If you haven’t yet picked up this month’s rather special Top Gear magazine, or seen this video of the intoxicating collection of cars we put together, or watched Associate Editor Tom Ford laughing manically at the Bugatti SS on a European motorway, then you really should.
With a collective value of £3,718,090 and 6,071bhp between them, our performance car showdown in this month’s Top Gear magazine put 11 of the world’s finest machines through a rather special road trip. And after starting from homes as far afoot as the US, UK, Germany and Italy, all 11 eventually arrived at the summit of the one of the finest roads in the world. The Stelvio Pass in the South Tyrol.
The Stelvio isn’t just a pinch-yourself beautiful Alpine pass that twists its way over 48 hairpins to a height of just over 9000 feet. It’s also a fascinating part of motorsport history, and our adventure in this month’s Top Gear magazine certainly isn’t the first megabucks shoot-out in the Stelvio’s history.
During WWI, the road formed the border between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The two sides shot at each other across the hills, but later agreed only to fire down the valleys when the Swiss – who had an outpost at the top – started complaining about errant bullets. Less violent battles have been fought up here, mostly on two wheels, when the Giro d’Italia cycle race passed up the road. But it’s cars that have really shaped the Stelvio story.
It opened to traffic in 1825, when the first stagecoaches hoofed their way up the hairpins. Later, when humans discovered cars, they decided this would be an ideal place for a race. In August 1898, the Stelvio held its first hill climb event, featuring motor vehicles with a top speed of 30 kilometres an hour. Things hotted up in the Thirties, when cars raced from outside the Hotel Bella Vista in Trafoi to the top of the Pass. Hans Stuck Snr won the 1932 event, with a time of 15 minutes, 23 seconds in a Mercedes-Benz SSKL. We actually struggled to go much quicker than that in our awesome group of modern machinery.
So to help you appreciate the magic of the Stelvio, here’s a video to relax you into Friday afternoon. Take a little tour with us, as TG magazine’s Ollie Marriage fires up one of the stars of the issue – Porsche’s peerless straight-six GT3 RS 4.0 masterpiece – and drives you from the bottom all the way to the top.
If you fancy heading up to the Stevio yourself (and you should), then here’s how to do it in six easy steps:
1) France… it’s basically next door. Get there with www.eurotunnel.com or call 08443 353535
2) Go to www.saneftolling.co.uk to get your French road tolls direct-debited, and avoid scrabbling for loose change at booths
3) Visit www.myswitzerland.com for your vignette – the little sticker that permits you to drive on Swiss motorways and keep customs happy
4) Calling 112 gets you emergency services in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy
5) Stay at the Hotel Bella Vista in Trafoi – it’s right at the foot of the Stelvio. www.bella-vista.it
6) To find out more about the area (which is also lovely for skiing in winter), check out www.suedtirol.info