A long time ago in a time before Covid, 23 Aston Drivers planned a road trip to the Monza Grand Prix of 2020. 3 Years later that trip finally happened in 2022. Somewhere in the middle of all that we created a new club for likeminded Aston enthusiasts.
The numbers dwindled a little bit in between due to plans that other drivers already had in place. But we assembled 7 Cars and 12 people to drive round Europe and finishing at the F1 Monza race.
Plans changed slightly over the years as we added in more days to enjoy more of the alpine passes and a rest day at Lake Como.
The original planned was always to gather at the old Reims Grand Prix track at Gueux in France and explore the old buildings before traveling to Taittinger to who were hosting use for a tour of the Caves and taste their Champagne.
Taittinger was a great experience and their tour rep was very knowledgeable. We were treated to tales of the locals seeking refuge in the cellars during WW1 and then the Taittinger family feeling the wrath of the Nazi's in WW2 for selling them some sub standard Champagne against their will... The tour was very atmospheric and enhanced by the sub terrain engravings and wall art.
The wine champagne tasting needed to be put under some control as we were due to drive to Beaune for our overnight stop. So we restricted ourselves to 1/2 glasses for the second and third bottles that were availed to us.
We set off for the long drive to Beaune were we had a meal booked in the local Le Monge restaurant. This was just a short walk into the centre of town from our local hotel. Where we all managed to secure our cars in a very tight but secure underground car park. We all gathered at the local supermarket to refuel before joining the Autoroute when we realised one of our group was geographically challenged when leaving the hotel and had somehow managed to turn left instead of right. But we had all agreed 2 more RV points on our way to the Swiss border and the high alps.
Have you ever parked your car in the empty corner of the car park and returned to find it surrounded? Well we all know our Aston's are attractive but somehow we managed to attract 2 interlopers at the swiss border while waiting for our geographically challenged peer. Despite parking clear of any other cars 2 slipped into our little huddle...
The Alps followed, despite forecasted bad weather we seemed to be getting weather much better than we had reason to expect. This continued into the Alps.
We headed towards Andermatt via the Grimsel and then the Furka passes.
We stopped for a quick catch of our breaths at the Rhone Glacier where we bumped into some fellow Aston drivers and a rumour that AML were in the area photographing the new DBS Volante F1 Edition. We soon stumbled into them a few miles up the road. Along with a 707 DBX escort vehicle.
We of course had the obligatory stop at James Bond Strasse. Where some enjoyed the experience of re-enacting a certain pose.
Onto Andermatt and a deserved rest stop before we spent the next day re-tracing our steps around the Furka and Grimsel and following on to the Susten pass as a clockwise loop back to Andermatt.
We had a booking on the Gelmebahn Funicular but we recived the news overnight that the railway with a 107% steep climb to the top of the mountains was closed to do a small rockfall that day. So we swapped our plans around a little a spent extra time exploring the Rhone Glacier and the internal tunnels that you can explore for a small fee.
We called into the Gelmerbahn to collect our refunds and marvelled at the steepness of the track and the brave amongst us took a walk across the steel rope bridge. Actually scarier than it looks. The views down to the waterfalls were great. But the amount of movement in the bridge was not to be disrespected.
We then took a light lunch in Innertkirchen before heading off to the Susten pass. This was another real delight and felt very different to the other two passes and was much faster and more flowing for much of its length.
A little bit of climbing offered the chance for a great picture.
The evening came and we all headed into Andermatt to enjoy a typical Swiss meal of Cheese Fondue at the well respected Ochsen restaurant. To say it was a funny night would be an understatement as we battled to get our heads round sharing the fondue pots. When some realised the fantastic taste of the burnt cheese at the bottom of the pot I thought we might have a wresting match on between drivers.
Morning soon came and the drive to Como. But we still had mountain passes to explore. We had decided to drive down the St Gotthard and then back up again via the old Tremola Road. Before visiting the Sasso San Gottardo Museum. The old cobbled road was in great condition for most of its route. But I have no idea why a cyclist might find it fun.
I don't think anyone knew quite what to expect inside the museum as it was dual purpose. Part of it was telling the history of the mountain and the rest of it was telling the story of how the Swiss Army used it to mount Howitzers aimed into the valleys below to prevent an invasion force reaching the top of the pass.
The size of the Crystals they recovered during its construction were amazing. The interior varied from dark and damp to warm and dry inside the accommodation areas. A steep rail lift took you to the machine gun positions and the Howitzers.
The museum was well worth a visit as it is quite unique.
We then headed down to mountains and towards our Hotel at Lake Como. We hit some terrible traffic around Lugano. Some headed off the motorway and trusted their Sat Navs. Others toughed it out on the motorway. We ended up at the lovely Hotel Villa Belvedere within 20 mins of first to last arrival.
The hotel was right on the water and offered the most amazing views out. We all headed into the village for an evening meal while 2 drivers headed to the airport to pick up partners.
Saturday was a rest day and most people took boat trips to Bellagio and some well earned rest and tourist shopping. One couple hopped the waterbus and train to Monza to watch qualifying.
Some of us spotted the Villa Del Balbianello used as a convalescent clinic in Casino Royale on our travels.
Race day soon came and we had transport organised to drop us off and collect from the circuit. Needless to say we were dropped off somewhere near and picked up again somewhere else entirely. But great communication with drivers made it less stressful on the day than anticipated.
Queues getting in and the quite ridiculous system of buying food and drink tokens before you then queued up again for food and drink did put a little bit of a spoiler on the day. The race was all lined up for a frenetic finish before a slow bunch of marshall's ensured the race finished behind the safety car. Max seemed happy about that on this occasion though.
Sunday night marked our final meal together and everyone saying goodbye before setting off in different directions. Some heading home quickly, some slowly, some squeezing in a few days in Monaco and Nice before heading home.
I headed off towards the Stelvio and more alpine passes. I will write a separate report for that though.
All in all we all had an amazing time and have definitely made new and lifelong friends. 23 cars might just have been too much to handle. 7 Cars was a great group and great atmosphere at all times.
The group is already planning a new trip to Norther Spain, the Pyrenees and France for 2023.
Thanks to everyone that made this possible. For myself and Pam this was a trip of a lifetime.