Thursday 4 July 2013


After 16 days and more than 1800 miles, the 2013 Centenary Alpine Trial has now drawn to a close. The sight of 47 magnificent Silver Ghosts wafting their way through the Alps, accompanies by the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars 'Works Team', will live in the memories of those that saw the marvel at first hand for years to come.

History was brought to life by the intrepid owners as they piloted their machines with consummate skill up the challenging Alpine passes and across the borders of five countries, before emerging in Vienna just as the original competitors did exactly 100 years before. The 2013 Centenary Alpine Trials was also graced with British Royalty, Lords and Ladies, Ambassadors and participants from 12 countries as far flung as Australia and the United States.

"The 2013 Centenary Alpine Trial has clearly embraced the Spirit of Adventure that is synonymous with Rolls-Royce and I applaud the participants for their resolve and determination," said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO. "The 1913 Alpenfahrt led commentators to declare that Rolls-Royce built the 'Best Car in the World'. The 2013 Centenary Alpine Trial reinforced that message, and demonstrated that the Company continues to do so to this day."

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was presented with the Archduke Leopold Salvator trophy by the 20-Ghost Club, in recognition of the spirit the Company had shown in supporting and actively participating in the Trial. The trophy, a precious claret jug, was one of the original awards presented to Rolls-Royce at the 1913 Alpenfahrt.

The adventure has been fully documented throughout, with over 1000 spectacular photographs, this daily blog and innovative use of the History Pin website.

See the following links:
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars website


Saturday 29 June 2013


The gathering of several Rolls-Royce cars in any one location is guaranteed to draw onlookers, but the congregation of 47 magnificent machines in glorious morning sunshine outside the Panhans Grand Hotel stopped all local traffic with the gathering crowds. The palpable sense of achievement, celebration and of history being made sang through the crisp Alpine air.

The preparation for the final run followed the exacting re-enactment that had thread through the entire event, with the drive from Semmering back to Vienna mirroring the same journey exactly 100 years previously, on Saturday 29 June 1913. And so, with a sense of mixed emotions at the closing stages of this great event, the cars made their way in convoy to the historic capital city.

Wafting their way round the final glorious sweeping curves, as the cars reached the outer city carriageway they accelerated to a comfortable 100 km/h or more, easily matching the speed of more modern machines. Everyone present marvelled at the engineering prowess of the beautiful motor cars, many built more than a century before.

Onlookers clapped and cheered as the convoy approached central Vienna, and made their way to the final destination and scene of the start just 16 days previously, the Kursalon. A warm welcome from the Margraf Pallavicini and a glass of crisp Champagne followed, with the cars swamped by onlookers and members of the local media.

The spectacular finale took place at the Palais Pallavicini, with the sounds of clinking Champagne glasses mixing seamlessly with the celebratory tales from the road and the exquisite live opera pervading every corner of the historic building. The Radley car and the 2013 Alpine Trial Centenary Ghost sat side-by-side in the courtyard as stable mates, resplendent in their Works Team colours.

Amongst the awards given on the evening, The Rolls-Royce Motor Cars 'Spirit of Adventure' summed up the atmosphere and ethos of the entire event. Bob Kilburn's 1921 Silver Ghost Tourer, with bodywork by Barker, had suffered a fuel tank rupture in the early stages of the Trial due to an accident caused by another driver. Undaunted, and with a stubborn persistence to refuse to accept that the car had 'failed to proceed', Bob rigged a temporary fuel system using jerricans and a fuel pump bolted to the running board, giving a maximum range of just 30 km per top-up.

Bob was presented the award, to a standing ovation by all those present, by Richard Carter, Global Communications Director, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. Bob humbly dedicated the award to all those who had taken part in the Trial, and characteristically shrugged off the acclaim with a cheery smile.

The 1913 Alpenfahrt led commentators to declare that Rolls-Royce built the 'Best Car in the World'. The 2013 Centenary Alpine Trial reinforced that message, and demonstrated that the Company continues to do so to this day.


Friday 28 June 2013


The early-morning sun glistened across Lake Bled as the Silver Ghosts, led by the Radley car and accompanied by the 2013 Alpine Trial Centenary Collection Rolls-Royce Ghost, weaved their way out of the town and onwards through pretty local villages. The longest run of the 2013 Centenary Alpine Trial, the route was designed to replicate the long days travelled in 1913 and also the last day of the original Trial.

Passing the scene of yesterday's triumph – the Loibl Pass – the cars climbed the Klein Loibl summit (770 m), tackling tight hairpins on the descent. Hugging the Austrian-Slovenian border and passing several eerily deserted border controls – a clear indication of the changes in European history since the time of the 1913 Alpenfahrt – then a steady climb to Radlpass/Radelj (679 m). The modern sweeping curves gave way to the original road with gradients of at least 18%, with very steep sections and tight hairpins.

The imposing Stubalpe or Gaberlsattel (1547 m) proved no challenge to the Radley car, with its owner, John Kennedy, piloting the car up the pass with consummate skill, the car seeming to arrive at the summit as if carried by the same clouds as those skirting the peaks in the distance. The pass also gave an opportunity for the modern Rolls-Royce Ghosts, that have accompanied the Trial throughout, to clearly demonstrate their lineage, wafting majestically up the pass.

A warming and celebratory bowl of local soup was consumed before the long drive to Semmering, with many of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts cruising at a comfortable 100 km/h. Quite extraordinary considering the age of most, and a reminder that the moniker 'Best Car in the World' was deserved.

The overnight stop was at the iconic Panhans Grand Hotel, 1000 metres above sea level and steeped in history. At the time of the 1913 Alpenfahrt, the hotel had 400 rooms and was one of the largest in Central Europe.


Thursday 27 June 2013


Today participants faced the biggest challenge of the 2013 Centenary Alpine Trial, the infamous Loibl Pass. The steepest of all the passes, rising 2300 ft in three miles with very sharp and unusually steep hairpin bends, with gradients even steeper than the 28.5% of the road itself.

The road is still as it was in 1913, with a loose gravel surface rising to two obelisks at the top marking the Slovenian Austrian border. It was opened especially for the occasion and provided a wonderful opportunity to really understand the kind of conditions that the Rolls-Royce Works Team overcame in the original Alepnfahrt.

The first car to reach the top was the 2013 Alpine Trial Centenary Collection Rolls-Royce Ghost, wafting with ease through the 13 hairpin bends. The Silver Ghosts were heavy in the air as low level cloud gave an eerie feel to the spectacular setting. As the clouds lifted off the mountains, the Radlye car made history as it completed the same journey it made a century ago, powering through the final bend and joining its brand new stable mate at the top. Fourteen intrepid adventurers and their motor cars followed, each arriving with tales of daring and close shaves from the pass below.

Following a well-earned refreshment stop in the Loibl Pass ski chalet cafe, opened especially for the occasion, the equally challenging decent led to the first of two royal appointments.

Members of the 20-Ghost Club joined local dignitaries at the Grand Hotel Toplice on the occasion of HRH The Earl of Wessex and Countess of Wessex visiting Slovenia. The Royal Couple are visiting the region for a three day tour as part of the 'GREAT' campaign, promoting Britain abroad. The Earl and the Countess spent time chatting with the Club members, and the couple were also presented with a traditional 20-Ghost Club car badge.

In the evening, Club members travelled in their cars to Ljubljana to a reception hosted by British Ambassador, Mr Andrew Page. The event was held to celebrate the Official Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, with The Earl of Wessex and Countess of Wessex cutting an enormous birthday cake with a ceremonial sword in honour of the occasion. British food was the order of the day, with fish and chips and curry the favourites, and entertainment including local singers and young ballet dancers.

Tomorrow sees a long drive to Semmering, completing the final day's run of the 1913 Alpenfahrt, exactly 100 years ago.


Wednesday 26 June 2013


After a warm reception from the residents of the Croatian city of Opatija, the intrepid Silver Ghosts were steered across the Slovenian border in heavy rain and wafted through pretty, unspoilt villages. Briefly crossing the border into Austria, the Trial re-entered North Western Slovenia, arriving at the magnificent Lake Bled in glorious sunshine. Breathtakingly beautiful, the thermal waters of Lake Bled are famous for their healing properties.

After a brief period of recuperation, an advance party travelled to tomorrow's next scene in this unfolding adventure – the Loibl Pass. The most dramatic of all 19 Alpenfahrt passes, the site of this unmade road rising and curving into the distance filled the hearts with fear and excitement alike. How did the competitors tackle the challenge 100 years ago? An early start tomorrow, following a hearty breakfast awaits.


Tuesday 25 June 2013


Everyone deserves a rest and today's short run of only 97 km allowed time for much needed servicing of the century old Silver Ghosts that have been faithfully gliding over the Alps for almost two weeks. Cone clutches were lubed, lights were repaired and even goggles got the raw potato treatment, an old skier's trick to keep them from fogging up.

The Alpine Trial crossed the border into Croatia on Statehood Day but it was the reception awaiting everyone in Opatija that was the talk of the day. As the first motor cars made their way into the centre of Croatia's Riviera, they were greeted by welcoming banners across the main costal route through the city's centre.

As more Silver Ghosts arrived at the hotel stop, the street turned into a festival with crowds of people and Rolls-Royce cars bringing traffic to a halt with what resembled a festive fair. David Slinn, British Ambassador to Croatia and Deputy Mayor of Opatija, welcomed the participants before a police cavalcade escorted the cars to the neighbouring town, Moscenicka Draga, for a drinks reception. A thunder-storm and torrential downpour didn't deter the enthusiasm provided by locals who lined the roads out of the town en route to Cafe Hemmingway for a Croatian feast on the quay in Opatija. Background music was provided by traditional capella singers.


Monday 24 June 2013


A cool, rainy morning greeted the participants as they departed Villach, Austria, and headed south for the border with Slovenia. Wet tarmac and fog made the climb up the Wurzen Pass a tricky affair but the dedicated participants navigated the challenging route with skills undoubtedly reminiscent of the participants in the original Alpenfahrt 100 years ago.

In the true spirit of the event, several competitors briefly stopped to put on extra rain gear but kept their cars open to the elements as they wafted down into Italy before crossing back into Slovenia to tackle the Predil Pass.

The history of today's route hung heavy in the mists covering the mountains, as the cars passed Gorizia, detailed in Hemmingway's novel, A Fairwell to Arms.

As the clouds parted and the sun finally broke through, the teams descended into the Adriatic resort town of Portoroz where they were greeted by Andrew Page, British Ambassador to Slovenia.


Sunday 23 June 2013


The drivers set off from Moena Trentino, Italy to challenge themselves and their timeless machines on the route covering the second half of the 25 June 1913 route. Up ahead awaited tight hairpin turns and the highest pass of the original Alpenfahrt, the 2239m high Pordoi Pass.

As the first cars approached Pordoi Pass, they were greeted by a very large and unexpected bicycle tour which forced them to bypass the ascent and continue onto Falzarego Pass, the second highest climb on the original event rally, reaching 2117m altitude. The drivers and their passengers enjoyed the spectacular mountain views and experienced the hairpin tunnel near the summit of Falzarego.

The Dolomites behind them, the Trial stopped in Warmbad Villach for the evening where they were treated to a marching band, followed by a well deserved four course meal with traditional Austrian music.


Saturday 22 June 2013


After the spectacular gala and fireworks of the previous evening, it would have come as no surprise if the departure from Riva del Garda had been a much quieter and demure affair. But the draw of the magnificent Silver Ghosts and their intrepid custodians proved otherwise, as the locals and holiday makers cheered and waved them on their way.

A century of history was brought to life as the journey covered the first half of the route originally negotiated on day four of the 1913 Alpenfahrt on Wednesday 25 June 1913. The drivers and their cars endured scorching heat as they traversed the first part of the Great Dolomite Route over the highest passes on the tour leading back from Italy to Austria. The Gobbera and Broccone led to Rolle, the most beautiful pass rising over 6400 ft before dropping down to the small pretty town of Moena, located in the northern Italian region.

Tomorrow more adventure on the second half of the Great Dolomite Route is promised.


Friday 21 June 2013


The Centenary Alpine Trial's half-way stage was heralded with an evening that promises to live long in the memories of those that attended and will also be firmly cemented in Rolls-Royce's history. The event marked 100 years to the day that the original 1913 Alpenfahrt Rally would have been preparing to set off.

The largest gathering of Silver Ghosts in living memory was not enough – a gala evening followed by a spectacular firework display did so much to rejuvenate road-weary participants.

HRH the Duke of Gloucester, Honorary President of the 20-Ghost Club, joined the celebrations. The number of cars and participants swelled with the arrival of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club, who are currently touring through the Alps.

A celebratory atmosphere was reflected in the words of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars' CEO, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, who gave a nod to the company's founders and recognised the spirit of adventure and kindship on which the Trials are based. He said "I'm sure that somewhere in this room this evening the spirits of Sir Henry, Charles Rolls and Claude Johnson are watching us with profound approval and pride."

Tomorrow an early start will see the magnificent cars covering the first part of the Great Dolomite Route, over the highest passes on the tour leading back from Italy to Austria.


Thursday 20 June 2013


A peaceful dawn in Solda, northern Italy, was gently broken with the whisper-quiet sound of 47 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts ascending the Stelvio Pass. The notorious hairpins and switchbacks – coincidentally one for each Rolls-Royce car – were negotiated with consummate ease by a cavalcade of motor cars, many over a century old.

The 2013 Alpine Trial Centenary Collection Ghost led, closely followed by the 1913 Radley car. As the best cars in the world reached the summit, Trial participants were greeted by a rapturous reception by fellow motorists, motorcyclists and cyclists. The spectacular view from the top was made all the more beautiful by a truly extraordinary collection of motor cars.

A gentle run into the medieval city of Trento followed. On arrival, participants prepared for what promises to be a spectacular historical event. The convergence of the 20-Ghost Club and Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club on the shores of Lake Garda will see 100 Silver Ghosts assembled for the first time.