My Passion: A Raw Driving Experience – Black Mountain Pass
It’s rare that we take time out of our busy lives to do something that we’re passionate about, but sometimes you just need to put some time aside for the things that make you happy in life.
This is something that Italian car maker Alfa Romeo feels strongly about. So, as part of their #FindYourPassion campaign, they gave Motor Verso a Giulietta Sprint Speciale for the weekend and told us to go and do something we’re passionate about.
Challenging the Black Mountain Pass
For me, I love the experience of driving and not just driving from home to the office, driving just for the love of having a thrill. This month I took 24 hours out of my week to focus on my passion. I had the opportunity to take an Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale on one of the best driving roads in the UK, the Black Mountain Pass (A4069).
I wanted to connect with the car and really get involved in the driving experience. Here is how the story unfolded.
The Black Mountain Pass is situated in the Brecon Beacons, South Wales, around 3.5 hours away from Birmingham. Being such a distance away myself and photographer Ross Jukes travelled down to the area the night before so we could rest before taking on the epic road. We felt this was best in order to get maximum enjoyment out of the driving experience.
Travel Down and Quick Sample of the Roads
We set off in the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale and blasted the motorway all the way down to the Brecon Beacons. We couldn’t resist taking a quick detour on the way to the hotel to catch a quick sample of the ultimately curvy road before catching some sleep. We took on the lane in the energetic 1.4-litre turbocharged Alfa. The temperature was 1°C and due to the time we got there it was pitch black, the biggest sense of what was going on outside was the feeling I was getting through the Sprint Speciale steering wheel whilst carefully slipping through the corners. We stopped and took a quick picture that impressively teased us with a glimpse of what we had to look forward to the following morning. After a quick sample of the roads, we hit the hotel for a rest.
Early Start to Take on the Roads
The next morning I woke up at 6am super excited and looking forward to the day ahead dedicated to my passion for driving. I had sampled the roads and had settled in to the very capable Giulietta. Myself and Ross set off in the dark to be at the Black Mountain Pass for first light.
Once getting on to the very first section of the road, my face lit up like a small child walking into a toy shop, the road from the very start has a mix of continuous long and short sweeping corners that are beautifully smooth. It was safe to say I was going to have a great day. The Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale comes with a selection of drive modes and popping the car in to Dynamic drive mode changes the throttle mapping, prefills the brakes and firms up the steering feel. Without a doubt the Sprint Speciale was a great choice of car for the job. The Alfa felt planted as I shot down the wonderful lane working my way to the heart of the experience; the hairpin corners.
First Look at the Famous Hairpin
Once arriving at the first hairpin, which I’ve seen so many pictures of online it almost felt familiar, we pulled over to take a moment to step outside and look at the scenery. The hairpin was in a valley surrounded by mountains, in the middle was on old stone built bridge with fresh water running underneath.
For car enthusiasts in the UK this road is sacred ground for sure. Wanting to celebrate the car at this landmark we set it up for a picture which, as you can see, does both the car and winding road justice.
Next up I wanted to take a moment and run the Alfa through the hairpin and really feel the connection with the road. The Giulietta didn’t disappoint, the car felt grounded, had lots of grip and gave super rewarding feedback.
Panning the Mountain Roads
Coming out of the one hairpin there is a short mountain side dash over to the sharper sister hairpin. At that moment I remember questioning why I hadn’t taken the time to do this sooner. Putting the power down in the front wheel drive 150bhp Alfa on these roads was so much fun. The mountain hugging curvy road leaves you consistently shifting between second, third and fourth gears. I felt properly engaged in the driving experience, my eyes were wide open and I was fully alert taking everything in… whilst slightly intimidated by the sheer drop on my one side.
A Tight Turn – Enjoying the Drive
Arriving at the second hairpin we were presented with a beautiful sight; with a tight uphill stretch before it, you are at full lock mid corner and I even grabbed first gear to swing the car around the corner and get a quick exit. Smiling like an idiot I was truly enjoying myself on my drive day. The car and road were in equilibrium together. With every mile I covered my enjoyment seemed to increase. Once through the hairpins there is a parking space just passed the corner where we seized the opportunity to step out and take in the scenery again, it’s such a rare and unusual sight.
Continuing the Black Mountain Pass
Outside it was still 1°C, with fine snow now falling around us and clouds of mist changing the visibility by the minute, we continued heading up the pass to see what else this renowned road had to offer. With the next stage of driving the scenery continued to impress, near the top of the mountain the landscape opens up with wide-open grounds to the left and right. Traveling down the open road at speed gave me a great sense of enjoyment as this is something that I don’t have the opportunity to do every day.
Perfect Driving Experience
I travelled the full length of the Black Mountain Pass, endured the corners, flew through the mist and bonded with both the car and road at the same time. This journey really reminded me why I enjoy driving and that sometimes you need to take some time for yourself and do what you enjoy, for we are only here for a short time really. I’m sure you can guess what I did next… I turned the Alfa around and ran the route again; it wasn’t any less impressive second time round!
A Raw Driving Experience – Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Speciale
Author: Paul Hadley
Images: Ross Jukes