Last weekend the GTspirit Team embarked on a five day GTspirit Tour of the Alps with five Mercedes-Benzes. Today we can bring you the first part of our journey report! The GTspirit Tour 2014 was organized to celebrate GTspirit’s 8th anniversary and powered by Mercedes-Benz! The GTspirit Team drove and flew from London, Berlin, Nuremberg, The Netherlands and Switzerland to the Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart to pick up the keys to five V6 and V8 powered cars. The next couple of days we were following a carefully selected route through Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Italy and Austria crossing the Alps and visiting various famous towns and sights along the way.
Little did the team know that the organizers also planned some surprises along the way to give the tour just that little extra, but more on that later! The first stop of the tour was the Unimog Museum in Gaggenau. The museum houses a great collection of Unimogs that changes annually according to a different theme. This year its home to Unimogs from Berlin, everything from Berlin Airport firefighters to water trucks. Especially interesting is a passenger ride in one of the museum’s own Unimogs on the off-road course outside. The off-road capabilities of these massive machines is incredible, 45 degree angle? Not a problem! It truly put the G500 that we brought along on the GTspirit Tour in its shadow.
From the Unimog Museum in Gaggenau the route took us through the famous black forrest. A beloved forrest area in the most South-Western part of Germany. It is home to many incredible driving roads like the scenic Schwarzwaldhochstraße and the ideal place to get to know our cars for the tour. Mercedes-Benz equipped us with a E300 Coupe, CLS 500, CLS 500 Shooting Brake, G500 and S63 AMG for the GTspirit Tour 2014. All come with automatic gearboxes and apart from the E300 all have V8 engines. Especially the G500 was putting smiles on everybody’s faces every time the gas pedal was touched and the surroundings filled with the wonderful full-bodied V8 soundtrack.
We stop at various places to take some photos along the route and take in the scenery. We left Stuttgart with around 20 degrees and some clouds but the further we travel South the better the weather becomes. Leaving the Schwarzwald behind us we enter the famous German Autobahn! The A81 autobahn is frequently used by Porsche and Mercedes-Benz test drivers and is mostly speed limit free. The CLSs and the S63 AMG are clearly in their element here. They also come equipped with Distronic Plus, Mercedes’ name for adaptive cruise control, which makes autobahn journeys even more comfortable. Despite the good pace on the autobahn we arrive in Konstanz way behind schedule.
Near Lake Konstanz the first surprise is waiting for the team! Our friends from Elite Garage came over to see us at the shores of the lake with a red C63 AMG Black Series. It offers great contrast with the otherwise black and white cars we are driving. The lake itself is a very nice place to relax for a while after a long day of driving. Sadly this is not our final stop of the night yet and after a few photo shoots at various locations near the lake we wave the C63 AMG Black Series good bye and set off towards Liechtenstein. One of the smallest countries in Europe its also the most boring. Home to more companies than residents there is very little going on in the small kingdom, however the backdrop of the famous Liechtenstein castle and the mountains is spectacular enough for a short stop.
From Liechtenstein it is less than an hour to our hotel in the Swiss city of Chur. Why exactly this city is our first stop on the GTspirit becomes clear the next day. The day starts with a mandatory refill and breakfast at a nearby petrol station – best petrol station food and coffee ever, AGIP really surprised us. The G-wagon already had to refuel the day before, the downside of the incredible sounding- but thirsty V8. From the petrol station it is a short ride through Chur until we turn right onto the road that directly leads us into the mountains. This being the Friday before a holiday weekend we were expecting a lot of traffic but instead we had the first 60 kilometers to ourselves.
We pass popular ski resorts like Lenzerheide and Davos on the way to the first real mountain pass of the GTspirit Tour 2014: the Fluelapass! June is traditionally a popular month for road works in the Alps as the snow has melted and the roads are open again, the Fluelapass not being an exception. The first part of the pass road is fairly unspectacular with frequent road works and traffic lights to control the one lane sections. But the moment we come above the tree line the roads are clear and the scenery becomes more beautiful past every corner. Travelling with five cars it was bound to happen that we would loose one sooner or later and it took a while until we were reunited with the white CLS that went ahead.
Down the Fluelapass past the town of Zernez we directly continued up the next pass: the Ofenpass! The Stelvio pass has the name as one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the Alps. But from a drivers perspective the Fluela- and the Ofenpass are the ones to go to in this area of the Alps. Both do have some hairpins but mostly consist out of long sweeping bends that cut through the mountains. There is also significantly less traffic on both the Fluela- and the Ofenpass than at the Stelvio pass, that alone makes them more desirable to drive. On the way down we take it easy though as all cars except the E-class Coupe put significant weight on the scale and we still need the brakes for the days ahead of us.
After individually crossing the border into Italy we gather again at Lake Reschen, famous for the 14th century church tower which was left after several villages in this valley were submerged to build an artificial lake in the 1950s. A very surreal sight and must see when you travel through this part of the Alps. A legend says that during winter one can still hear church bells ring, even though they have been removed in 1950. In total 163 homes and 523 hectares of cultivated land were submerged.
From Lake Reschen we head towards the highest mountain pass on the GTspirit Tour 2014: the 2,757 meter high Stelvio pass. Famous and notorious for its countless hairpins and snow covered tops, the Stelvio is the second highest mountain pass in the Alps. We climb the Stelvio from the North side and carefully steer the cars through the many many hairpins towards the top. A few corners before the top we run into a small delay due to an avalanche that came across the road. Several cars, bikes and cyclist dig through the massive snow to make a single lane to pass. Some of the lower BMWs and Porsches struggle as they make their way through but our cars have no problem with a bit of snow at all.
As we get closer to the top it is easy to see how much snow this part of the Alps had this year. Some parts of the mountain are still covered in over 6 meters of snow, quite unusual even at the Stelvio. Personally I don’t find the Stelvio that great, the roads are narrow, generally in poor condition and littered with stones, there are thousands of cyclists, motorbikes and cars – yes even campervans going up- and down the Stelvio every day. On the top you do have a nice view but driving wise it is nowhere near as nice as other passes in the Alps. The other side of the pass is a bit better although here you have one lane tunnels that are pretty dangerous and prone to severe delays.
By the time we make it down to Bormio we are running several hours behind schedule and decide to leave the rest of our planned route for what it is and simply take the fastest way to our hotel in Brescia. Along the way we only stop for fuel for the three most thirsty cars (G500, S63 AMG and one of the CLS 500s) and stop for dinner in the beautiful old town of Bienno. The first pizza of the GTspirit Tour 2014 is a fact and with a filled belly we cruise to Brescia in a group. Here we get our first taste of true Italian driving as locals overtake at will, with oft less than a meter to spare with oncoming traffic, crazy!
With the second day of the GTspirit Tour 2014 coming to an end in the center of Brescia and the cars tucked away for the night we end this first part of our special report! We hope you enjoyed our story and the photos and stay tuned for Part 2! For behind the scenes photos of the entire tour please follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and check out the hashtags #GTspiritTour and #MBspirit. For questions about our route and the cars leave a comment below or contact us!
Photography by Christiaan Ploeger, Jesper van der Noord, Thom van der Noord, Willem de Zeeuw and Zaid Hamid!
Happy to be one of the team member on this amazing trip!