How I found one of the best road in the world.
I am lucky to have a cool job. As co-founder of The Car’tell, Luxembourg’s only Private Members Car Club, I get to spend my time on this earth doing something that I love. Most of all it is immensely gratifying to see a community taking shape around a very simple idea: Eliminate the difficulties linked to ownership such as maintenance, depreciation, insurance and simply enjoy a selection of iconic modern and classic sports cars whenever you want to, in exchange of a yearly fee. From time to time I get to drive the cars too. Mostly it’s work. And that’s what I thought of this trip, until I stumbled onto one of the best road in the world.
On a mission to make our new Lotus Exige S club-ready
The Club is growing and we are constantly adding new cars to our fleet or replacing them to keep things interesting. The latest addition is a bright orange Lotus Exige S Roadster, named Viki, after a red-headed friend of Elisa Artioli, the namesake of the original Lotus Elise.
We bought the car new, with 5 kilometers on the odometer. Cars in the Club need to be ready to use as soon as they enter the fleet. Therefore we needed to run-in the engine as soon as possible. So we looked at a map of Europe, drew a circle of 1000 kilometers in radius around Luxembourg and started planning.
Going west? Not far enough. Going north? Likely to be too cold. Going east? Not keen on boring Autobahn. It was decided, we would go south. Italy sounded just right at first, but then we realized that end-August, we would just be stuck solid in traffic. This left us with France or Spain. I voted for Spain, Marie voted for France. So we chose Andorra, a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known for its ski resorts and a tax-haven status; thus out-of season travel and cheap petrol. There we had it. Our 2300 kilometers round-trip from Luxembourg to Andorra and back.
Luxembourg to Andorra for dinner. Why not?
First of all, you should not go on a 2-day, 2300 kilometers road-trip, in a Lotus Exige. The idea is as daft as going to the North Pole wearing only your underwear. People just don’t do it. However we just bought a new Lotus Exige for the Club and the engine needed a good running-in so our members could enjoy the car pronto. It was work. That’s what I thought. Many many hours of tedious driving in one of the world’s most uncomfortable car.
But I was wrong. What I was about to experience does not have a price and isn’t related to any logic. What I was about to experience was unadulterated driving nirvana on one of the best road in the world. It reminded me of why I love cars and why I do what I do. Most of all it reminded me of why we created The Car’tell. It’s all about the right experience and the right moment with the right people.
Here we go.
We set off at 6AM on Monday 28th August 2017 and headed south. We would drive to Perpignan and then split from the motorway to enjoy some good driving roads before reaching our Hotel in the small ski resort of Grau Roig. The first part of the trip was rather relaxing. As a result it made me think about modern day motoring. You can read about it here.
The weather on that day was beautiful and the more we were moving south, the twistier the roads became. By the middle of the afternoon we reached Perpignan and crossed the Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes. We enjoyed more than 100 kilometers of very good roads. The best road in the world? No. Not yet.
How I stumbled onto one of the best driving roads in the world, by accident.
We arrived in Andorra in time to enjoy an excellent dinner at Hotel Grau Roig. Reflecting on the day with a glass of wine we compared the best bits of roads and tried to trace them back on Google Maps. The bit from Villefranche-de-Conflent to Mont-Louis was pretty epic. So was the last bit in France from Latour-de-Carol to the andorran border. However it looked like our GPS had avoided what looked like a mountain pass from the border to our Hotel and further up. It was clear that we needed to investigate further. So we decided to stay in Andorra on Tuesday to explore this mysterious road. What we found was nothing short of spectacular.
CG-2 from Grau Roig to El Pas de la Casa. One of the best road in the world.
Just after breakfast we get to the car, open up the roof, start the engine and get going. After barely 2 kilometers we reach CG-2, a road that would prove to be the biggest surprise of the trip and in our opinion one of the best road that we have ever experienced. A 10 kilometer strip of driving heaven between Grau Roig and El Pas de la Casa.
We start at 1300 meters above sea level and decide to take CG-2 moving uphill. The first thing we notice is how smooth the road surface is. We have said it before, the Lotus Exige has one of the best steering feel in the business. This is going to pay off today. We accelerate gently and get into the rhythm with a couple of long swooping curves. There is plenty of space with lanes that are almost 4m wide.
We continue up the mountain as the engine is warming up. First hairpin. What’s that? A second lane just for overtaking? In a hairpin? That’s odd and wonderful at the same time. Hairpin done. Very big smiles on our faces. And so it goes for the next 5 kilometers, smiling, overtaking, hairpin followed by sweeping curves, up, then down, back up again into the next hairpin, overtaking a truck on the outside lane. The power and the grip of the Exige on that road. Superb.
One of the highest points on the European road network.
And then we reach the top of the pass, at 2408 meters. Wow. The view is stunning but we don’t have the time to relax. The road continues for another 5 kilometers all the way to El Pas de la Casa. Now we head down and this epic road shows us another side of our car. First hairpin going down, hard on the brakes. My god they are good. They are really good. Into the corner nice and clean. Full throttle as it widens after the APEX. The car is shouting at the mountains, loving it. The views going down are breathtaking and soon enough we reach the city of El Pas de la Casa. We turn around and go all the way back up and down again.
Driving heaven, all day long. Thank you Andorra.
You know what the best thing is about that road? There is a roundabout at each end of this fantastic stretch of road so you can drive it all day long. Which we did. Until we had to stop for fuel. No problem, just chose one of the 3 petrol stations on top of the pass, fill up with Unleaded 98 at 1.12€/l and continue.
So there we have it. A blend of smooth road surface, sweeping curves, tight hairpins, stunning views and the holy grail: enough space to overtake whenever you need to. And there is a race-track at the top of the pass. Enough said.