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Our Favourite Driving Roads

 

19 May 2020

Here at HERO-ERA we have the opportunity to drive some of the best routes around the world. We put it to the team to decide what their favourite piece of road was and why. See below to find out which road is favoured by a particular member of staff.

HERO-ERA Team Favourites

Guy Woodcock – Competition Director – For me there are many the Col De Turini is up there, so is the Stelvio esp the back road , the Inferno road we used on London to Lisbon in Portugal, in Ireland on the Rally of the Lakes , Molls Gap and Ballaghbeama but I am a simple sole and I come back home for Abergwysen on a cold wet night , Twin Lakes and Twin lakes return on the Denbigh moors. But the best road to drive in special stage mode has to be Classic stage on Rally Isle of Man usually the last stage of the event , it starts with the narrow bouncing lanes of Druidale , then the faster flowing roads down off the mountain with some drops off to the side , before its time for trust the notes and the co driver flying down the side of the reservoir and The Baldwins , before Abbeylands Crossroads and out on the TT course and Governors Bridge to stage finish on the finish line of the TT course. The following link is the 2013 run when we were quickest overall historic on the stage on the way to 3rd overall in the Pinto – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugtOmDRl8jA

Tomas De Vargas Machuca – Chairman – There are too many driving epic roads. In fact every time you think of one, you think it’s the best! However, in 2012 I took part on the Vernasca Silver Flag Historic Hillclimb. I took an original Magnesium bodied 1929 Riley Brooklands that had competed at LeMans in 1929 won the 1932 RAC International . Race with C.R Whitcroft (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYEM22GgqdE) In 2012 we won the award for best British car on the event on the epic 4 km Vernasca Hillclimb. That entire area around Piacenza has amazing food and some fantastic roads. Vernasca is but one of them! To be repeated!

Brian Whyte – Operations Director – I have been very fortunate in that over the last 15 years I have been able to drive on some incredible roads in the UK, Europe and beyond. Which one is my favourite? What a question! I think that there are two that jump to mind immediately but for very different reasons. The Stelvio pass in Italy, near the swiss border, with its 48 hairpins on the way up the northern side to just over 9,000 ft (2,757m). Apart from the road’s history, the view as you ascend or descend or the incredible feat of engineering (the road was built between 1820 – 25) the challenge to drive it, quickly is incredible. You must pick the right time so that the road is open (no snow or ice) and not too crowded with other users, cyclists, motorbikes, cars, etc. My drive was in our chairman Tomas’s Porsche 911 2.2S on the Classic Marathon – he agreed to let me drive it after a late night in a bar! The Porsche sounded immense in full chat as we climbed up the hairpins like a scalded cat (don’t tell Tomas) and boy did I know about it when we got to the top – My arms were complaining! The second is Bealach-na-ba or Pass of the Cattle. It is recognised as one of the UK’s toughest and longest stretches of tarmac. Located on the Applecross Peninsula, Highland Scotland rising up to 626m (2,054ft) above the sea level. It is one of the most scenic drives in the world. The route demands 100% concentration. This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. It’s similar to the great mountain passes in the Alps, with very tight hairpin bends which switch back and forth up the hillside, with gradients approaching 20%. It is recommended that those who don’t know how to reverse avoid this road. The road is so narrow that there are several ‘passing places’. The road is dangerous because is very narrow, sharp bends, steep gradients and lacks places to pass. My first drive along this road was in the early hours on Le Jog, dark, snowy and icy. So, much so that we tobogganed our way down the hairpins. I have since driven it many times as well as in daylight in many different cars. On this road, the car is not important. Staying on it, is!

George Mullins – Senior Event Manager – The one road or rather track that I loved is a forest road in the Croydon Hill complex in North Somerset. It is a stage that had been the back bone of the Somerset Stages that had been run in different configurations and had been called by other names E.G. Bat’s Castle, Slowley Wood. It has named areas/junctions like “5 Ways”, “Nurcott Bottom”, “Charcoal Burners” and even one named after Hero’s Chief Marshal “Butcher’s Cross”. If you maximised all the roads you can almost squeeze a 10 mile stage in there. It has also been used by other Stage rallies including RACs of the 60s & 70s. I know the stage very well and have always had a good run through there, I have had big moments, a few scary moments, a lot of funny moments and even had some one flash at us as we sped through! For the map nerds it is on OS map 181 and is around square 9740. The photo was taken at the cross roads at 9741/2412 West to East which was not used in that direction very often on what I think was the 1988 Somerset Stages. Sadly the event does not run any more, but the forest is still used on Targa events and we have used it a few times on the RAC Rally of The Tests.

Nick Reeves – Senior Event Manager – It’s a difficult task to name my favourite road and one that’s tainted with the fear that in doing so, everyone will know about it, which will in turn detract from its appeal. I can think of several roads in the UK that I enjoy driving or riding, but if you can cast your minds back to a time when we could travel freely throughout Europe, rural France also has its share along with the added advantage of less traffic. In the last hour I’ve been weighing up the pros and cons of two superb regions of or closest neighbour, so its it going to be the Ardeche or the Vercors? The truth is you can’t go wrong if you head for either and you won’t have to look too hard to find real ‘driver’s’ roads. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a fair bit of time in these areas over the years, very often in the early pre-dawn hours of the day when traffic is light and enjoyment can be maximised. The D533 which heading west out of Valence to St-Agreve is one of my favourites particularly from Lamastre up to St-Agreve. It is true that the start is a bit tedious but it soon opens out into a long well surfaced and nicely radiused ribbon of asphalt. Another favourite could be the D68 which heads east out of Valance and into the Vercors, this has the added advantage that you can continue on through the Col de Rousset, switching from Atlantic to Mediterranean climate as you do so, before dropping down into Chamloc and Die. Best suggestion then is to have a coffee in Die and repeat in the opposite direction.

Patrick Burke – Managing Director – Hands down for me, the most scenic road on the planet has to be the Hringvegur Road 1 around Iceland just south of the glacier on the south side of the island by the estuary to the sea where a lake forms with icebergs (Jokulsarlon)

Christian Von Sanden – Creative Director – The most amazing road I have ever had the privilege to drive on, is the ‘Cuesta del Obispo’ in Salta Province in Argentina. It starts in a very humid section of woodlands outside of the city of Salta at 1,200m AMSL and climbs for 80km to an altitude of 3.100m AMSL. Taking you through never ending curves and breathtaking views, finishing in the very arid Los Cardones National Park. The road itself really took it’s toll on car and driver.

Tony Jardine – Communications Director – Motu Road, Eastern Bay of Plenty, North Island, New Zealand – 47 kms of rally folklore, as famous as the Col de Turini on Rally Monte Carlo, this is the Motu Road which has made and broken rally stars in equal measure. Colin McRae made it his own in 1993. I knew of it’s legend but finally encountered it on the ERA New Zealand Classic rally earlier this year sliding across it’s ball bearing gravel surface in a HERO – ERA 4×4 support vehicle, and that was bad enough never mind in a rally car! We merely chased through to film the event. It is sheer rally heaven or rally fear depending on how brave you around the sinuous narrow tracks that wind their way through jungle then forest before climbing to a peak which is an icy surface in winter. Motu throws everything at you, tight hairpins, gorges with big drops and a rock face as your inside armco, the Kiwis have also called it the Motu ‘Big Dipper’ as you drop from the hills over watery fords and back up towards the sky. A ‘Rally Road of the Gods.’ There are approximately 80 pages of pace notes required for Motu on a World Championship Rally. ERA crews were happy just to survive the experience on the New Zealand Classic but equally astonished to find out just how fast Colin McRae had been across the stage in 1993 averaging around 75 kph! He decimated the opposition, nay pulverised them, the nearest being over thirty seconds slower. Colin went on to win Rally New Zealand to score his debut World Rally Championship win. This year, Bill Holroyd with his daughter Olivia tackled the part of the intimidating 47 km of Motu Road in probably the most difficult rally car to try and coax round the tortuous course, a 1927 4 ½ Litre open Bentley.
Bill;” To me, it was right on the edge, I couldn’t have gone any faster without getting into big trouble. Bentleys always want to go straight on at the best of times but here you were waiting and hoping for it to dig in so you could get it round the corner, then you got a bit of oversteer gazing down at the sheer drop, glancing at my daughter navigating at the same time and I said to myself – back off Bill! It’s a scary but awesome piece of road.”

Seren Whyte – Competition Department – My favourite road is the Road to Applecross in Scotland, although the first time I ever drove it was on LeJog 2013 and the sign saying it was Impassable in wintry conditions and not suitable for learner drivers did send us into a little bit of a panic. Im just glad it was pitch black and we couldn’t see the steep drops either side of the road, It was an interesting drive trying to keep the BMW 1602 on time going up, and we probably would have been a tad more hesitant if we could have seen just how high we were. . When we returned on the Scottish Malts we got to see the road and the spectacular views in all their glory. It twists and turns on the way up to 2053 Ft and once you arrive at the top it feels like you are driving on the top of the world.

Craig Baker – Webmaster – A4069 – aka Black Mountain Pass – From Llangadog to Upper Brynamman – GPS – 51.857848, -3.853522 – One of my favourite driving roads has to be the A4069, also known as Black Mountain Pass. The road in South Wales is full of twists and turns, and has plenty of sections where you can really stretch your cars legs. No matter what I have driven over that mountain pass, and whatever the weather conditions have been, I’ve always had fun!

Chris Elkins – Route Coordinator – I’ve been fortunate enough to drive some challenging roads all over the world, but for me it’s got to be the Abergwesyn pass in darkness.

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