This week GTspirit embarks on a tour to Italy and back; the GTspirit Tour d’Italia! Today was the first day of our tour that took in some of the best driving roads between Munich and Modena.
At 8.45 this morning an 2013 Audi R8 V10 Plus was delivered to us in Munich. Filled up with Super 98 and ready to go on a five day road trip! The first challenge was to get the luggage of two people + tonnes of camera equipment into the luggage compartment of the Audi R8. But after a bit of puzzling and sacrificing the photographers legs we were ready to go!
The first leg of the journey took us through downtown Munich to the A95 autobahn to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. A beautiful autobahn that is mostly free of speed limits, a good way to see what the 5.2 liter V10 FSI engine with 550hp in the Audi R8 V10 Plus is capable of. Put your foot down and the V10 sound dominates the cabin while you propel forward at a pace that turns any other car into a tiny dot in your mirror. Surprising is the noise isolation and the peace when cruising at higher speeds. In 7th gear at 230 km/h you can barely hear more than the wind.
In no time we make it to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, this town in the Southern part of Germany is literally overshadowed by the 2962 meter high Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. On the outskirts of Garmisch we bump in to another red Audi R8, this time a Spyder. In a tunnel the Spyder treats us to a concert of its high revving V10. A good opportunity to experience what the R8’s V10 sounds like when you are driving behind it. And we are not disappointed! In the cabin you barely hear the sound that the exhaust makes just a meter behind you, in that extend its quite the opposite of the new 911 Turbo that we drove a few weeks ago (which sounds very full-bodied in the car but quite tame on the outside).
From Garmisch we head to the Fernpass, a major connection between Germany and Austria. On the way there we pass yet another red Audi R8 V10 Spyder (is there a clone farm hidden in the forest somewhere?). Sadly the Fernpass is always full of cars and trucks so not much fun to drive but over on the other side the road soon splits and if you take road in the direction of Telfs like we did you are treated by some very nice wide mountains roads with various hairpins. We continue in the direction of the Ötztal, which is famous for the skiing resorts of Sölden, Obergurgl and Hochgurgl.
Here we make our first stop for petrol, the tank is not empty yet but the V10 is certainly with sport mode on and in lower gears quite thirsty. No wonder the automatic shifts up to 7th gear as soon as it can to save a bit more fuel. After a quick break our first real destination comes in sight, the Timmelsjoch Hochalpenstrasse, one of the ten highest mountain passes in Europe!
The Timmelsjoch pass lies at 2509 meters above sea level and forms the border between Austria and Italy. We drove up the north side from the ski resort of Obergurgl. The Timmelsjoch road on Austrian side opened in 1959, the Italian side was finished 8 years later in 1967. It was never a major link and still today is primarily used by tourists. On the Austrian side is a toll station where every passing vehicle and cyclist has to pay toll, trucks are banned because of the dangerous and narrow roads. Due to these limitations the Timmelsjoch is fairly quiet and one of our favorite passes in Europe.
Today it started to rain just as we approached the top of the Timmelsjoch. On the Austrian side the roads are very well maintained and contain a lot of sweeping bends and a handful hairpin turns towards the top. The rain was actually a blessing as there were not nearly as many cars and bikes as on a Sunny day.
As soon as you cross over the other side of the border you can immediately tell that the construction of the Timmelsjoch road on the Italian side already started in the 1930s! Where the road on the Austrian side is wide and modern, the road on the Italian side is narrow, features many dark tunnels and is at some points very steep. The backdrop is as dramatic as the road with a view of the surrounding glacier and the valley over 1,000 meters below.
On Sunny days the Italian police is keen to set up speed traps along the road but today the rain kept them away. The Audi R8 V10 Plus’s Quattro system proved its value on the wet roads smeared with mud, only in rare occasion did it provide a little wiggle with its tail. Driving down to St. Leonhard in Passeier, 1,800 meter lower than the pass, the Audi R8 V10 Plus was totally in its element. Announcing it arrival long before we more than once saw people staring in our direction, waiting to catch a glimpse of the car whose sound echoes through the mountains.
Back in the civilized world a click on the button to deactive Sport mode tames the V10 again. We cruise through small idyllic villages in South Tyrol and between wine- and apple fields. After the beautiful town of Meran we continue onto a dual carriage way to Bolzano. Here we enter the famous Brenner highway, the main artery that connects North with South, Germany with Italy.
We take a toll ticket and up the pace towards Modena. Italy has increased the number of speed cameras and the height of the fines significantly in recent years so its wise to stick to the speed limit. Sometimes its hard to resist the temptation though!
After so many hours in the car and non-stop rain we are very happy to see the sun break through the clouds for the first time. Finally the windscreen wipers can take a rest and the last 200 kilometers to Modena are clear of rain. We stop one more time for a quick break and take some time to take a good look around the R8. The black wheels really add something to the red exterior. Also where-ever we go people walk up to ask if they can take pictures of the car and what specification it is. We wondered if its only because of the colour and the sound or the R8 V10, but due to some little language issues the answer got lost in translation.
Our key destination of Day 1 is the Lamborghini factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese. As Lamborghini is owned by Audi its a nice symbolic first destination of our Tour d’Italia. Sadly we didn’t make it there until dawn so a few snaps and peek through the museum window later we are back in the car to have some food. Luckily our favorite pizza place is just a few minutes drive from the Lamborghini factory, they do not only serve some of the best pizzas in the world but also some of the biggest!
With a full stomach and plenty of stories to tell we refuel and wash the car for another day tomorrow! We won’t give any hints yet but make sure to follow us on Facebook to see what we are up to tomorrow and check back here tomorrow night for our report on Day 2!