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Issue 33 | King of the Mountain – Tour Delle Dolomites

Published: October 2019

SCD members Martin and Sue experience the first Tour Delle Dolomites in all its glory from Austria to Italy. 

Written by: Martin and Sue Brown

There’s something about the allure of ribbon mountain roads and crystal lakes that made the inaugural Dolomites tour a must-do. After two Tartan Florio tours of Scotland, we fancied ourselves as experienced tourers with SCD and we had no hesitation in signing up and eagerly anticipating a fantastic trip with like-minded members. 

My wife Sue and I opted to drive to Austria via Folkestone, France, Belgium and Germany with a pit stop for a blast on the Nurburgring. The drive was plain sailing apart from a brief diversion to remove a tattered heat shield which we hoped wouldn’t upset our Jaguar XKR-S and detract from our mission, and true to form, the Jag was as bombproof as we have come to expect.

Entering Austria, we were greeted with the sort of landscapes and towns which were the pristine and perfect cliché of alpine beauty. It was an enchanted journey to our first stop and meeting place for the start of the tour, the huge and handsome Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol. This five-star hotel is located at an altitude of 1,300 metres and surrounded by imposing mountains, barely visible through a damp mist when we arrived. The grandeur of the hotel and the setting was matched by the impressive interior, including a drive-in reception and garage fit for the array of amazing supercars that arrived throughout the afternoon and early evening. 

We were early which allowed us the opportunity to meet the first of our fellow tourers, Justin and Gill in the Ferrari 430 Scuderia, known affectionately throughout the tour as ‘The Scud’.  

We were soon acquainted with the rest of our party, most of whom had flown to Munich and collected their cars from the transporter. The ‘getting to know you’ continued into the evening where we enjoyed a traditional Austrian buffet in a charming setting in the hotel grounds.

Tuesday

We are used to taking a knife to a gunfight when attending SCD events, but the wow factor when viewing the cars assembled together the next morning was thrilling. Fourteen cars with impeccable pedigrees as well as some peerless examples of their type included a one-of-a-kind Signal Green LaFerrari, four show-stopping Lamborghinis and a stable of Ferraris enough to turn the heads of the most discerning Italians. The handsome Aston Martin DB11 driven by Jonty led the procession as we set off on our first day — a seven-hour, whistle-stop itinerary taking in Liechtenstein and Switzerland as we sped through the Austrian mountains.

A spirited drive took in the expected dramatic landscapes and picture book perfect views as we drove the Silvretta Strasse and encountered the first set of seemingly endless hairpin bends. On good authority, there were 34, and some of us may have left some rubber as evidence of the general energy and enthusiasm. Some caution was employed in Switzerland as rumours of legendary fines and zealous police spread throughout the group, and new drivers and passengers appreciated the coffee stops which allowed us to drink in the incredible views and many cappuccinos. 

The thrills continued until lunch in the spectacular Intercontinental Hotel where we saw the first hints of the sunshine which had so far eluded us. Our return to the Interalpen was via the Fluela Pass high in the Swiss Alps. The cars looked mesmerising and shone against the grey, craggy backdrop with swathes of mist circling the mountain peaks. There was little time to spare before convening for another memorable (this time Asian fusion) dinner.

This hotel was the favourite of quite a few of the tourers and the service and facilities really were first class. By now, the group were all acquainted and sharing their experiences. Some of the passengers (and not just the ladies!) were finding the pace challenging and jokes centred around the welcome relief passing through a village at low speed can bring.

Wednesday

The next day we reluctantly left the Interalpen with high expectations for the day ahead. Our route took us east with better weather and fantastic roads to enjoy. We split into two groups; James in the Pista headed the first group with Jonty leading the second, meanwhile Adam and Riad sought out the best photo opportunities and captured some memorable moments along the route. 

We rode behind the Aston in the second group, ably assisted on the radio by ‘queen of the airwaves’ Sandi and Paul, along with Marco and Janine bringing the Italian glamour in their Ferraris. Gordon and Lauren completed the F pack in his GTC4 Lusso which, thanks to Gordon’s kindness, doubled as a luggage van for other space-strapped tourers. We dubbed it ‘the shooting brake’, and along with Shanice and Tom (the kids!) in their Porsche 911 GTS, we ate up the miles meeting the first group for lunch en route. 

The day was a mixture of highs (the sound of the de-catted Scud through the tunnels) and lows (the rather keen Austrian Police), meaning we all had plenty to talk about when we eventually straggled to the Falkenstiner Schlosshotel on the side of the lake at Velden. What a setting this was — a really beautiful hotel with a tunnel to its own beach club which edged the lake and made us all feel like we were truly on holiday after the challenges of the day. 

The sun was shining as the Lamborghini Aventador SVJ and the LaF arrived at the front of the hotel, bringing the street to a jaw-dropping standstill. Energised, the whole party headed out on the lake, to the pool and town with wakeboarding, swimming and cocktails before the customary speedy brush-up before dinner. We dined al fresco, overlooking the lake with excellent company, and yes, it was as good as it sounds.

Thursday

The sunshine of the next morning, as well as the extraordinary setting, prompted our first group photo before we embarked on another day of hard driving in glorious weather. We were heading for God’s race track, aka Italy but were not prepared for the most spectacular snow-topped mountain ranges and the familiar hairpin bends. The beauty of the landscape was breathtaking, Sue assures me, as due to the pace, I was banned from taking a look myself! 

We were once again swathed in mist on arrival at the Alpina Dolomites Hotel where we were able to regale each other with stories of the day’s events, countless fuel stops and mutual admiration of the driving skills on display. Here, as at most stops, the cars remained the stars, receiving much-deserved pampering. One of the funniest moments was the sharing of photos of car cleaning cloths drying on various hotel towel rails — the culprits know who they are.

Friday

The next morning brought clear skies to reveal the snow-capped beauty of the mountains and a jaw-dropping descent through the hills and valleys of the spectacular Dolomites. A long day of driving lay ahead of us and we were held up at the start by parades of classic cars, groups of bikers and logging lorries. We were promised intensive alpine passes and in this we were not deceived. It was a thrilling ride as we hurtled down challenging roads with sheer drops into valleys below and towering cliff faces above us. 

The welcome relief of a lunch stop (complete with the much longed-for apple strudel) was a welcome but brief respite before we sped off once again. We had the option of a more direct route to the hotel as some tourers were tired from the pace and distance, and some passengers needed a lie down in a dark room. We were therefore a much smaller second group for the final push to the hotel; we couldn’t miss the opportunity to wring every moment from what these roads had to offer. Jonty in the DB11 led us in the Jag and Sandi and Paul in the Ferrari 488 on a rollercoaster ride through the most gorgeous scenery which was a thrilling blur as we plunged down towards Lake Garda and our final stop at Villa Cordevigo. 

We had made it relatively unscathed, as had all our party, to the final destination. The cars looked stunning in the warm Italian sunshine with Villa Cordevigo providing the most gorgeous setting. Tired exhilaration gave way to a relaxed party vibe and we gathered around the pool to share stories and try the cocktails. With the prospect of a free day the next day, everyone felt able to relax and enjoy the evening. Suffice to say, the wine flowed, friendships were cemented and much laughter continued into the night.

Drivers and cars alike were rested the next day as most set off for the lake. We opted for a lazy day around the pool to relax and enjoy the hotel. The evening found us scrubbed up in our best for a drinks reception and fun award ceremony which truly did reflect the stars of the tour. They deserve to be remembered here so congratulations to them all for giving us so many unforgettable moments.

Marco described driving his glorious Blu Corsa Ferrari 488 in Italy as ‘the dream’ and it was hard to believe he had never driven abroad or done a driving tour before as he was often seen flying along in our rear-view mirror. He deservedly won Tour Virgin and his enthusiasm was an example to us all.

Tour Veteran was amended to War Veteran in a hotly contested category when Ashley in his spectacular Lamborghini Aventador SVJ attempted to gain the sympathy of the Swiss Police by claiming injuries sustained in combat — the most impressive in a range of tall tales told to the officers of the law in a futile bid to avoid hefty fines. My own memorable drive in the SVJ confirms it really is the beast it looks and its driver justly enjoys cult status as his Instagram followers will attest.

The Passenger award could have been given to any of the boys and girls being thrown around all week as observed by Jonty. Many adopted the legendary brace position of feet planted in the footwell with both hands gripping the door handle and there were a few respite journeys where passengers opted for more sedate rides — this of course is relative. Chris and Jason were stalwarts but the award went to Kirsty who bravely and eventually beat the nausea with Ryan in his Lamborghini Aventador S. 

The Commentary award was popular as it was often so entertaining. We didn’t get to hear the detail that Buzz brought to the first group but it obviously warranted the large jar of Nutella he won for his role. He was a popular member when not being berated by his proud dad Myles in the Porsche GT2 RS.

Joint winner was of course Sandi who backed up the second group and kept the group safe and together when Jonty ploughed ahead in a Best of British spin with the Jag. Her clarity and diction is something to behold.

Car of the Tour went to the man who embodied the kindness, generosity and good-natured spirit of the tour, Gordon in the GTC4 Lusso — a great all-round supercar which doubled up as a luggage van. 

Spirit of the Tour went to Mark in his La Ferrari. This true original has hardly been seen or driven until now. After a few near misses and a smashed windscreen, it was amazing for us all to see it flying along being driven as Ferrari meant it to be, and maybe a little further! What a treat for us all to see Mark and machine in action.

The special thank you went to Jimmy in the Pista, rumoured to be Michelin’s best customer. He’s laid more lines on the road than the highways agency and was a massive help leading the first group all week. Most often spotted sideways, Jimmy was one of the big personalities of the group which made the tour so entertaining.

A final evening meal in the Michelin-starred restaurant Oseleta at Villa Cordevigo as the sunset ended the tour in the style we had become accustomed to as we reflected on the week’s events and highlights.

The next morning saw many warm goodbyes as we dispersed to find our way home in the glorious Italian sunshine. A series of events found an unexpected end however, when I found myself driving a Lamborghini to Spain and Sue went back to Wales in a private jet courtesy of the generous Mark — a once in a lifetime experience she will never forget.

We won’t forget this tour or the people and places that made it as good as it gets. Jonty organised a top-class tour with the best of accommodation and driving experiences and we would have no hesitation in recommending it. It would be wise to be aware that if you are looking for a relaxing break with ample time to appreciate the stunning scenery, this may not be for you. This was a whistle-stop, thrillingly paced tour and many of us were often exhausted at the end of each day. Many of the passengers also struggled with the breakneck pace so only the most committed need apply. If, however, driving fast in the best scenery in Europe on God’s racetrack appeals to you, what are you waiting for?


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