It is 330 kilometres long, has more than 100 hairpin corners, and offers some of the most incredible views in Europe. The breath-taking pass overlooked by “Dracula’s castle” in Romania is one of six routes including Yorkshire’s Blakey Ridge brought to life in “Europe’s Greatest Driving Roads”.
Ford Performance’s award-winning engineers regularly drive the most challenging roads across the continent to test development models in the most challenging environments. The company also has decades of experience searching out the perfect roads for automotive journalists to test new vehicles. This supported a year-long research and ranking process by a team that covered nearly 10,000 miles in their hunt for the ultimate European road-trip.
Working with Ford and BP/Castrol, motoring journalist Steve Sutcliffe – a veteran of more than 750 car launches across 42 countries – lent his experience to a project that showcases established favourites alongside little-known gems. Over six videos, Sutcliffe gets behind the wheel to explore each road while offering historic and cultural insights for every location.
“It’s amazing some of the roads that didn’t actually make the list – but we weren’t just looking for twisty runs to please the petrol heads. We scored each route for thrills, quality of road surface, accessibility, hospitality, scenery, and food and drink,” said Sutcliffe, a former racing driver. “Enthusiasts will know of some of the roads, like the Transfăgărășan Highway in Romania, but perhaps not the C462, in Spain. In some ways it would be nice to keep these roads to ourselves – but when roads are this good they need to be shared.”
For each “Europe’s Greatest Driving Roads” video, Sutcliffe drove the Ford that best complemented each route, including the new Focus RS, Mustang 5.0 V8 GT, Mustang 2.3 EcoBoost, Focus ST, Focus ST diesel and Fiesta ST.
Here are the first six roads featured:
- North Yorkshire, Blakey Ridge: Roughly following the route of an old railway line to the now quiet iron ore mines of the moors. Fortunately, it was filmed just before a huge snow storm struck.
Sutcliffe says: “The way it winds itself across the moors, throwing blind crests and fast but ever-tightening corners at you all the way along, is completely fascinating.”
- ROMANIA, Transfăgărășan Highway: Built by former Romanian dictator so his people could readily flee to the mountains should USSR invade. It even passes the castle of Vlad the Impaler’s – the real-life inspiration for Count Dracula.
Sutcliffe says: “If you are a true driving enthusiast, the Transfăgărășan is genuinely a bucket list kind of place to visit.”
- SPAIN, Catolonia, C462: Leading up to a dam, the road was built for a planned power station, but the power station never appeared. Literally a road to nowhere.
Sutcliffe says: “There is just about everything a road could ever offer, and there are three distinctly different sections to it. One that’s fast and fluid, another that consists mostly of tunnels, and then a third section that’s narrower and far more twisting.”
- FRANCE, the Alps, D526 & D926: One of the most gruelling stages of the 2015 Tour de France, and equally challenging in a car.
Sutcliffe says: “Of all the roads we went to I think this was my personal favourite. It was/is thoroughly epic to drive on, yes, but it’s also just stunning to look at, to be among.”
- GERMANY, Black Forest Highway, B500: A little over 40 kilometres through the Black Forest, with smaller, equally challenging roads branching from it. During filming it rained constantly for four days.
Sutcliffe says: “Bikers flock to the B500 in the summer months, and who could blame them when the rewards are this rich?”
- MALLORCA, MA10 “Mountain Road”: Roman origins and a remote monastery that was built at the road’s peak to be purposefully difficult to get to.
Sutcliffe says: “The road itself is an absolute peach to drive on, spiralling its way across the northern tip of the island, going through tunnels and across lakes and over rocky bridges in the process.”
“There were a few adventures along the way. Not least when the drone crew we hired in Germany pulled out at the last minute to help out on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Sutcliffe added. “I’m proud of this selection – and the debate it will no doubt provoke among driving aficionados.