Enjoy the thrill of the open road along some of the most exciting and beautiful motoring routes in the world, all reachable from Formula 1 circuits, as selected by Francesca Peak
Stelvio Pass, Italy
Consistently voted one of the best drives in the world, the dramatic Stelvio Pass (main image) runs high up in the Ortler Alps in northern Italy, just 200 metres from the Swiss border. Such is its popularity, that serious drivers should hit the road early in the morning to beat the crowds. With 48 switchbacks and 75 hairpin bends, and at its highest point 2,745m-high, Stelvio leaves you breathless in more ways than one. Want more? Those in the know take a detour to the adjoining Umbrail Pass for extra twists and turns.
Drive it: Maserati Grancabrio MC Stradale
Monaco to Nice, Monaco / France
Make the most of the short drive between two of Europe’s most glamorous destinations by taking the high road – literally. Head uphill from Nice on the Grande Corniche, the highest of the three corniche roads, and enjoy mesmerizing views over Cap Ferrat and the superyachts of the Mediterranean (although it’s perhaps most famous for its starring role in the Bond film Golden Eye). Stop off en route in the medieval village of Èze on the Corniche-Moyenne (below left) for a Sanbitter (on the rocks, slice of orange), before heading down the switchbacks and arriving in style at the Place du Casino in Monaco, handing the keys to the portier.
Drive it: 2009 Ferrari Scuderia F430 Spider 16M
The Laurentian Mountains, Quebec, Canada
Straight from the F1 circuit, take Autoroute 40 east to Beauport, crossing the vast green plains, stopping off in the quaint town of Louiseville for a relaxing lunch by the Wolf River, where you can bathe in the summer sun. Continue to Quebec City and meander through cobbled streets of bistros and boutiques, making sure not to miss Chateau Frontenac (above), and the infamous Citadelle of Québec. Then pick up the pace along Route 138 and head south to the Laurentian Mountains. Once there, the world is your oyster – take a pit stop and taste the local epicurean delights (maple butter pancakes, anyone?), or continue through and explore the quaint local towns.
Drive it: 1968 Ford Mustang Convertible
Transfagarasan Highway, Romania
Begin your Transylvanian trek in the village of Bascov. Then, to squeeze between two of the country’s tallest mountains, Moldoveanu and Negoiu, cruise along 90km of sinuous roads. Keep an eye out for blind corners and wandering focks of sheep (part of the local charm), then sail through the sky as the road takes you 165m above Vidraru Lake. The Fagaras mountain range is easy on the eye, with waterfalls, glaciers and the dense pine forests that engulf the entrance to the charming village of Cartisoara, where you can stop off during your descent for some refreshments, or even stay the night. The Transfagarasan Highway is snowed under for half of the year, but promises to be one spectacular summer trip.
Drive it: 1999 Land Rover Defender V8
Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
Make the most of the dramatic landscape down under by cruising down the M1 to the beach town of Torquay to reach the Great Ocean Road. Roll down the windows and let the sea breeze blow through your hair as you make your way through Lorne and Apollo Bay (stop here for watersports or indulge in some award-winning local cheese). Then head inland and lose yourself among the tall forests, magnificent waterfalls and tranquil lakes of Otway National Park. Finally, set off along Shipwreck Coast and marvel at the rock stacks called Twelve Apostles (even though there are only eight), which cast their shadows on Australia’s far horizons and jewel-seas (as the much-loved Aussie poem puts it).
Drive it: 1957 Porsche 356 Speedster
Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, United Arab Emirates
While the adrenaline from the final race of the season lingers, speed along the E22, taking the exit from Abu Dhabi to Al Hayer Road until you reach Jebel Hafeet. Now put your car in sport mode. This 11km ribbon of smooth tar cascades down the mountain in tight turns and fast sweeps; the perfect backdrop to channel your inner F1 driver as you explore your car’s dynamic abilities. However, on the way down from the mountain’s 1,249m-high peak, slow down to enjoy the rocky panoramas before you. At the bottom of Jebel Hafeet, enjoy some time out in one of the many natural hot springs and tranquil oases.
Drive it: Pagani Huayra
Hokkaido Scenic Byway, Japan
Part of an impressive drive to showcase the beauty of the northern-most of Japan’s islands, the Hokkaido Scenic Byway offers multiple driving routes to choose from. You could begin in Shikotsu- Toya and admire the lakes, mountains and smouldering volcanoes (below) in the city’s National Park, before arriving in Taisetsu-Furano. Here, felds of vibrant fowers (right) have been specially planted. In fact, regular pit stops around the island are designed to include everything from hot spring baths to dairy farms and even the celestial views afforded by the Mt Kenashi Observatory. However, make sure you save enough energy for the final stop, Hakodate City, home to Edo-period Fort Goryokaku and its dramatic star-shaped moat.
Drive it: 1972 Datsun 24OZ
Orange County Mountains, California, United States
Set off down the coast from Newport Beach, head inland and ascend to 1,200m, before tackling the passes of Highway 76. Cruise through mountain towns such as Lakeland Village, viewable from the Lookout Roadhouse, before checking out the Cleveland National Forest. Here you can fnd the quaint town of Jamul (where you can refuel with some tasty pie) before joining Route 94 and heading into Some Like It Hot’s Coronado (below) for dinner by the sea.
Drive it: Mercedes-AMG SL 65
Images courtesy of Getty Images
A version of this story appeared in the June 2016 special F1 issue of Baku Magazine.