Luxembourg is a country we’re pretty familiar with over here at Speedhunters. The Land of Berg Cup as I like to call it, is bestowed with some of the most engaging roads I’ve ever driven on. Having covered passes in the alpine region already, Luxembourg was next in line.
There’s a place in Luxembourg called Müllerthal (seen here in Luxembourgish), otherwise known as ‘Little Switzerland’. It’s a serene valley in the outskirts of the city with roads snaking all around the little towns that nestle in its midst.
Since I was yet to see some snow in this part of Europe this year, I decided to take a shot at hunting some great winding roads in Luxembourg.
I needed the right set of wheels for the job and my good friend Yves Faber from Wengler Racing assured me he had just the thing. From the first time I met Yves, he always has something interesting up his proverbial sleeve, so I was curious as to what he’d cooked up for this day.
My eyes widened when I saw what he had in store. It was a custom Caterham Seven 485RS built in collaboration with Wengler Racing and the expertise of a very capable Caterham race car builder and driver himself, Joachim Westermann of MOG Racing. Yves wanted to build a road legal race car for the purist, so I was looking forward to a properly visceral driving experience.
I decided to stitch together my own Müllertalschleife, a loop that starts at Wengler Racing HQ in Ettelbruck towards Müllertal via the town of Larochette. The route would then continue towards Beaufort via Consdorf and Berdorf respectively, before heading back to Ettelbruck via Diekirch.
This roughly 61km/38 mile loop was just the right distance since the fuel tank had a capacity of just 30 liters (or under 8 gallons), and a screaming NA motor that revs to 9000rpm isn’t exactly what one would call frugal.
As I set off towards Larochette, I only needed to drive a few hundred meters in the car to notice just how incredibly direct the driving experience was. I could feel exactly what was going under the wheels at any given time. I could only imagine just how much fun it would be when I’d later get off the B roads onto some really interesting tarmac.
I brought along my friend Sebastian who had previously assisted me while shooting the BMW M6 in Kesselberg last year. This way we could take turns while driving, which meant I could properly immerse myself in the drive without any distractions.
If you’re wondering about his ungainly exit, it’s because this car doesn’t really have a door that can be opened. Carbon fibre half-doors provide some protection by keeping the elbows from being exposed to the elements.
To help the driver get in and out with relative ease, an Alcantara-clad MOMO unit attached to a Krontec quick release column was installed.
Yves swapped out the opaque carbon fibre mini-windscreen that originally came with the car with a perspex sheet to provide some additional visibility from such a low slung seating layout. While this is technically a windscreen, I am not sure how much I was really screened from the wind.
I love how there are traces of a once-street car left on the dashboard. While most of the equipment was removed from the S model, the buttons still remain. Windshield defroster and wipers? Right.
I’m nitpicking really, because this is a purpose-built road-going rocket made to thrill. Creature comforts are optional here; all that matters is the driving experience.Through the trees
Eventually the roads went from ‘very wet’ to ‘just greasy’ once we entered the woods. This is where the roads tighten up. Despite this being winter and the trees having shed all their leaves, the place was so packed that very little sunlight got to the road.
Sitting so low in the car, even pedestrian speeds felt like warp drive. Additionally, the proximity of the trees to the roads and the exposure to the elements in the 485RS only added to the effect.
Beyond 8000rpm, the entire car comes alive; squirming and screaming. The featherlight chassis simply cannot find the traction it needs, with wheels spinning even in fourth gear on full throttle!
The floor was modified to further lower the centre of gravity. Have you ever seen a gear lever this recessed?
It’s very easy to get overzealous in the car because the adrenaline can initially numb your sense of safe speed. More often than not, I found myself locking up the fronts in the wet because I was so drunk on the sensation of hurtling along that I’d misjudged the turn-in speed.
The beautiful thing about Luxembourg is that for an amazing drive you needn’t choose one specific route; whichever way you stitch the towns together, you’re guaranteed to get a marvellous route. I took a detour via Berdorf because of some really cool hairpins along the way I noticed on Google Maps.
There are also some stunning rock formations en route too.
There are stairs cut along the rock face so that you can climb all the way to the very top.
On warmer days, this parking space is full of bikers and other drivers who stop for a break. Today however it was completely empty.
The walls amplify the roar of the engine exiting the side exhaust as you drive past them.
If I were driving a taller car I’d have to be extremely wary of the roofline in some of the tighter bends, but in the Caterham it was always a clean line.
This Caterham is meant to be taken out on the track and thrashed to within an inch of its life, so safety was a top priority. A bolt-on full cage offers protection all-round and provides additional stiffness to the chassis. It also has a battery master switch and a plumbed-in fire suppression system.
The town of Berdorf came up soon after. Drive through a quiet little town on a weekend in a car as loud as this in Germany, and people would brand you the destroyer of peace. In Luxembourg, it’s quite the contrast. Every town we passed, I had people smiling on the street-side and at traffic lights, although they probably were just smiling at why someone would possibly drive a car like this in this weather.
Very rarely a straight would come up where I could really try out the entire rev range, but even in a straight line it wasn’t as easy as just putting my foot down.
This car has a ‘Sport’ mapping that can be activated via a button on the dashboard. This makes the engine extremely aggressive, especially above 5000rpm. I remember Yves telling me how the magic happens above 9000rpm. He’s clearly insane.
I had about 240 horsepower and 206Nm of torque on tap from the naturally aspirated 2 liter inline 4 Ford Duratec motor. This might not sound like a lot until you consider that this car weighs in at just 540kg. That’s an insane 444PS/tonne!
To improve roadholding, one-way 46mm race dampers from Nitron were installed and the braking system was upgraded with braided steel lines all round.
While I was nowhere doing speeds that made this felt, for that extra bit of aerodynamic advantage on track there are these carbon fibre flaps up front to channel air around the arms and thereby reduce unwanted drag.
Owing to a modified floor pan that put me even lower in the car, I could feel the road incredibly well through the seat bottom and the steering. This fed my confidence in the car and I started pushing harder after the second lap of the loop.Getting the hang of it
The roads around here are very well-maintained so zipping around them is real joy. Going through the gears from turn to turn with everything vibrating around me, I felt truly alive.
I could really put the car on the apex exactly where I wanted it to be because I could always see where the wheels were. No need for guesswork here.
‘Accidental oversteer’ was something that happened quite a lot on this drive. The crisp power delivery of the NA motor and the trackday-spec tires contributed to every twitch of the right foot being translated to a loss of traction.
There was barely any movement inside the cockpit though thanks to these super snug carbon seats. The seats are practically just one thin carbon fibre bucket each with no creature comforts whatsoever. Not even a slight hint of padding.
This car was fitted with AVON ZZR semi-slicks measuring 185/55R13 up front and 215/55R13 at the back.
At this point it started pouring down with rain and we were starting to get completely drenched from above and the sides, with the front wheels kicking up spray and dirt into the cabin.
I was somewhat thankful for the wet weather, because it let me get much closer to the limits of the car. If it were sunny and dry, I’d have to drive at such high speeds for a similar thrill and in this Caterham, that would be begging for trouble. Nevertheless, a quick stop to wipe the camera (and our faces) clean was in order.
Part of me felt bad for the state the car was in. Just a couple of hours ago I had picked it up in pristine condition from a display at Wengler Racing and now it had dirt in every nook and cranny.
The side exhaust that exited at the passenger side was crusted with everything we had collected along the route.The original ultralight
Did you know that this form first hit the tarmac in 1957 as the Series 1 Lotus Seven? That’s fifty-seven years ago. Lotus discontinued the Seven in 1973, after which Caterham Cars owner and founder Graham Nearn bought the rights to the Seven design from Colin Chapman of Lotus. Caterham has been at it ever since and has enjoyed a uninterrupted production to this day, bringing #JoyOfMachine to many a driver who has had the chance to put their foot down in it.
Sitting at barely 40 inches tall, it’s basically a road-going go-kart.
Running out of available light, it was time to drive the last leg of the loop for one last time.
In the ‘Sport’ setting the exhaust screams in anger through the woods. It’s an odd feeling to keep hearing the car through the trees long after it has disappeared from sight.
It sounds like a perpetually happy scream, and the front facia and headlamps lend to this feeling with a cartoon-like face. Like a Jack Russell terrier, forever wagging its tail and full of energy.
As the sun set on us and flung the woods into darkness, only the four cylinder scream remained. We drove the length of the loop back to Wengler Racing to return the car with every vein in my body buzzing with adrenaline.
Yes, my face was numb from the cold and yes, my mouth was full of dirt and grit, but slung so low in the cockpit, tearing through the gears, screaming from corner after corner on these amazing roads, everything else was secondary. I had a smile on my face so wide I’m fairly certain it shone through my balaclava. You hear people say that sometimes you have to look hard and deep to find the joy you need, and on this cold and rainy day, I’m happy to report that I found mine.
Where would you like us go next?