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Along walls of snow in the Audi S1 ​​Sportback: alone between the mountains

Hans-Dieter Seufert
Along walls of snow in the Audi S1 ​​Sportback
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U nten in the San-Bernardino- The tunnel is massive. Always. At the top there is the aisle. Sometimes. Only when meter deep snow has fallen in winter and the pass has to be cut clear. Just like last May, when we were swept through the walls of snow in an Audi S1 ​​Sportback shortly before the season opened. At the top. All alone.

Thank you, Bernardino-Tunnel

We drive the Audi S1 ​​Sportback between walls of snow. A wall on the left and also on the right. In terms of their structure, they are often reminiscent of negligently wired and then painted white concrete. And we owe their existence not only to the harsh winter with massive amounts of precipitation, but, strictly speaking, to the Bernardino tunnel. Since it replaced the pass road as the main connection between the valleys, clearing is not as long in winter as it used to be, and only then there is a chance of snow walls - because the white splendor initially piles up over weeks, condenses and under its own weight icy in frosty temperatures.

In spring, heavy clearing equipment has to clear the way. To the left and right of the street, more or less smooth, white borders are created. Some look seductively soft, but the impression is deceptive: They are frozen and therefore hard as a board. Fortunately, you don't want to be buried by falling walls of snow while thundering along.

Fascination of Alpine passes

But it is necessary some respect for getting in touch with the gang. If you just walk along walls up to four meters high, the scenery looks pretty barricaded. Then the Audi S1 ​​Sportback feels even smaller than it is anyway. The closer we get to the wall, the higher the perceived speed - the boundary seems to wipe faster and faster in the corner of the eye. Motorcyclists know the phenomenon.

Driving over a pass has always had a special appeal. After all, it is usually quite isolated, winding its way lonely through the mountains far from civilization worth mentioning. Alpine passes usually run over the mountain saddle, so they follow the lowest possible way to get through between two mountains. This determines its course and ensures the spectacular turns that so fundamentally differ from streets in theDifferentiating flatlands.

But only a blocked pass enables hermit driving: completely alone, on the road with just yourself and the Audi S1 ​​Sportback. The fascination of a pass can never be more clearly explained than on those few days when it is still closed but already cleared and the road has been cleared of debris and dirt. Without annoying oncoming traffic, it lies like a deserted racetrack and can be developed on the ideal line.

Audi S1 ​​Sportback with 231 hp and 4x4

The glistening snow reduces the contrast of the landscape to one Minimum, and a white area remains. A dark strip of asphalt meanders through it, a yellow-black Audi S1 ​​Sportback zooms in on it from curve to curve, voicing a recurring sequence of throttle bumps, gear throats and brake scraping. From a bird's eye view, the little four-wheel drive must look like a slot car on a toy racetrack decorated with cotton wool.

On the straights, we repeatedly risk a furtive glance to the side - a cinematic panorama passes by. We stop briefly, get out, step forward to the abyss at a gap in snow. You just have to appreciate this view, this intermediate level: Above the vividly illuminated peaks, below us the blurred valley that is only vaguely visible through the fog.

Every now and then the sun flashes out, but its power is not enough to drive away the inhospitable cold. So back into the cozy, warm car. It's good that the Audi S1 ​​Sportback distributes its 231 hp across all four wheels and, despite the frosty asphalt temperatures, hardly produces any slip when accelerating out of corners. Only when turning the Audi is surprisingly stubborn and wants to push over the front axle. Didn't Röhrl with the Quattro also have this problem at the time?

Audi S1 ​​Sportback with 1.4 tons a small heavyweight

And how did it solve it? Through targeted load changes. So we turn in quickly and suddenly take off the gas, and the Audi S1 ​​Sportback yaws with a controlled slip angle. Suddenly the small car no longer feels stubborn. Thanks to the short wheelbase, it turns spontaneously into alternating bends - the whole thing is reminiscent of wagging trick skis.

A racing roll just under four meters in length is ideally suited to meandering through this oversized bobsled run without bothering you. Especially since we are allowed to race over the blocked Bernardino on the ideal line today, because there is no oncoming traffic. We stab up, plunge down, again and again. Until the Audi S1 ​​Sportback becomes human: It seems completely out of breath, smells a bit strong, must probably sweat a lot.

Above all, the brake system has to pay for the serpentines - it is practically under constant stress. The Audi S1 ​​Sportback looks cute, but is heavy, at 1.4 tons including the driver, downright overweight. Okay, let'sit'll be good for today. A sip from the water bottle, a last look over the panorama, journey home.

See you next time. Dear mountains, we'll be back, no question about it.

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