D1091, Briançon, France

This Great Road was initially published in issue 99 of Total 911.

In the time I’ve been doing Great Roads, there have only been a few with real distance involved. In the UK, only the 100-mile A87 to Uig on the Isle of Skye springs to mind. This month, we look at something just under half that: the D1091 near Briançon.

It’s no secret that France has the reputation of being something of a driving enthusiast’s playground. Perhaps the tales of CAR magazine racing supercars back to the UK started it – who knows for sure? One thing you instantly appreciate is the surface quality their roads exhibit. Of course, in recent times there have been crackdowns, but with care you can really find some great roads.

The section of the D1091 I suggest starts in Le Bourg-d O’isans, and connects to Briançon 42 miles away. This being south-east France, mountains, bends and snow all feature. It is on National Route 91, and in scenery carved by a glacier.

D1091 Briancon forest

LOCATION: Hautes-Alpes, France

LATITUDE: 45.0453 6.3032


Off-piste skiing
La Grave active glaciers
Tour De France route
Robert Scott memorial
Jardin Alpin du Lautaret

Le Champ de Pin


Refuge Evariste Chancel

The road snakes slowly up as you knock off each apex and press on to the next. Soon, if you catch the right conditions, the road carves through slabs of snow. As it peters out, the road descends into Briançon via the Col du Lautaret, itself at 2,058 metres.

So perfect is the route that it has formed part of the Tour de France for many a year – you’ll spot the spray-painted words of encouragement for riders. It is an evocative place indeed. Who needs a bike when you have a Porsche 911, though?

I first drove the route a year or so ago. The British army were training for an Antarctic Expedition in ‘The Spirit of Scott’. Robert Falcon Scott himself actually trained in the area – there’s a memorial just off the Col du Lautaret by the junction with the D902. I found Lt Col Paul Edwards there from the Spirit of Scott crew, paying his respects on behalf of the team.

Taking a cable car ride to the glacier above La Grave to 3,200m, the sinuous D1091 stands out as it carves a line across the valley below. It may be a Mecca for off-piste skiers and racing cyclists, but I think it’s time the 911 was added to that list too.

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