By Richard Truesdell
Ever sit in front of your big screen watching some great driving adventure on Top Gear, thinking, "I want to drive that road before I die." Now you can, sort of.
In the current issue of Octane, one of my favorite U.K. motoring magazines, the 44-page "Great Escapes" guide previews an event to be held this September in Romania. The first Transilvania Classic 2011 offers participants the chance to drive the Transfãgãrãşan--the ribbon of asphalt twisting through the Carpathian Mountains that Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson describes as the best driving road in the world.
Nicolae Ceausescu built the Transfãgãrãşan between 1970 and 1974 in the wake of the Soviet Union's 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. The Romanian dictator wanted the ability to get his troops north through the mountains in response to further Soviet aggression. The project's scale and costs were enormous: 6,000 tons of dynamite were used on the northern face alone, and it was reported that 40 soldiers died during the road's construction.
Now you can release your own inner Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, or James May--experiencing for yourself 90 kilometers of thrills as the Transfãgãrãşan snakes between Romania's highest peaks.
In terms of bang for the buck, the cost is reasonable: approximately $4,300 at today's exchange rate. The entry fee covers rally organization, road book, numbered door and rally plates, event souvenirs, accommodation for all three rally nights with breakfast at the finest hotels along the way, lunch and dinner each day, and an awards dinner the final night of the event.
I visited Romania five years ago and am already making plans to participate in the 2011 Transilvania Classic. The event is limited to cars built before 1975, so I'm hoping to arrange for a vintage Dacia (Renaults built under license in Romania). My choice would be a Dacia 1100, the locally built version of the boxy Renault 8 once sold here in the United States.
To date, the vehicle list includes an Aston Martin Ulster, an Austin-Healey 100M, a Ferrari 275GTB, and a Ferrari Dino 246GT. Complete entry details and vehicle eligibility information for the 1-3 September 2011 event may be found on the Transilvania Classic Rally website.
For a sneak peek of the route, check out the Top Gear video of driving the Transfãgãrãşan, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the filming of that particular Top Gear sequence in Romania.