What is it about things that are old and of a bygone era that grab our imagination? There are people who collect stamps and coins of the years past, there are those who are mesmerized by the sight of castles and architectural relics. And then there are motoring venues. We’ve already looked at some of the legends, such as the AVUS, the Südschleife, Sitges-Terramar, and Brooklands, to name just a few.
But then there are lesser-known places. Local tracks for local heroes. Ever since I first set foot on the Südschleife at the Nürburgring a few years back, I’ve developed an innate fondness towards forgotten temples of speed.
Many hilly towns in Germany usually quench their need for speed by hosting hill climb races. I recently relocated to the region of Heilbronn in Germany, where there are many winding roads twisting through the tree-clad landscape. They’re so common that I was half convinced that there had to be a hill climb track nearby.
I poked around a bit and found out that in the late ’60s and ’70s, a handful of hill climb events popped up in this region under the moniker of Heilbronner ADAC-Bergpreis. Being allowed to go all-out on what are otherwise regular public roads is one of the prime thrills of hill climb racing. In countries like Switzerland and Luxembourg, I’m told this is usually a workaround to some of the rules that ban circuit racing.
This was one of the videos I ran across, showing scenes from the fourth Heilbronner ADAC-Bergpreis hill climb that took place in 1968 on a stretch of road starting in Gronau of Ludwigsburg district, heading to Prevorst.
Armed with this information, I set out to have a first hand look at the track. I was joined by one of my good friends who happened to live close by and she even offered to bring her toy along.Hill climbing bodybuilder
And what a toy it was… the BMW 1 Series M Coupe. The little brother in the ‘M’ family and the spiritual successor to the iconic E30 M3, this offer was too good to pass up.
The drive till Gronau is fairly unspectacular and flat but that changes once you exit the town. You can see in the background how the landscape turns hilly.
The original sprint took place from the borders of Gronau town to the limits of Prevorst, so we followed signs to the latter.
I was told that the starting grid of the races was a moderately long straight at an intersection that led to a crest. It wasn’t hard to find, situated just at the outer limits of Gronau. With the engine off it was spookily quiet, but imagine how it would have sounded like with 50 or so cars lined up here.
Even though this bit of road is not very frequently travelled, the thick woods on either side are populated with deer that might occasionally take a trip across the road.
I pretended there was a classic hill climb chock behind my rear wheel, did a mental countdown and off I went!
The twin-turbo straight-six engine roared instantly to life with no real sign of lag. These back roads are limited to 100km/h but since it was slightly greasy today, that was more than enough to have my share of fun.
The roads at the beginning of the route are fairly wide with a couple of sharp crests being the highlight features. You can see all the way to the next bend, sometimes giving me the liberty of sticking to the ideal line.
This changes as soon as you enter the woods where the roads get progressively twistier. Every now and then, overgrown trees with branches stretching over the road whoosh past, just a blur in the corner of my eye.
There are little concrete blocks that line the road on either side outside the white lines. These act as tiny rumble strips if you accidentally stray off the limits of the road. The white lines themselves are quite slippery when wet, so you have to be cautious when braking or accelerating on them.
The tarmac is in such a brilliant condition that it gives you the confidence to carry good speed through the corners. All the while, trees whoosh past left and right.
There isn’t much of a kerb along the track so every time someone clips the apex, a bit of dirt gets deposited on the track. Imagine that in the ’70s when cars with belted bias tires slithered up the hill at speed with much less traction compared to what we have now.
The roads were often covered with a layer of fallen leaves. As you can see here, I picked up my fair share of them on the front lip and grille. The 1M Coupe is wider than the stock E82, sporting a butch new bodykit, but don’t let the bodybuilder figure fool you. Despite the bigger body and the wider track, it weighs 77lb (35kg) less than the standard E82 coupe.
This lighter and wider layout rendered itself as impressive mechanical grip during cornering. The amount of feedback that you get through the seat bottom and the steering wheel are incredible. Each time under cornering, I could feel exactly what the loaded outer wheels were doing.
It felt like the engine was loving the thick cold air. As long as I throttled up smoothly, I could easily power out of corners without making the tail too nervous.
The end of the hillclimb is easy to spot because it’s just where the forest opens up from the tall woods. I was greeted by a burst of sunlight at the top despite this drive taking place on a wet winter afternoon.
The road surface gets very coarse as soon as you reach the traditional end of the hill climb. This becomes apparent very quickly thanks to the wide low profile tires and stiffened suspension.
This car was shod with satin black 19-inch wheels with very low profile tires, so in corners there was no give in the sidewall and the driving experience as a result was very direct.
As the skin of a bodybuilder is stretched across his body, the 1M has very taut lines, especially with the sharp creases and the proportionately large wheels.Perfecting the runs
It’s a relatively short run, just about ten minutes all the way up. Since I had the car till sundown, I still had enough time to get a few more runs in the bag.
I had to check myself constantly to not get too carried away on the drive back. Cars usually build up momentum very easily on spirited downhill drives like these and it’s very easy to overshoot braking points.
With 340hp and 332lb/ft on tap and with road conditions like this, the 1M had no trouble misbehaving and letting the tail step out the instant I got even slightly overzealous. The DSC lamp on the dashboard was having a field day.
For additional stability at speed, this little carbon fibre boot lid spoiler provides some downforce to press the back end down.
Initially I found it a bit difficult to remember what came after the next turn, because every corner combination looked like the one before it. It was only after the third or fourth run up the hill that I started looking for landmarks to identify where I was and what came next.
Knowing the road better also gave me some confidence as I could anticipate patches of fallen leaves that unsettled the car.
Thanks to their chunky side bolsters, the seats hold you in place through the esses, despite being clad with slippery leather as opposed to grippier alcantara,
The headrests are heat pressed with one of the most powerful letters in the alphabet.
During the entire three hours I spent driving up and down this road, I ran across just three other cars. My traffic-free charm worked once again.
Before I knew it, the sun was kissing the horizon and a layer of fog was slowly settling in the woods. It was time to call it a day. The opportunity to try out an old hill climb track like this, especially in a car as willing as the 1M Coupe was a hugely rewarding experience.
The hunt for hill climbs continues. What are your local temples of speed? Let us know in the comments!
Really nice story!... The environment is amazing! I´m a huge fan of BMW and in my city my personal temple of speed is "Huachilla" a very extensive rute with beautifull sight!
HWY 1 santa cruz to stienson beach
Not sure there's been any motorsports events there but US 129, "the tail of the Dragon" in Tennessee/North Carolina is known worldwide as a great drivers road, and having been there myself I can say it definitely is...
"BMW 1 Series M Coupe. The little brother in the ‘M’ family and the spiritual successor to the iconic E30 M3"
how is it this??? it is the same power to weight as the e46 m3? Also it is not a real M car, it uses the engine from the Z4 and does not carry an M vin number like other M cars. All M's have M engines, and carry M vins... this sir is not a real M car.
In belgium you have one hillclimb. Close to the german luxembourg border. Its called the Hill climb les trôs Marets in malmedy.
PhilMaurer the 1M is surtenly a real M/// form BMW.
Compared to the E46, it has way more mechanicasl grip, it is way faster, more drivable and more tunable.
I find your argument as Invalid.
My dream car right there. An alpine white bmw 1m would be my daily driver for the rest of my life.
PhilMaurer WHO CARES?!
If it's fast and fun to drive, why should we care about details like how it doesn't "carry an M vin number like other M cars"?
Don't call it the M Coupe, call it the 1 Series "not a real M car" if you want, I'm pretty sure Alok didn't think "damn I'm not enjoying this drive, if only I was driving a REAL M car...*tear rolls down cheek*"
These roads are absolutely stunning. This is definitely a local proving ground for legends in the making.
Ramah_Nyang Kirpat SPEEDHUNTERS beautiful kericho
Tirant_taurus Kirpat That shot was taken in Kiambu. Not Kericho. SPEEDHUNTERS
Ramah_Nyang Kirpat SPEEDHUNTERS i agree on second glance the tea bushes aren't as groomed and appealing as Kericho's
Tirant_taurus ROTFL. Groomed tea bushes, huh? Even as prices fall? Kirpat SPEEDHUNTERS
Ramah_Nyang yep, price fluctuations is a thing in agricultural production, i thought you knew this Kirpat SPEEDHUNTERS
Tirant_taurus You do realize what I wrote was a joke, don't you? Kirpat SPEEDHUNTERS
Ramah_Nyang my sense of humor never fails me, i realized and my response was as appropriate, dont you think? Kirpat SPEEDHUNTERS
Tirant_taurus Not with that line about price fluctuations.
Ramah_Nyang anyhow, Kericho is beautiful, don't you think?
Tirant_taurus Beauty is relative. Kericho doesn't stand out for me.
Awesome post!! That road is very close to me, I must try it some time. Have you looked at the Col du Bonhome in Alsace? It's one of my favorite driving roads around here.
Great Post ! I love good hill climb action. I live in the city of Grenoble France, in the middle on the French Alps. We are home to one of Europe's great hillcimb course still on calendar today. (in the French Championship at least) its called the "Course de cote de Chamrousse" Start point is around 900m and finish line at 1650m. It has seen all kind of action since 1900. Every August you can watch GT3's, Kit cars, Cup cars and F3's take a rush uphill. It even has its historic trophy, with R8 Gordinis, Porsches, Alpine's etc...
60MPH speed limit on backroads? Must be nice, it'd be about 35 here in the US...
Thanks for the tip, I think I'll have to check it out!
Not yet but I'll make sure to have a look. France is just round the corner.
Ealoken PhilMaurer Easy to say an argument is invalid when your logic is flawed...
On the same tires the cars would be almost identical in pure grip with the e46 giving a slight edge. From a handling standpoint the 1m has always been considered tail happy, and when driven back to back the e46M is considered to have way better steering and better control through the corners. Go see Chris Harris's review.
As for tuneablity? I highly disagree, the n54 engine in the 1m has reliability issues once it is pushed over 400hp this is well known. They also have cooling issues when pushed to that point. The unrelated s54 engine in the e46m can be reliably pushed to 450 on all stock internals and has been pushed past 850hp, afiak only one n54 has never been taken over 550 due to the weakness of the block, and only one has dynoed over 700. There are about over 50 s54's out there with that much power. There are alot more n54 motors out there then s54's...
Even if the 1m was faster, after driving one, I walked away disappointed. Like the e9xM the 1m is not as fun to drive as an e30m or e46m. Those cars feel special, the 1M and e9xM cars simply do not feel special. This is a sentiment that has been felt by many people in reviews. Why do you think a tired e46 beat out 1m/335/e92M in a car and driver comparo for favorite car of the group?
Basicaly the 8k rpm redline and high power up top makes the s54 one of the most enjoyable engines you can ever imagine.
ToyotaSupraMan PhilMaurerDrive them back to back to back, and you will forget about the 1M and fall inlove with the s54...
AlokPaleri If you're interested, I'll take you up that far in my GT86 for a spin! there's a bar at bar at the summit for a beer too, perfect for a day out driving!
thats a gorgeous 1m. lucky to get your hands on one.
What an amazing car!
Awesome post - I did a bit of hillclimbing at Prescott in my 1M last summer. Check it out here: http://youtu.be/kmyfpkSrAac
#awesome photos! Will have to do this one day!
McCarrs Creek Rd, Liberator General San Martin Drive, and West Head National Park in northside Sydney are a top drive.
Chrea, in the little town of Blida, Algeria.
you have to feature the Schottenring Hillclimb Track in Schotten Germany !!! My favorite local "Test Track"
You definitly got to go to the Black Forest in little Towns like Bad Peterstal-Griesbach or Unterwasser (a smal little valley near Ottenhöfen im Schwarzwald, there were Hillclimbs also driven in the 70's and early 80's) The whole region is full with beautiful little roads. It's just amazing Go to this Tracks, they're absolutly amazing!
Noosa hillclimb in QLD! Watch a couple of runs on YouTube and enjoy!