I changed down a gear as the tunnel beckoned, intent on enjoying the mellifluous drama of my TVR Chimaera’s V8. Flooring it, the roar rose with the revs, echoing addictively as we plunged deep underground. For a few short, full-throttle seconds, the Rover V8’s music dominated our world, resonating through the tiny cabin as the acceleration pinned us to our seats.
But then an even louder noise built from behind. An unholy shriek, rising to a scream which all-but drowned out our humble Chimaera’s ACT cherrybomb exhaust. The noise built and built, splitting the air with a glass-shattering wail which only a high-revving atmospheric engine can achieve. And then it was alongside us; a bright green Lamborghini, rifle-like bangs ricocheting from the exhaust as its V10 embraced the overrun.
Behind us, yet more motors were getting into their stride. Flat sixes and V8s from some of the most vocal brands in the business, the bellow of the AMG exhaust balanced by the decatted artistry of the Porsche; the hard edged growl of more TVRs flying the flag for Britain.
And then the sunlight began to reach us once again, the brake lights burned bright against the receding darkness and the drama was put on hold until the next time nature forced the road underground.
Yes, the tunnels were quite something. But what were we doing raising hell deep beneath Bavaria’s mountains?
We were driving to Hitler’s former mountain stronghold – The Eagle’s Nest – during last year’s running of the Eagle Rally.
The adventure had begun a few days earlier at a rather more salubrious venue - a manor house in Surrey, where we met up with the people with whom we’d be sharing the 2,000 mile journey to the far corner of Germany and back, and one and all, petrolheads they were, as you’ve probably already guessed from the marques we found ourselves sharing the tunnels with.
The first leg of the journey took us to Dover, then onto Brussels, making the most of the efficient motorways and autoroutes to get us closer to that part of Europe where the driving truly becomes memorable.
But it wasn’t all about the driving, as stationary cars hold a definite appeal too, if displayed correctly – and there can be few finer displays of automotive greatness than the Autoworld museum, in Brussels. Here, a vast collection of perfectly preserved machines from the car’s early days rub shoulders with the big hitters of the golden age of motoring – cars like the Ferrari 275GTB, AC Cobra, Porsche 904 and Jaguar E-Type. During our visit, the museum was running an exhibition celebrating 100 years of Bentley, and so was flooded with everything from the glitzy, up-to-the-minute Continental to the raffish, don’t-give-a-damn blower Bentleys of the 1920s.
From Brussels, we headed south through the Ardennes, where the landscape began to ripple for the first time, gently at first as we crossed the River Meuse near Leige, before gaining real drama for the first time as we hit Luxembourg, and followed the twists and turns of this country’s border with Germany before reaching our overnight stop in Germany’s oldest town – Trier.
When you’re on a road trip and you hit Germany for the first time, there’s only one thing to do – you wait for the derestricted sign, then get the hammer down. And in a convoy where the average cylinder count is eight, and the average engine size is over four litres, that means you get to where you’re going pretty quickly. And for us, that meant the Auto & Technik Museum, north of Stuttgart.
And this place is something else.
Because let’s face it, you know a museum means business when it has not only a genuine Concorde mounted on its roof, but a Soviet TU-144 ‘Concordski’ as well. And inside, the excess continued, with everything from Europe’s largest collection of F1 cars to the Blue Flame land speed record car on display. But it wasn’t just speed machines. There were tanks, warplanes, vintage Bugattis, old locomotives and even tractors; if it’s mechanical and interesting, it’s probably on display in this overgrown man-cave in Germany.
The Porsche museum was next and as always, it offered a clinical display of the marque’s quest for engineering perfection and racing success. Central to this was the display which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 917 race car – an unfathomably intimidating flat-12 beast which boasts one of the most successful records of any racer, ever, as well as some of the coolest liveries ever seen at the track. Gulf Racing blue and orange, or the famously quirky ‘Pink Pig’ scheme – you choose.
From the Porsche museum, we headed wet to one of Europe’s great drives – the Black Forest High Road. This is road tripping dream territory; for mile after mile, the perfect tarmac rose through forests in sweeping bends, climbing to heights higher than Ben Nevis, before dropping back down carousels of hairpins to roll through chocolate-box villages. For many, it’s the highlight of their European road trip, but for the doughty folk of the Eagle Rally, it was merely the warm-up for the main event.
The legendary Deutche Alpenstrasse.
This 280 mile grand tour along Germany’s southern border has it all. Everything from long straights to spaghetti twists, dripping down hillsides. Quaint villages, soaring snow-peaks and gurgling river valleys. Nights in Alpine lodges, fine Bavarian restaurants and fairytale castles. And then, there was the tunnels.
Oh yes, the tunnels were definitely a highlight.
For two days we swept along this dream-like highway, the convoy moving as one, its music echoing among the forests and mountains, new friendships building and our destination getting closer. And then, with 1,400 miles completed in the five days since we’d left the UK we were there, at the base of the mountain on which the Eagle’s Nest is perched.
Unfortunately, while the Eagle’s Nest usually opens at the start of May, in 2019 an unseasonably late dump of snow meant its opening had been knocked back to mid June, meaning we were denied the opportunity for a glorious beer on the mountain summit. However, that doesn’t mean we’d driven to the far corner of Germany for nothing – a trip along the gloriously snow-lined Panoramastrasse followed by a visit to Red Bull’s Hangar 7 and a curiously named Austrian village saw to that. And then all that was left was the fun cruise home – via the gorgeous medieval towns of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Cochem and Aachen; and the Nurburgring and Spa Classic, naturally.
Inspired? You can find out more about next year's running of the Eagle Rally here: https://www.planetpub2pub.com/eagle-rally