It’s said a rolling stone gathers no moss. Well let me refute that notion straightaway. The loose rocks that tumble down onto the Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps claimed Sterling Moss, surely one of our greatest ever drivers. He went off the road while filming a documentary and came closer to being a motoring statistic than he ever did during his long Formula 1 career.
I was already a bundle of nerves before this vital snippet of information was relayed to me. 75 hairpin turns, almost 2,000 metres of elevation, an unfamiliar hire car and one or two, albeit minor, landslides. All I needed was for the arthritis in my shoulder to set in and I’d have called a priest. PASSABLE WITH CARE said the reassuring sign at the foot of the pass. Well yes, if you’re Daniel Craig and have played James Bond three times. I would defy anyone not to be shaken AND stirred by the end of this adventure. And don’t bother pouring me a small Martini barman, I’ll just take the bottle. Says a lot about the conditions I seem to find myself driving in, that's twice I've used that joke recently.
We did share the road with one group who seemed totally undeterred by the challenges, and I don’t mean the mountain goats who move a darned sight quicker than most vehicles. Top Gear added to the notoriety of it all by naming the Pass the greatest driving road in the world. Whatever that means, I’d certainly list safety among one of my most loved features. We were passed by a group of motorcyclists who didn’t seem concerned if they made it to the end of their holiday, let alone their expected life span.
As well as the dubious accolade from the Top Gear team, the Stelvio Pass is lauded as one of the most beautiful in the world. I wouldn’t doubt it, but has any driver ever looked anywhere but straight forward, and with a look of manic concentration?
What can I say, I returned the hire car without a scratch. I got us safely from A to B and then B to A, just. And ABBA is quite appropriate, because we came close to having our Waterloo a few times. It was an experience and something to tell the grandkids about one day. Did I enjoy it, not for a single second. Would I do it again? Yes, in the seat just to the left. And maybe I’d insist that Jeremy Clarkson was just to the right.