giving meaning to their 'supervising' duties. For that I only have one word: "Respect!"

In Albertville, we where supposed to find the route directions to road D63 and Col de Tamie (907mtr). We did find the intersection with the D63 in the middle of Albertville, but where to find the right road if there are no further route discriptions, but only 'Toutes de directions' signs that took us anywhere except the right direction. The bright side was that Albertville has a nice old city center.



We drove one or two circles in the city of Albertville before I finally realized that I had to drove to the church and follow the 'Toutes de directions' sign there. This took us through some of Albertville's suburbs untill finally we finally identified a road sign with D63 and Col de Tamie (907mtr) written on it. Col de Tamie is mainly routed through the forests South west of Albertville. It does offer a series of nice hairpins, but there is not really much to tell about it, only that I didn't notice Hermann and Dominik who (as I was later told) where waiting there.



The next target was the Annecy Lake and thus we where slowly nearing our finish point in the city that shares the lake's name. But we still had two Col's on the program, both of which in the very last section of the route. Col de Lesschaux (950mtr) isn't really high either, but before reaching it, we had to drive on crowded provincial roads leading to Annecy and thus a little frustrating. Roundabouts, villages, industrial areas where following each other and even when we where already driving on the Western shore of the Annecy Lake, we still hadn't reached the crossing with the road to Col de Lesschaux. We saw many road numbers, N501, D10B, D10A, D whatever, but the D10 was testing my nerves as I just hate driving crowded roads. Then finally with Annecy only at roughly 5km distance, I spotted the road sign with D10 and the Col de Lesschaux written on it.

The ascent of the Lesschaux also was routed through a series of villages and at some points rather steep and twisty, thus at some points a downshift was required something that must have sounded a bit intimidating for the inhabitants, especially as there where five E34 ///M5's driving behind each other with speeds between 30km/h and 50km/h. Just before reaching the Lesschaux's highest point, we turned right for the last real Col, the Crêt de Chatillon (1699mtr). This was a real climb alongside the highest mountain group Southwest of Annecy that took us within 50 height meters of a summit at the outer edge of the Western Alps. Being so, it offers a unique 360 degree panoramic viewpoint.

Unfortunatelly, there was no space left on the first parking areas so we stopped a few hundred meters further on near a restaurant where there was enough room. The downside was that climbing to the panoramic viewpoint takes about half an hours climb which is too long for a stop where one doesn't know how much time there is available. Anyhow, I climbed up to nearby rock where the view included the East and South East. Later on, Andy joined me on that spot also where I had a good view over the main road. Strange to my surprise, I saw Hermann and Domink's cars passing by about thirty minutes after our arrival.



Until then, I didn't know that I missed them at the Col de Tamie, but even so. Thirty minutes behind us! I already expecxted them in Annecy. So what has been going on?

One sideeffect of driving through a countryside is the distrusting nature of the villagers towards anything that is how to say it, "Strange". First, A convoy of old BMW's. Second, they are all registered on foreign plats and last but not least, They all make quitte some noise. Now, isn't this superspicious? According to some Frenchman or woman 'yes' and so the police had been informed and as a result, a road block was set for which Dominik, Hermann, Andrew and Karl had to stop.

The police thought that it was Dominik and Hermann to whom the 'phone call' applied, but fortunatelly Hermann and Dominik both speak fluent French so where able to explain the situation and that we where NOT driving a race. The police accepted that explanation and after a small delay they where 'released' and joined us at the Crêt de Chatillon shortly afterwards.


(Picture Courtesy Karl and Anders)

The group with myself, Noah, Finn, Tobias and Konstantin 'escaped' from that road block with a marging of a few minutes or so. But it is without a doubt that 'my' group was the reason for that police action. It may have been possible that we have exceeded the speed limit in villages with about 5km/h or so, but not much more. The only reason that I can think of is that the exhaust tone of our cars has been intimidating for (some) French citizen(s) who mixed up speed with sound!

A small picture of the interior of Andrew's ///M5 Winckelhock of which only 51 where made. The Winckelhock, a lighter version of the standard E34 ///M5 features amongst others a smaller fuel tank (80ltr), manually controlled rear windows, smaller battery (66Ah), removed fog lights and removed rear headrests. Together with some other minor changes, this reduces the weight with ~40kg. The Winckelhock package only costed 5000DM more and furthermore included cloth bucket seats, red seatbelts, a raw hide leather steering wheel and 9J*17 rims with 255/40ZR17 tires on the rear axle. The idea behind the Winckelhock model was that two race drivers under BMW contract (Winckelhock and Cecotto) 'creating' their own model versions. Winckelhock choose the 'raw' approach and Cecotto went with the luxury approach. Only 22 customers choose for the Cecotto model, probably because of the DM22000 mark up.



The descent of the Crêt de Chatillon took us directly to Annecy and as Hermann knew the road, he took the lead. The last descent was a nice and relaxed drive and the only part of the route that we drove with the complete group in a convoy.






(Picture Courtesy Dominik)

The last few hundred meters of the descent took us through one of Annecy's suburbs where we got mixed up in Annecy's city traffic. It was impossible to keep the group together, and thus we lost track with the first cars and Hermann. Finn however was driving in front of me and thanks to his satelite navigation, he managed to find his way rather quickly.



So instead of finding our own route, I simply followed Finn. Karl did the same and thus we where the first to arrive at our hotel. At least in it's vincinity as finding a right place to park turned out not to be simple.



I simply asked the hotel receptionist and he directed us to a parking garage underneath the city that is only a minute walking distance from the hotel. Nevertheless, I do prefer a hotel on the countryside because of practical reasons. Parking just is so much easier outside larger cities. Especially when one intends to leave early in the morning, but finds out that the parking garage only opens at 7.00AM.



This was a problem for Karl and Anders who had to return to Sweden the next day, which is a ~1700km drive! Because of the limited opening hours of the parking garage they changed their plans and decided to travel a few hundred kilometers to drive through Switzerland after which they would search for a small hotel in the German Black Forests!

In the meantime, Hermann checked the rest of the group into the hotel and dumped our luggage into our rooms. It was already past 8.00PM and we where all starving so after saying our goodbeys to Karl and Anders and wishing them a safe journy, we walked into the old center of Annecy to find a place to eat. The whether to good to stay inside, so we searched for a restaurant with a terrace where we could enjoy one of the last summer evenings of this year. In a city like Annecy that is not difficult at all so we found a nice place after about five minutes.

Both Hermann and Dominik live in Switzerland and as such they didn't need to stay the night in Annecy. So Dominik choose to leave at 9.00PM while Hermann left at an hour later.



I had been here before in 1999 so I knew the beauty of the place, but by night the ancient buildings create their own impression. (Please note that I didn't use my flash and didn't use a tripod!)





After a walk alongside one of the old 'channels' of the old town, we found a café at the waterside. This was a good place for one last drink to toast on a few excellent days and a succesfull meeting. With time flying by and a long day ahead of us, my father, myself and Andrew called it a day just after midnight and walked back to the hotel. The rest of the group stayed a 'little' longer.



My original idea was to leave Annecy at around 5.00AM but due to the limited opening hours of the parking garage, I had to change my schedule. It didn't make much sense to leave much earlier then 7.00AM so we decided to enjoy breakfast with the rest of the group at 8.00AM. We all had to travel through Switzerland so it made sense to drive the first part together.
 

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It was already Monday morning (just past midnight) when my Andrew, my father and myself walked back to the hotel. We tried a different route back, but that wasn't the wisest choice, as we needed roughly 30 minutes of walking before we finally found the hotel. Blunt said, we where lost in Annecy!

I didn't sleep well between Sunday and Monday, probably because I am NOT used to all that noise in a large city or it's climate. At 5.30AM, I finally got up and started uploading Sunday's pictures to my notebook. After the usual morning rituals, I walked to the first floor to find the breakfast room where I was the first to arrive. Errrr, at least from our group.

Oh boy, how depressing that was. The (TL) light was terrible and the tables and seats just some cheap IKEA stuff. This must be like prison! ARRRRGHHH. I still was half asleep so that 'didn't make things better' (I hope that where not Philips TL lights (LOL)! No fresh coffee, but an instant coffee making machine instead. Fortunately the rest of the breakfast buffet was of reasonable quality. But for the money, I expected at least some fresh coffee, tea and most important, good quality orange juice and not that cheapskate stuff from Errrr, whatever!!

After a cup of tea, I noticed the terrace doors that opened the gateway to an outside terrace. Daylight and fresh air (Ahummmmm, in a city)! Just what one needs early on a weekday morning. It didn't take long before Finn arrived followed by Mr. and Mrs. Wolf a few minutes later. By 8.30AM, everyone of our group managed to find the breakfast service.

At first, nobody spoke much, probably because of the 'late' return from downtown Annecy, but croissants and several cups of coffee, albeit instant coffee does wonders and within minutes, activity increased with the rate of an exponential function. Konstantin took the opportunity to call his Munich dealership to order the parts that he broke on his car. Before leaving on Friday morning, he thought that his problems where caused by a broken coil pack so he had one on order, but after discovering that torn engine mount in Cluses, he knew that was just a waste of time and money. He politely informed about that part, and I assume the answer from the other side on the phone was something like "Leider haben wir dieses teil noch nicht vom zentral lager bekommen". This made Konstantin reply something like "Das ware dann vielleicht nicht so schlimm das wir dieses teil nicht bekommen". In English this translates into "Maybe, it isn't that bad that we don't get that part after all". This must be the newest diplomatic approach to cancel orders? From a listening perspective, that phone call was comical, especially as it attracted small jokes from the rest of the group. By 9.30AM, it was time to leave so after completing the formalities at the hotel reception, we walked to the parking garage where we found our cars intact. As the hotel took over the parking cost until 9.00AM, we only had to pay for the last 45 minutes or so, which parted us with something between one and two Euro per car!

Apart from Finn, the rest of us had to drive the same route through Switzerland, so we used this as an opportunity to add another halve a day to the meeting. But leaving Annecy turned out to be a problem. I managed to find the entrance to the autoroute to Geneva, but then I noticed that the same road leads to Lyon! To avoid any mistakes, I took the first exit into one of Annecy's suburbs. At this point, we lost Finn and again he proved the advantages of his satellite navigation (Haha). But he was driving a different route anyway, as he wanted to stay within the European Union. It didn't take long before we managed to find the right road leading to Geneva, which was the same entrance, as I wanted to avoid five minutes earlier. I must have been asleep!

In fact, we only wanted to use the first two kilometers of the autoroute for the quickest way to the normal provincial road to Geneva. One would expect that the highway is the shortest and fastest way of travelling, but the highway to Geneva takes you anywhere, except for Geneva. The provincial road connects Annecy with the Swiss in a straight line whereas the autoroute is routed like a serpentine through the region! Off course, we had to pay a small amount of 'peage' for using just two kilometers of the autoroute.

The provincial road to Geneva is a large and wide road, but climbs through the mountains. As such, there is a passing lane for the ascending traffic. This allowed a high travelling pace and within thirty minutes we drove in Switzerland. When we left Annecy, Noah told me that he was very low on fuel and that he needed to stop at a petrol station when we arrived in Switzerland (what are you doing with all that fuel Noah?).

The Swiss are very disciplined drivers. It is remarkable to see so many high powered cars driving strictly within the tolerated limit. Amazing! Geneva itself is an 80km/h restricted zone and it doesn't take much to get thrown into jail after which the officer throws the key into the Geneva Lake. The distance from Geneva to Lausanne is roughly 85km and I knew that there is at least one petrol station with a large 'Coop' supermarket between these two cities. I wanted to stop there as I promised my wife to buy some marmalade from the Coop home brand, but as Noah's car must have been running on fumes, we left the highway to stop at a nearby petrol station just one kilometer of the highway.

A car dealer was located on the opposite site of the road and as I saw an old E24 and E28 on the lot, I took a closer look. The E24 was equipped with some Alpina parts, but was obviously not the real thing. The E28 also not a very neat example, the interior was missing, the holes of two headlights where open, body panels with different color. But a roll cage was present and when looking through the empty holes of the headlights, I could see a glimpse of the engine, which didn't look like your garden variety M30. In the mean time, Konstantin also arrived and recognized the exhaust manifolds as those coming from the 34 E6 engine? Huh, what's that? Then suddenly the owner of the garage approached us. He already saw the five E34 ///M5's and asked us if both Tourings where the six speed type. We confirmed that after which a nice conversation started up. He acknowledged directly that the E24 was NOT a genuine Alpina, but as our interest was mostly for that old and tatty E28, he told us that this particular car was being prepared as a track car with the M100 3.2ltr turbo engine coming from the E23 745i. We opened the hood and recognized the KKK K27 turbo charger, the intercooler and some other M100/102 unique parts. He told us that this was the third E28 that he was converting into a track car with the turbocharged six cylinder engine. One of these featured the M102 version which has a larger engine capacity of 3.4ltrs. The other two, including this one received the 3.2ltr version (M100). I left my camera in my car and unfortunatelly I made no pictures, but after some talking we realised that it was time to leave as it was already noon and it was time to leave. He also mentioned that he had an Alpina B7 turbo engine for the E28 lying around, but as he doesn't want to use one of those for his track cars, he offered it for sale.

The original idea was to stop for lunch in Biel, a city at the north side of the laq Neuchatel. I wanted to use the new autobahn from Lausanne to Fribourg and from there to Biel, but there where not any direct road directions to Biel. Added to that came the fact that I was driving ~150km/h on the odo which in German terms isn't that fast, but in Switzerland this already nears the driver license danger zone. I was very well aware of that, but as a foreigner one doesn't risk that much unless one is halted by the police. Konstantin, Noah and Andrew did follow my pace, but Tobias and Andy didn't follow and stayed behind. To leave the highway near the Neuchatel Lake, we must drive within sight, but that just wasn't meant to be. To allow him to catch up, we stopped at an exit, but we already past Biel by quitte some margin so that wasn't meant to be. Instead, we choose to stop near Bern and search for a restaurant there. Said and done and after roughly ten minutes of driving through the Swiss farmland, we found a gasthof in a small villige just outside Bern. This also was the last common stop before our roads seperated and had to follow different directions.

We took our time for lunch and used the opportunity to eat something warm. But at around 2.30PM, we where well in the afternoon and with 850km separating from 'home sweet home', it was time to cover some ground. After lunch, we said our good-byes and wished each other a safe trip home. We still drove together until Olten where Konstantin and Tobias continued in the direction to Zurich whereas myself, Andrew and Noah changed directions to Basel. After a refueling stop near Basel, we left Switzerland at around 3.45PM and welcomed the speed unlimited signs in Germany. From that point on, we still had to drive ~750km that day. That went surprisingly fast, (for a weekday with rush hours) and at around 9.30AM we arrived at my house in the eastern part of the Netherlands. Even though the weekend was a huge success, I was very glad to see my wife and two little boys again.

Technically, we didn't have any surprises. Apart from the small mishaps from Noah and Dominik, nobody damaged or broke his car. Konstantin solved his vibration problems the same week by replacing the engine mounts. As for my car: As expected, it performed flawlessly so the large preventive maintenance project that was completed in April 2004 paid off. Remain a few wear/tear items like my front Dunlop SP9000 tires that seem to have had it also I need to replace them at the start of the 2005 season. The same applies to the front and rear brake pads.

The weekend was over, but the work was not. Not only do I have to write this 'travel report' that is now completed at roughly 7.40AM on November the 22nd. But we (the organization committee) have think about next year's event. See you in 2005.
 

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Fantastic write-up and great pics - your annual trips get better every year :cheers:
 
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I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but the photos are great; such beautiful places!

Thanks for taking the time to share this with us!

Cheers, Daniel.
 

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Man, it can be published as a ilustrated book, great write-up
and beautiful photos, good you were experimentig, not just typical shots...once again, Good job behind the lens :)
And I love when you were looking at the map, at the petrol station, no sat-nav and other stuff, just a map, for me it`s better being guided by someone with map ( at best, a beautiful woman at passenger seat close to me:rolleyes: :1: )
than just staring at the screen and going where the computer tells you where to go.


Best wishes, cherrsagai

P.S. How the brakes worked during descents?
 

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Incredible pictures! The incredible scenery didn't hurt either. The mountains reminded me of my trips to the Colorado Rockies and Canadian Rockies. It sounds like it would have been a great time.
 

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Wow that is beautiful, both the cars and the scenery. I think i have some new desktop wallpaper images to cycle through for a while!
Mike
 

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Thanks so much for sharing. I will bookmark this to use when planning my trip!
cheers
foxy :1:
 

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Great writeup and fantastic pics.

You are right to beware of the Swiss police. My friend who lives in Zurich got caught at 35 kph over the limit and it cost him the equivalent of 1500 euros.

This trip looks better and better and all things being equal I would like to join you in 2005.

:cheers:

ralph (vadas1)
 

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vadas1 said:
Great writeup and fantastic pics.

You are right to beware of the Swiss police. My friend who lives in Zurich got caught at 35 kph over the limit and it cost him the equivalent of 1500 euros.

This trip looks better and better and all things being equal I would like to join you in 2005.

:cheers:

ralph (vadas1)
i'd like to try and come too, will it be in september again?
Shawn
 

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Very nice writeup Raymond! :thumbsup:

I have a story about Col D´Iseran that I will tell you some day. :)

Cheers,
/Johan
 

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Gents,

Thank you all for the complements. I gives me great pleasure to see that my work is apreciacted.

I would also like to thank Gustav for mentioning this thread in the Updates section of the portal.

Yes, there will be a fourth edition of this event in September 2004. Details will be announced in the following reply.

Rgrds,

Raymond
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
First newsletter E34 ///M5 meeting September 2005

The Fourth edition of the E34 ///M5 meeting is scheduled for the third weekend of September 2005 (16-19). The provisional agenda is:

Friday 16-9-2005 at 1.00PM: Gathering in Munich. (I won't reveil more details as we are working on something special for the kick off.)

Friday 16-9-2005 at 5.00PM: Drive off to Reutte in Tirol

Saturday 17-9-2005 at 8.30AM: Start of the Saturday etappe in Reutte. Some highlights: Hanhtenjoch, Timmelsjoch, Passo di Gavia.

Saturday 17-9-2005 at 6.30PM: Finish in Bormio

Sunday 18-9-2005 at 8.30AM: Start in Bormio for the second etappe. Some highlights: Passo di Foscagno, Splugenpass, Nufenenpass, Klausenpass

Sunday 18-9-2005 at 18.00PM: Finish in Glarus. Official end of meeting at 10.00PM.


Rgrds,

Raymond
 
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