The Highs and Lows of Supercar Driving: Head to Europe’s mountains
Supercars are, quite simply, made for the mountains. Hairpin bends, steep inclines and, of course, when heading to mainland Europe, those wonderful German autobahns to traverse on your way to the hills where you really can let rip. What’s not to love?
However, Therein lies a quandary. With so many European mountain ranges in easy reach, where on earth do you head to? To help with inspiration we’ve put together some of the most tempting elevations throughout the continent.
But the choice of which to select? Well, that’s completely up to you…
The Peaks and Troughs of Mainland Europe
The first major topography of altitude that probably springs to mind is The Alps. Stretching across 750 miles of France, Switzerland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria and Slovenia, enjoying their delights could well take up the rest of your driving days.
But Europe’s behemoths certainly aren’t your only option. In fact, for supercar drivers, the welcoming arms of the lesser known uplands are perhaps even more appealing. The following are some awesome natural ranges that are well worth the effort it takes to reach them.
The Pyrenees: Forming a natural barrier on the border of Spain and France, the Pyrenees stretch from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
Three reasons to visit:
- A petrol head’s paradise playground stretching from coast to coast. Blast up your way up steep inclines, share the landscape with cows and goats as you cross high altitude passes, and head back down multiple death defying descents into verdant valleys. But your biggest challenge will be working out whether to speak French or Spanish…
- Stock up on duty free goods in the tiny principality of Andorra.
- Soothe away the stresses of everyday life at incredible natural spa towns, such as Baños de Benasque in Spain and Bagnères-de-Bigorre in France.
- Locally produced duck and goose dishes.
- Chilindrones – a deceptively delicious side dish of sautéed peppers, tomatoes and onions.
- An incredible array of local cheeses.
The Carpathians: Central Europe’s third largest mountain range stretches over 900 miles through Serbia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine and Romania.
Three reasons to drive there:
- Relatively undiscovered by those outside Eastern Europe, you can be guaranteed your supercar will attract plenty of admiring glances.
- Visit the real legend of Dracula – Bran Castle.
- Drive the 90-odd miles of Romania’s most famous road, the Transfagarasan Highway. Made famous by Jeremy Clarkson (something that’s either good or bad, depending on your perspective) who proclaimed it to be, ‘the best road in the world’.
- Traditional shepherd food, such as the classic Bohrach – a mouth-watering combination of different meats, spices, potatoes, tomatoes, carrot and sweet peppers. Beware, a touch of chilli pepper gives it a bite…!
- Rokot Krumpli, hearty fare that combines potato, sour cream, eggs, sausage and cheese.
- Smooth, wild mushroom broth. Sounds simple – tastes incredible…
Sierra Nevada: Andalucía’s best kept mountain secret, the Sierra Nevada is a mere 20 hour blast through France and Spain if you drive straight through, or a mere 9 hours from Santander (take the 24 hour ferry from Portsmouth).
Three reasons it should be on your radar:
- See the famous white villages of Las Alpujarras – tiny congregations of centuries old houses that gleam against the rocks and vegetation.
- Virtually deserted mountain roads to drive, and all in surprisingly great condition.
- Star gaze to your heart’s content in a true dark sky location – perhaps one of the best in Western Europe.
- Migas: Salted bread crumbs fried with green peppers, olive oil and garlic, garnished with satisfying chunks of chorizo and morcilla.
- Honey and jam – all locally produced and on sale in restaurants and roadside stalls
- Cured ham, or jamon, served alongside your beer in local bars (gratis). The region is famous for it.
We could go on (and on) about great European mountain locations to enjoy your supercar. Others to discover include:
- The Balkans: Stretching from the Bulgarian-Siberian border to the Black Sea, the perfect driving location if a few days by the sea is a satisfactory conclusion to your supercar mountain adventure.
- The Urals: A natural boundary between Asia and Europe, this Western Russian range is a place where you’ll see little evidence of outside visitors…
- The Caucasus: If you fancy heading to the wilds of Georgia then you’ll love the Caucasus mountains. Home to friendly locals and travellers with an adventurous streak.
- Owl Mountains: This Polish mountain range hides 90,000 cubic metres of concrete tunnels created and used by the Nazis during WWII.
- Highlands: Yes, Scotland’s rugged, often harsh, landscape is still on the continent of Europe and offers an incredible driving experience close to home.
Mountain Driving Skills
No-one’s disputing that you know how to drive your car. But when heading to a terrain different to that which you normally enjoy it’s always worth re-visiting a few key driving skills. And you will, undoubtedly, have to adapt a little to account for steep mountain conditions.
- Be prepared: Mountains equal altitude equals snow and ice – even when it’s balmy and warm at sea level. We all know that winter brings such conditions (check out our blog on driving your supercar in the winter), but the real danger times are spring and autumn. At this time the high mountain passes might sport unexpected amounts of the white stuff or dangerous black ice. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and adjust your driving accordingly.
- Visibility is key: The reason for taking your supercar to the mountains is to enjoy the testing driving conditions. But, exactly the same as on flat roads, don’t attempt any manoeuvres where your line of sight is impaired. In the mountains, rock walls and other natural geographic features can prevent you from seeing ahead. So be sure to keep to your side of the road (and that’s on the right, once you cross The Channel).
- Adapt to the terrain: When descending steeply you’ll need to use lower gears and ensure the revs don’t red line. The general rule of thumb is the steeper the gradient, the lower the gear (and that applies to going uphill as well). The brakes and clutch are likely to take a bit of a hammering, so be aware of any smell that could indicate overheating.
- A word about fuel: Petrol stations are often few and far between, so carry out due diligence as to where your next fill up point is if you’re planning a long drive.
But above all, enjoy. Mountain roads and supercars are a match made in heaven, so get out there and drive…