Turns out we camped at the gates of heaven.
Look down. Look down, and out, and across what must be the most perfect stretch of public road anywhere on the planet. Again, two lanes up, one down. Twenty-five kilometres of flawless ribbon, that winds from long, well-sighted straights through a gorge at the bottom, dives through the technical sweeps of the mid section to wide 180° hairpins nearer the top. And it is, bar the occasional slow-moving lorry or tourist hire car, deserted. Stelvio Pass? This makes it look like a goat track. The Grossglockner looks like rush hour commuting in comparison. The Palms to Pines mad outside LA? The Nürburgring? Sorry, but no. This isn’t a road. It’s a pilgrimage.
And it’s here that I should regret the 570GT. Wish for something more, something reliably singular. But I don’t. Why? Because this road isn’t a laptime kind of road. It’s an experience. The rest of the Hajar Mountains scrape at the sky, the colours bleeding from grey to brown to red as the sun rises. The road pulses like a heartbeat. And if you go too fast, you might miss it, that rhythm, or that view. Which is not to say that we didn’t go quite fast, but that the GT allows you more room for other things, not just the consumption of corners. Even full to the brim with random luggage, it feels light, and responsive and connected. It makes all the right noises, both from the exhaust and the tyres lightly hooting at the abusive gravity of a hairpin. But it’s not feral or fiercely dominant like most other supercars. It moves under braking, squirrels around, understeers a bit. Don’t get me wrong – you’d have to actually be in one of its upper-echelon contemporaries to stand a chance against it, but as far as something that looks like this, there’s more road trip than pitlane in the character. We spent all day on the Jebel al Jais. I’m not sure I blinked once.
It was hard to leave such an almost religious experience, but there’s one more place we need to visit before we ‘re done: the Al Khasab road on the Musandam Peninsula. So we reluctantly pack up, and head north again. Now, the Khasab road is a coastal road that runs around the top of the headland at the very northern end of the UAE, but it actually sits within an enclave ofOman. An enclave that borders the Strait of Hormuz between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf, and looks directly at Iran some 30 miles away. The border crossing involves many hours of patient for m-filling and papery passage-making, but eventually we make it out the other side, and into another wonder.
The strait glitters on one side as the mountains collapse into the sea in geological slow motion. The road scythes across the lower edge of the country, looping around turquoise bays and a gorgeous mosque, and the Al Khasab road proves to be yet another gem in the crown of the Middle East. But (and it’s a big but) the road is busy. Heavy with tourists and locals alike, throbbing with commerce. The GT feels hemmed, constricted, castrated. We marvel at the view, and rue the population. So it’s only a day before we’re heading back out, and south. Tantalisingly towards the new icon in my personal liturgy that is Jebel al Jais. By the end we’ll have covered well over 2,000km, gone fast, and slow, spectacular and spectacularly dull. Driven through towns and cities, through night and day, and never regretted the choice of the 570GT as a companion. And when we eventually arrive back in Abu Dhabi, I decide that the McLaren 570GT really is the world’s most practical supercar. And that we might just have found the world’s greatest road to prove it.