Past Events

In 2007/8/9 we went on several trips, touring France, Germany ( visiting the Nurburgring )and Belgium to see the Spa Gran Prix, we also toured the Scottish Highlands and discovered that you do not need to go far to experience some of Europe’s best driving roads & Europe’s best seafood!

In 2010 we visited the Nurburgring on 4 occasions, each one taking a different route via some of the best hotels available & some amazing roads!

However, the main event in 2010 was a tour put together for enthusiastic R8 owners, we had owners from various countries participating, the tour kicked off from the UK & took in several countries and luxury hotels, the story below was written by Mike Blanchard and was published in the Audi driver magazine, it is also on the official Audi R8 Pilots web site, please read and enjoy!


To all intents and purposes, this was to be a quiet, slightly self-indulgent tour of the Alps in the V10 for my wife and myself, a celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary. As it turned out it was self-indulgent alright, but definitely not quiet!
Organised behind the scenes by Colin Monk and myself, we themed the tour as a celebration of the R8 family – two v8’s, one V8 SC, one v10 coupe and two brand new V10 Spyders and a spectacular route through the Swiss, Italian and Austrian Alps.
But first we had to leap one hurdle – getting my wife out there and keeping her there. It was tricky as she is no petrolhead, and the prospect of sharing the tour with a bunch of guys who definitely were, was making me slightly nervous. I had no idea which way it was going to go – just a quick uppercut and all forgiven? Or the knockout blow and a call for the cab to the airport. I did not know.
Firstly came the gentle introduction – Jane and I caught the early tunnel train so that she could be plied with gin before the other arrived at the majestically baroque Schloss Bensberg hotel near Koln. 5 star luxury was a start – but it could also be the end.
Overtaking Andy B, who had also got an early start from Guernsey, was not so good, but I managed to brush that one off as a coincidence, a lucky brace of R8s.
A few miles later a Vauxhall Astra exploded right in front of us, showering the car with hot oil and metal, but it gave me the excuse to visit the local valeters at the Schloss. We checked into an unbelievably luxurious room with ceilings nearly 5m high. Fidgeting about the foyer, I heard a volley of R8s in the distance and went to get Jane to ‘accompany me to the cleaners’.
The grand entrance to the hotel was as far as Jane got.
Four other R8s coincidentally parked at the front as well? Six other owners curiously laughing their butts off? What was going on? And what’s more the husband seems to know them? Eh?
Shock, disbelief, sudden realisation. And no punch. The bonhomie, which was to be a great feature of our tour, saved me. Jane was whisked into the bar for gin and explanations, and thankfully took the whole scheme on its merits, although she was still unaware of where we were finally going to end up.
A good Italian meal later and the tour was well underway. I had met Colin and Frank before, and spoken to Mike L a few times, so I knew we were going to mix well. Ian, Steve, Andy and Becca were new to me, but we all seemed to gel very well. We were all very much focused on the R8, especially as the next morning we were up early for an exclusive tour of the R8 production line at Neckarsulm.
Organised by Kirsty on the R8 Team, Audi came up trumps with a fascinating tour of the construction of the R8, valeted my car of the oil, did the same to Colin’s new Spyder as apparently his got covered as well, pulled us out at the end to watch the 3 LMS’s spin round the factory roads, then proceeded to give us a really good lunch followed by a small tour around the new GT. Two of the tourists had ordered them, so they were especially interested. It is officially a beast of a car, but in Papaya Orange Colin?
Frank had organised the handover for his new Spyder to coincide with our departure from the forum, and thus we left in a cloud of testosterone, and perfume.
First stop was the lovely town of Lucerne on the lake, and a chance meeting with Derek Bell, who was on a speaking tour with Breitling in the Palace Hotel as well. Jane had fixed a computer issue with quite a tanned, swarthy bloke in the internet room (neglecting to tell her husband about this), and was more than pleasantly surprised when he came up to her in the bar. His first assumption was that we were on his tour as well, which boded well. Ian had recognised him, and we had a good chat. So when the barman said that our bar bill had been ‘taken care of’, we assumed that our dinner might be gratis as well in the 1* Michelin restaurant, Jaspers.
Colin ordered the obligatory opening bottle of champagne, and we tucked in with the confidence that our wallets were not going to be any lighter by the end of the rather good meal. A stunned silence ensued when the waitress brought the bill at the end, followed by the shock of the Laurent Perrier Vintage champagne. 160 Euros! And the sight of our bar bill at the bottom of the list!! That was what the barman meant by it being ‘taken care of’!!!
The broody weather of the day before started to break up as we headed into the hills for the first of our mountain runs – the Susten, Furka and Grimsel passes. We were collectively stunned by the beauty of our surroundings at our first halt. These glorious open roads were interspersed with tunnels taking the quick way through the hills. This opened up the musical side of the tour as Jane organised her ‘ducklings’ on the walkie-talkies to play some orchestral manoeuvres in the darkened tunnels. This rather deafened our brave Spyder owners, who had seen fit to drop their tops, but they saw no reason to complain until the convoy abruptly slowed up mid-tunnel and eased through a natural waterfall! With nowhere to go, the inside of Colin’s and Frank’s new motors were given the full Timotei treatment!
Sweeping up and over the San Bernardino pass, we eased into St Moritz for further gastronomic treats at the Kempinski, where we were re-joined by Mike L and David. They had had some brake issues on the way to Neckarsulm and decided to get them sorted at the car’s place of birth. Nothing to do with slowing up abruptly from near maximum speed on the autobahn then? Oh no, that was Colin who topped out his brand new car!
The next morning, with Mike L having re-jigged our route slightly in the bar the evening before in order to take in Davos, we said our goodbyes to Andy and Becca as they had to return to Guernsey. It was great to meet them. Their car was also entirely grateful to burn some rubber off the island, which has a universal speed restriction of a measly 35 mph!
We shot off in clear weather at a warped speed which curdled my wife’s breakfast – thanks Mike L – and reached Davos in minutes. The rest of the day is still a bit of a blur, and I am not entirely convinced that Mike L did not have his beer goggles on the night before when route-planning. Anyway, suffice it say that we got stuck in traffic and reached the turn off to the Stelvio with no other car in sight. Our sat-nav also seemed mightily confused.
We turned up the pass road and for a few miles our lady of the map kept telling us to turn around. We assumed that she was confused and couldn’t keep up with the speed we were going round the hairpins! Fed up with having mislaid the other cars, we turned round, only to see Ian and Steve’s car going up the way! How we got in front of them no-one will ever know, but we convened, turned the lady off, and headed up the Stelvio’s 50 odd hairpins. And that’s just the one side! It was again awesomely beautiful, loads of snow, sharp inaccessible pinnacles and houses perched in impossible places only seemingly reached by helicopter. Ian, Steve and ourselves had lunch at the top in the company of thousands of bikers. We tucked into some interesting ‘delicatato d’asino’, which translates as ‘donkey’s delights’, and then headed off down the other side, the lady of the map insisting all the way down that we should turn around.
Fed up with the badgering, we decided to look at a proper map at the bottom in Bormio. The dawning realisation then came over us that we had done the Stelvio alright, but the wrong way! I think we offered a certain volley of abuse at Mike L, wherever he was!
Faced with the prospect of doing all 100 hairpins again, we made the decision to take in a couple of different passes, the Gavia and the Tonale. Do not do this! Do the Stelvio again! The Gavia in particular was poorly surfaced going up the way, and then turned into a lethal, unbarriered single track (and a tight one at that) on the way down with no room for error and a singularly fatal drop off the edges. I was slightly damp at the bottom of the pass, literally!
It turned out that the Swiss moles had been in action again and put a tunnel which did not feature in our lady’s memory banks. It features now in ours as we struggled to find our way to Bolzano and made the tunnel’s acquaintance several times. 5 hours later than planned we arrived at the Alpenroyal in Selva to find that the others had got there much much earlier. And watched the England world cup game! And had had a shed load of beers!! But they did not do the Stelvio!!
Thankfully the hotel was brilliant, surrounded by Dolomitian rock needles, dinner was only 20 euros which was a steal, and we went to bed fantastically well-oiled!
Instead of the Lake Garda loop planned for the next day, everyone decided to chill at Selva. Jane and I headed up into the hills for a 21km hike planned with the hotel receptionist, Marion. Mike L and David went for a 35km bike ride around Sellalungo on some great tracks, and the others decided to take to the air in the local chopper. It was a long hot walk as Jane and I started up our final climb up to the ridge above the Val de Chiudle. At the base of this was a glorious, temptingly clear lake, filled with refreshingly pure alpine water. A quick skinny dip was suggested. We decided that the hotel pool would be better, thankfully, as when we started our ascent, we heard the deep rumblings of a helicopter. It was the others accompanied by Marion, who knew our route, and buzzed us 40 ft over our heads! It could have been much worse!
The best dinner of the tour at a local restaurant, a beery, bleary night, and the next morning the others set off for lienz around the SellaRonda. Jane and I had planned another big hike up the snow in the Sassolungo, so we would meet up with the others the next day at the Timmelsjoch pass, or thereabouts.
After breakfast they headed off to Lienz on another of mile L’s routes. I didn’t hold out much hope for them!
Steve was appointed the official photographer for this leg. Having been planted at a curious angle I Frank’s Suzuka Grey Spyder, he was bombarded with requests by Mike L over the walkie-talkie to keep taking photos of the cars with the splendour of the scenery in shot. “No Steve, not the blinding video, stills, stills, more stills” was the clarion call continuously for the next 20 minutes. These were fast sweeping roads and Frank being the Derek Bell of the north, subjected Steve to a fearful buffeting. To his credit, he managed a massive 111 photos on this leg. However to his debit, he now requires major surgery!
There is something about this car and toll booths – like and overwhelming desire to floor it once through the barrier. Only this time Colin was being urged on by a couple of rather fetching Austrian customs officers. He duly obliged!
More attention was garnered from the staff at the stunning Grand Hotel in Lienz, and the hotel was totally complimented by the R8s proudly parked at the front.
On the way back to meet up with mother duck, the boys took a slight detour – allegedly intentionally – up a single track road into the hills, passing only surprised mountain bikers. Soon there were none of these either! One landslide later, several meteoric potholes, and the road just stopped. Colin skirted precariously close to the drop performing a 64 point turn, and suddenly it was each man for himself as David leapt out of Colin’s passenger seat. Brave lot these Texans, eh?
Back in Selva, Jane and I fired off a text to Colin advising him where we would be at lunch time, and shot off up the Timmelsjoch. This was Saturday, so very busy with bikes, pedal and motor. We were to meet up in San Leonardo in Passiria before the pass, but for some reason Colin’s beery brain had keyed in San Lorenzo de Sabata into the lady of the map. This they did reach by lunch – unfortunately it happened to be 2 hours away from where Jane and I had our culinarily-challenged lunch. We were still in Italy, but the food was very Germanic. What seemed like later that month we heard the distinctive grumbling of a group of R8s snorting up the valley.
A quick lunch at the top of the pass, and we set off for the ski resort of Garmisch. Our hotel selection was in a different class – ie. not quite as good as the previous lot – but we ate well in the Dorint’s Italian restaurant.
Next, the final piece of the anniversary tour jigsaw fell into place. Jane, who had really started to enjoy the craic of the tour, the hikes, the hotels and the good food, and some awesome surroundings, was a tad disappointed to find out that the next destination was 2 days and nights at the Nurburgring! Her mood did not exactly lift when we arrived at the hotel bar to find the England-Germany game in full swing. Nor even when she discovered that our room overlooked the Grand Prix circuit. Nor even when the cocktail of noise from a Radical race played merrily through the double-glazing.
Singularly unimpressed with her surroundings, she went for a hike up to the Nurburg Castle, perched invitingly on a nearby hill. It was closed. And when she returned, the place had gone very quiet. The game had finished, the cars and the boys had gone. What?
We had been drawn into the magnetic spell of the Nordschliefe! And buggered off there for a few quick laps. This was petrolhead heaven, all jostling, bragging, revving and then you were off! I took a couple of laps as a passenger in Colin’s Spyder, Frank took to his home circuit, a veteran of the Ring, and Mike L went out to ‘kick ass’ with his brave friend David! Frank was unbelievably quick, no-one got near him, so I decided to go out for a sharp one at the end of the session with him. I had every confidence in him, but he was lucky not to see my lunch again all over his pristine Spyder! When he said ‘that was a quick one’ I had no trouble in believing him.
You have never seen a pizza of the size that came out of the oven at Pinocchio’s, Frank’s friend’s restaurant in Adenau. No-one even came close to finishing their own, despite their good taste. Another late night so we had a fairly chilled morning before ramping it up for the next public session at the Nordschliefe.
We got there early to see the Lexus’s LFA demonstration laps – sounding like a GP car as it passed us at 200mph on the straight. Then it all kicked in again, petrol-wise. My black beast was getting to know some of the circuit, thankfully not too well, and we all returned thinking and talking about much quicker laps. Next out again, Colin and I squeaked ahead of a Murcielago at the barrier. That was the last we saw of him as I tracked Colin’s Spyder monkey. A green Porsche GT3 passed me, but that only stoked the petrol fires. Yellow warning lights advised that a biker had gone off to visit the landscape ahead, and the white Porsche was still in the gravel on a fairly easy turn – but once passed that, we flew. Two Ferraris were spat out in turn, and we both romped home passing another R8 V8. This was fun!
That, however, was the end of it as the track was closed to deal with the biker. Nevertheless our valedictory dinner at the Pistonklause, Sabine’s restaurant near the track, was delicious and a great laugh. No champagne, but lots of beer and wine. And DIY fillet steaks all round, cooked on a hot stone in front of you.
Breakfast the next day was a touch sombre – but nothing to do with the farewells. We knew we had all really enjoyed each other’s company in the past few days, driven some great roads and wallowed in an incomparable car, whether it be a V8, V8SC, V10 Coupe or Spyder. It was a cracker and we will treasure the trip for a lifetime.