Article by Anthony Alaniz. Full article and images by Road and Track.
There are some roads that are legends in the motoring community—a bucket list for petrol heads, tuners and anyone with even a whiff of automotive fanaticism in their thick, black and oily blood.
There is the Pacific Coast Highway out west that snakes its way down the coast of California; it has been the staple of countless movies and numerous automotive love affairs (read: Monterey Car Week is practically based on this cruise).
Down south there is the far more legendary and, oftentimes over-zealously praised, Tail of the Dragon, a section of U.S. Route 129 that sits on the Tennessee-North Carolina state line. People feel that the road is over advertised, and doesn’t have much to offer over any other road in the area.
Road & Track Editor and Chief Larry Webster went down to the Tail of the Dragon to experience some of the other roads around it hearing that the road is congested with cops waiting to pick off unsuspecting drivers and ticket them. Their story is quite amazing, something not often expected from R&T, so check out the full details.
Thanks to Webster’s Chevrolet Corvette test car, he met a man named Matt Chambers who pressed Webster to give him a tour of the infamous section of road. "Of course, I wanted a LaFerrari, the $1.4 million, 950-hp supercar that's just now seeing customer hands. That car, however, is not on Ferrari's media-loan list, so I got the next best thing: a 458 Speciale.", explains Webster.
Armed with the "next best thing", Webster was up at 6:30 a.m. on the western side of U.S. 129 where there were no connecting roads and, because of the time, empty of traffic.
After the nine-mile bout was over, the two stopping at a gas station, Webster asked about the unofficial record time on the Dragon, measured between the overlook and state line. Chambers said it was around 10 minutes.
That would mean an average speed of 54 mph would be needed on the road; Webster realizing his speedometer never read more than 40 mph.
Like any local draw, there are experts, and sometimes these experts are legends, people shrouded and mystery men who carry the everlasting torch. While some things may gain a notoriety, a following and become flooded with wannabes and gawkers, the most touristy spot will also have a few hidden, remaining secrets—and that’s what Webster found, those few secrets in the hands of a few, highly-skilled men.
The Tail of the Dragon may get a bad rap, but R&T’s features makes us want to go explore it even more. Now, where did we leave our fanny pack…?
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