We go on a posh stag do for the world’s most expensive exotics
The weather will never judge you. It doesn’t care who you are, how much money you have, or what you have in the garage; if it wants to rain – as Ollie Williams would say – “it’s gon’ rain”. It really is nature’s great leveller. And it’s currently doing a sterling job.
I’m standing outside The Chedi – a five-star luxury hotel in Andermatt, Switzerland. For one weekend, this opulent alpine retreat is base camp for The Supercars Owners Circle – an exclusive fraternity of discerning car collectors that, refreshingly, don’t mind getting their ultra-exclusive cars out of their temperature controlled humidor garages and take them for a good old thrashing. Even if it’s absolutely chucking it down.
Words: Rowan Horncastle // Photography: Alex Penfold/Rowan Horncastle/SOC
And we’re not talking any cars, we’re talking the crème de la crème of Car World. There’s literally a slice of everything. From the modern hypersphere; a Bugatti Chiron, Ferrari FXXK and McLaren P1. Representing the poster cars; a Ferrari F40, F50 and Maserati MC12. Then there are the golden oldies; a Ferrari 250 SWB Berlinetta, Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing and Aston Martin DB4 GT.
You’ve got icons (Carrera GTs, LFA Nürburgrings etc), a handful of one-off Paganis, quixotics like the reinvented Lancia Stratos, plus a car invented solely for social media, the mash-that-like-button Apollo Intensa Emozione. And that’s just the stuff in the line of sight. There are actually three more garages, each chock-full of the rarest, most expensive and fastest cars on the planet. It’s like a Forza car pack on steroids.
Set-up four years ago by two Swiss brothers, Florian and Stefan Lemberger, Supercar Owners Circle wants to connect like-minded people together and offer experiences you can’t get elsewhere. Admission to the club (limited to 150 members globally) is granted to those who have a collection of machinery deemed worthy. Applicants are judged on their collection, not as a form of one-upmanship, but to keep the club diverse and free of riff-raff. Once in, you get Grand Prix invites, bespoke track days, fast-track passes from manufacturers to its latest and greatest hypercars and Alpine road trips where the roads have been closed for you.
So how do you get in? Well, to even be considered you need more than £5million worth of cars. But the average of the current clientele is way, way higher than that. Diversity and rarity also play in your favour. The club’s positioning is interesting, though. See, there’s a spectrum for car events/clubs. At one end you have the old guard; the moneyed salmon chino’d lobster quaffers of Pebble Beach. At the other, the nouveau riche ‘LOOK AT MY SUPERCAR’ brigade with wrapped Lambos covered in tawdry decals.
Normally, these worlds of new and old rarely mix. But Florian and his founders have managed to filter out the show-offy sediment and create a cocktail of class and exclusivity without any of the brashness and willy-waving. Yes, it’s elite – so it’s easy for people to hate on. You’re probably expecting a monster entry fee starting in the gazillions. Nope. £2,500. That’s it. Proof that Florian et al really are trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. However, for one weekend, I’ve managed to side-step the entry requirements and join the party to see what it’s all about.
Andermatt couldn’t be more of a perfect location for a big ol’ boujee jamboree like this. It’s a nucleus nestled in the bowels of the Urseren Valley, one that’s recently been pumped like a sausage with £1.4billion of investment by ‘the Egyptian Rockefeller’, Samih Sawiris. His plan is to make it into a super luxo resort (perfect for the SOC clientele) that’s such an epic renovation that it’s not so much an episode of Grand Designs but Sim City made real.
Better than that, this ex-army town is positioned in a majestic corner of the Alps with some of the most exquisite driving roads on Earth. It’s where Sean Connery’s Aston Martin DB5 duelled with Tilly Masterson’s Ford Mustang in 1964’s Goldfinger, and you have the holy grail of the Furka Pass, Gothard Pass, Grimsel Pass and Susten Pass within spitting distance.
As the rain eases, the most ridiculous conga line of cars (and one hefty insurance claim if it goes wrong) leaves the hotel and heads to the Gothard Pass. As sections of tarmac go, it’s next level. A smooth, flowing road that winds back onto itself, with levitating platforms hanging off at cloud level as if the structural engineers had simply thrown a Hot Wheels track over an alp. Incredibly, unlike some road rallies, the driving throughout is positively restrained. No one is out to prove anything. Well, not yet. Because as we descend to the valley floor our destination comes into focus.
SOC has closed Ambri Airport so members can call each other out and drag race down the runway. Everyone is game – no matter the value of their cars. The most ridiculous pairings start lining up as reputation is worth more than a vintage Ferrari. The smell of clutch and determination starts singeing my nostrils as homologation special Le Mans cars, Gran Turismo hero RUFs, heinously pricey Ferraris - and everything in-between - point themselves at the horizon and dump their clutches.
Word has got out via WhatsApp, so a crowd descends, brains furiously buffering the situation of the wonderful absurdity as to what is going on. No one pussyfoots around. It’s the opposite of cars being sat on concours lawns. Yes they’re potentially soiling appreciating assets, but they’ve bought them and using them. And it’s their choice, right? Plus, wouldn’t you rather see and hear an F50 scream rather have it tucked away in a garage?
It continues all afternoon. Run after run. So I go out against a 599 GTO in an F12Tdf. Target dispatched, the cars return smelling hot and brake-y. Meanwhile, wives sip champagne and look at sunglasses while scoffing salmon as their other halves continue to go out for another run and hose testosterone out of themselves on the runway. As you might have guessed, it’s an incredibly male-dominated club. There are only three female drivers. But it’s a young demographic, the average age is 45 and there are plenty of baby-faced drivers.
Incredibly, unlike some road rallies, the driving throughout is positively restrained. No one is out to prove anything. Well, not yet
As cars start running low on fuel, they convoy back to The Chedi for some owners to don their Vilebrequins and hit the spa. Others go to a presentation by Aston Martin. Why? Well, you know how you see super-duper supercars unveiled and they’re all sold? Well, it’s at places like this where that happens.
In one room manufacturers have all the high-rollers in one room with the cash to buy their toppiest of top-end cars. That afternoon Aston gives the low-down on the new ‘Project 003’ hypercar way before we – the press – know about it. See, SOC events are incredibly lucrative for manufacturers and sponsors like RM Sotherbys, as they have the Rolodex of all the high net worth individuals. It’s a bit like having a cheat code for Tinder.
We wake up the next morning after a meal from a two-starred Michelin chef (natch) and an opulent charity auction. No £5 tickets for the tombola here, it’s private trips to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and a guaranteed ‘Project 003’ build slot. With some heavy heads, people get to their cars and filter out for the headline act of the weekend.Somehow, Florian and his gang have managed to close down the sensational and stunning Oberalp Pass, allowing drivers to drive flat-out in glorious alpine scenery. It’s bucket list stuff, especially as this is in a country that banned motor racing in 1955. A ban that was only lifted a few years ago to let the electric Formula E championship whizz around Zurich.
As it is a closed road, cars that aren’t road legal can also join in. Meaning everything from GT race cars, historic F1 cars, modern F1 cars via the £1.5million Aston Martin DB4 GT Continuation can have a crack up the hill. It’s a huge USP for SOC.
Making the most of this opportunity, I grab a helmet and find two-time Le Mans winner, Manuel Reuter. He’s piloting this grinning bobblehat in an AMG GT4 race car to the top of the mountain. Not some look-alike widebody kit jobby either. A car that’s literally been transported straight from the track and put on the road.
It has all the hallmarks of a full-blown racer; raucous engine, straight-cut gears and a bow-tie steering wheel with Skittles glued on. Being at the back of the pack, before the flag drops I have time to walk through the whole grid that’s taken two hours to line up in Andermatt’s main street to soak up the diversity. But I’m not alone, as these kind of events also bring another staple with it: supercar spotters.
Odd breed, the car spotter. But if every sports team had supporters with the mentality and determination of a car spotter, they’d have the best supporters in the world. There are swarms of them everywhere we go; phone in one hand getting portrait IG stories, camera with 18-55mm kit lens in the other. Any ski shack accommodation in Andermatt is filled up with them, some even flying in from the US. Just to get the same picture as everyone else there. To some, it may seem bizarre, but they’re largely respectful and extremely passionate about cars, which should be celebrated.
Clambering into the GT4, we fire off the line and start climbing rapidly. The sensory experience that you get of a proper race car on the road is completely alien to the track. Adding normalities like street furniture amplifies the experience immensely as the 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 chunters, clangs and bangs like you’ve fed six anvils into an industrial blender.
As soon as you get going, the overpowering pierce of straight cut gears deafens you. We rise up the mountain and above the clouds, and the AMG gets into the flow of the road and feels comfortable. But then, a first-gear hairpin. Boy-o-boy it does not like that. It protests violently, juddering and jerking its way around the tight-right hander and making itself known that it’s not happy by making more crashy metal-meets-metal noises.
We make it to the rendezvous point, an abandoned tunnelling project called Porta Alpina. Buried 800m into a mountain, it was a proposed railway station to be located in the middle of the Gotthard Base Tunnel. If it was completed, it would have been the deepest underground train station in the world. But it was canned when the economy crashed.
So today it’s being used as a deafening chamber for SOC as highly strung V8s, 10s and 12s do the dash through it making as much noise as possible. The light at the end of the tunnel? Lamborghini. Who has set up shop to show off the new Aventador SVJ. It’s again more bait-angling to see if customers will bite on another car to add to their collection, but also the maddest gift shop to an attraction ever. Most people would settle for a pencil or stick of rock, not the SOC. It’s an Aventador SVJ or nothing.
So what’s the point of SOC? Well, when you boil it down it’s pretty simple. It’s the same as every other car club around. Fundamentally, the members are exactly the same as the youths meeting in dimly-lit car parks, swapping stickers and putting Burger King trays under their front-wheel-drive cars to drift. It’s just instead of swapping stickers they’re swapping watches, and instead of talking about what’s their favourite Fortnite dance, they’re discussing what they’re going to buy next from the big auction houses.
See, no matter how many figures comprise your bank balance, the sense of community surrounding car ownership never changes. It’s just the cars that do. And what a set of cars. Yes, to gain access into this fold, you may need to know all the secret handshakes and whistles that get you the rarest, limited-production cars in the world. And then you have to be able to buy them.
But if you do, it’s one hell of a club to roll deep in. There’s no pretention, no willy-waving, just respect and a mutual appreciation. Which some might find surprising. But kids, if you’re a petrolhead and aspire to be part of a club later on in life, this is the one to aim for.