2014 has seen the team at Ultimate Drives travel from as far north as the Highlands of Scotland, to as far south as the Cote d’Azur and Basque country in Spain. During our travels we have been privileged enough to drive some amazing vehicles, visit some stunning sights, dine at some delightful restaurants, and of course drive some out of this world roads.
We thought we would share the highlights of this year by creating our first Ultimate Drives awards ceremony, I hope you find these both interesting, and maybe an inspiration to travel somewhere new, maybe even drive something new!
We stayed at this hotel for the first occasion in September when we took a group of clients their during a tour of Tuscany. If ever a hotel was your “dream” of Tuscany, this was it. Set on a hill, amongst olive groves and vineyards, the views across Tuscany were simply spectacular, including a birds eye view of Castel di Brolio. The hotel itself was then typical Tuscan style, low rise, small internal courtyards, mixed with all the modern / luxury touches you would expect, such as an infinity pool overlooking the vineyards, spectacular terraces to sit and savor a fine glass of Chianti, as well as a small (but perfectly formed) spa. We were quite simply blown away….the icing on the cake was the hand wash car service left the cars gleaming like they had just left the factory, mind give most Italian lad the chance to get up close and personal to a 458 Spider and Lamborghini Huracan, you won’t be short of volunteers.
Winner: 5* Hotel Le Fontanelle, Pianella, Italy
5* Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Pontresina – this hotel oozes class, has one of the best spas in Switzerland, and the staff are Italian friendly and German efficient….what more can one ask for
This car has quite simply re-written the book when it comes to Lamborghini. Some will say it’s a good thing, other purists maybe not, but this truly is a supercar where you can tour both in comfort and style. Set all the buttons to comfort, and the car drives smoothly, changes gear with ease (even at crawl speed) and even lets you listen the stereo. Turn up all the buttons, switch on the Corsa, and this is a hardcore Lamborghini, that barks like the best, with an exhaust note to die for (even the 458 Speciale was left wanting in this department). Throw in the green paintwork, and we really think this car now offers the best of both worlds. Ps the good news is you still can’t see a thing out the rear when reversing, but this “feature” is after all part of Lamborghinis DNA. LOVE this car!!
Winner: Lamborghini Huracan
Ferrari 458 Speciale – a hardcore Ferrari that really feels alive, point it wherever you want, it goes there with maximum feedback – the interior also now feels speciale (excuse the pun) as well, and the race seats some of the best we’ve experienced, the perfect companions on a tight mountain pass.
BAC Mono – probably the most fun you can have in a street-legal vehicle, dressed up in your helmet and driving gloves feeling like a proper race driver, it has just one seat but trust us when we say that when you take that seat you forget about the world around you and need no other than the BAC Mono
When we decided to head out on a tour to Scotland in October this year, we really weren’t sure what to expect. Of course, the sights are famed, but a bad press around the general state of UK roads left us wondering, hence selecting a bunch of Range Rovers for our first venture. Having completed the 4 day tour around the highlands, we can only say WOW. To be honest there were at least 3 roads that could have been named our best road, in the west of Scotland close by to Glencoe and Ben Nevis, the sights are at their most dramatic, though many of the roads are extreme in their narrowness (regular passing bays mind) and we are after all looking for the best “drivers road”. On the last day of our tour though we headed south through the beautiful National Park Cairngorms, which incidentally takes you past Balmoral Castle, and past the two best ski resorts in Scotland. Shortly after leaving the whiskey trail, we picked up the Old Military Road /A939 at the town of Tormintoul. From here, all the way to the small village of Bramear (50km away) the road is quite simply breathtaking. From sweeping valleys, up to the small ski resorts, across stone bridges and through forest trails, this road takes your breath away. Roads are so great, we are organizing a Supercar Test event there in July 2015, hope you can make it along….
Winner: Old Military Road, Highlands, Scotland
Route de Gentelly – it might not be the longest, or the fastest roads, but the way the road is cut into the rocks, and the views across the Maritimes make this a peach of a road – drive it on our Supercar Test Event in South of France
Our Supercar Test event in the Alps took us to the jet set ski region of St Moritz. Of course, everyone knows about the resort of St Moritz, but just 10KM away in the same region is the smaller, less known ski town of Pontresina, home of the Kronenhof hotel where we spent our second and third evenings. There are two things that can sum up the breakfast at the hotel – firstly, one of our team was at the entrance at 06:45am sharp to wait it’s opening on the second morning, and managed to tuck her way through 5 sittings – just about everything you can imagine, from fresh honeycomb, to heartwarming porridge, to finest French pastries were on offer. The other is the setting, in a grand ballroom, not only does the food taste great, you are eating in style surrounded by decadence.
The most important meal of the day as our mums told us, especially if you are about to get behind the wheel of an Italian thoroughbred…
Winner: 5* Grand Hotel Kronenhof, Pontresina, Switzerland
It’s not just about the Michelin stars, though these of course help – we’re also looking for unique settings and great value for money…
Winner: Hotel Restaurant Sommerau, Black Forest, Germany
The Black Forest as you probably know is one of our favorite driving destinations, endless forest trails, combined with stunning lower mountain passes makes for a driving paradise. To that end, we actually ran two separate supercar events in the forest this year. Whilst researching the routes, we came upon a small hotel restaurant, that is quite literally in the middle of nowhere, approached by a 4km single track, it really is the kind of spot that makes you feel like you have left the modern world behind you. Ran by the Familie Karl-Thomas Hegar, the boutique hotel has 15 small rooms, all with amazing views, but more importantly (for us at least) a chef that really knows how to take care of his guests, offering gourmet food at Black Forest prices – all course are prepared with local ingredients, and the deserts are to die for. If you want to find out why the Black Forest is called so, head into one of it’s deepest darkest corners for a couple of evenings, and enjoy.
Of course a road is not a road without a great view, though often it takes a great road to find the view. We have driven up to the top of Stelvio Pass 2757m many times but it was not before we ended up having afternoon coffees at Alpengasthof Tibet, located even higher at 2800m, that we saw Stelvio Pass from a whole new perspective. If you think the view from the top over all the hairpin corners is amazing wait until you see the view from Tibet’s terrace!
Winner: View over Stelvio Pass from Alpengasthof Tibet, Italy
BEST VIDEO CLIP
By definition (well ours at least), a clip, should be no longer than say 15 secs, so of course, with so many hours of Go Pro, plus at least two professional shoots, we could have spent a month sifting through the “evidence”. However, there was one stand out clip, and really, it’s one of the best customer testimonials we can imagine. What does it feel like to accelerate the Ferrari 458 Speciale in a tunnel? We will let our drivers who joined our Supercar Test Event last September tell you…
Winner: Ferrari 458 Speciale tunnel run, Supercar Test Event in the Swiss Alps 09/14
Whenever we are on tour we of course try to capture the memories. Sometimes were are lucky enough to bring along the professionals, other times our own teams passion for cars and driving means we’re not short of decent media to share. This year there have been so many pictures to choose between, and it created a bit of a bun fight to be honest, so in the end we went with two winners. Our two winners have been posted on Facebook and we’ll get our followers to make the final choice, hope you enjoy though in the meantime!
Our award goes to the concierge team at Hôtel de Paris Saint-Tropez who did an incredible job in the garage parking and bringing up our group of 15 supercars so we could roll out on a Saint-Tropez to Monte Carlo driving tour. Our team was starting to get claustrophobic in that hot garage already after five minutes, but the Hotel de Paris team kept moving our cars and every new request we made was greeted with a big smile. A great example of hard team work and positive attitude!
Winner: The concierge team at 5* Hôtel de Paris, Saint-Tropez, France