The International St. Moritz Automobile Week became a very popular event attracting not only Swiss hill climbers


33 Maserati A6 GCS_53 Fantuzzi (1956) – Rossetti

33 Maserati A6 GCS_53 Fantuzzi (1956) – Rossetti

 

St. Moritz, 10th - 19th of September, 2021

When people talk about racing Switzerland is certainly not the first place to look at. After the horrible 1955 Le Mans crash of Pierre Levegh with the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR that killed numerous spectators the country in the Alps was the one taking the most drastic measurements and banned circuit racing bringing the sport basically to a halt. The most important racing of that kind might have been the Bremgarten near Bern were the likes of Farina, Fangio, Ascari and Taruffi are listed as winners of the Swiss F1 GP in the early stage of the World Championship.

But because of its geographic location Switzerland is even more known for their hill climb on the numerous passes, the most famous probably the Klausenrennen as part of the pre-war hill climb championship but also the Bernina Pass Hill climb originally held in 1929/30. Just like the Klausenrennen this served as a good venue to organize a revival. But it is not so easy to get all the required permissions and so the Klausenrennen was held only every 5 years but the organizers of the Bernina Gran Turismo had an annual event in mind when they finally took the hill the first time in 2014. Over the next 7 year this became a very popular event attracting not only Swiss hill climbers but also competitors from further away like the early 1928 Aston Martin Team car making all his way down from Ireland to experience a proper hill rather than the smaller Shelsley Walsh on the island.

 

Over the following years the event again became the International St. Moritz Automobile week as the Bernina Gran Turismo is joined by the Kilomètre Lancé, a one-kilometre sprint at the local airport the weekend before as well as the Motorsport Rendezvous, the exhibition of fine automobiles at the Kempinski Hotel in St. Moritz that also serves as the base for the following GT.

Although we missed the airport event, we made it back to St. Moritz after the recent Passione Engadina for another weekend at the “Top of the World” as St. Moritz likes to present itself.

Unfortunately, the Thursday morning did not offer good weather and so the cars were lined up in front of the hotel in a rather dull mix of rain and clouds covering the surrounding mountains. Still the selection of cars was very nice with some of the participants of the hill climb joined by static displayed cars. To mention is a couple of Alfa Romeo by Zagato led by one of the ultra-rare TZ2, often referred as the “Baby-GTO” as well as the Sprint Zagato Coda Tronca. Also very interesting was a duo of Jaguar, the famous XK120 Jabbeke record car as driven by the late Norman Dewis and a D-Type. Early arrivals for the hill climb were the 2017 WTCC winning Volvo S60 of Thed Björk who drove the Cyan Volvo P1800 “restomod” with turbo charger in a rather wild drifting style up the hill the following days. On the other end there were a few “survivors” of the kilometer sprint like the yellow Abarth Fiat 500 Record Racer or the Morgan Plus 8 GTR.

On Thursday evening four of the cars including the Ford Mustang from the McQueen movie “Thomas Crown Affair” were brought up the steep road to the alpine hut “El Paradiso” overlooking the mountains and the valley with the St. Moritz Lake. With the dramatic change of the clouds in these heights this made some good photo opportunities for the entrants arriving by shuttle to have their welcome dinner in a very familiar atmosphere.

 

Friday morning saw the check-in of the hill climbers at the hotel and so some of the cars from the display of the previous day were joined by the arriving cars. Fortunately, the weather changed completely overnight and the day could be enjoyed in rather sunny weather. The field was very mixed ranging from the already mentioned Aston Martin with starting number 1, a duo of the very fast Morgan 3-wheeler, a Talbot-Lago single seater as well as an Alfa Romeo 8C Monza and Bugatti T51 on the pre-war side to the rather wild Lancia Stratos, Porsche RSR and even an Alfa Romeo 155 DTM racer of the post-war era. In addition, a selection of classics like the touring cars of BMW 2002 or Alfa Romeo GTA, light sports racers like the Porsche 550 Spyder of Maserati A6 GCS/53, Cobras and even a duo of Ford Galaxy could be seen on the hill. Fortunately, the climb up the hill is not too long as the Galaxy might have run out of petrol else.

After the lunch in the hotel the cars made their way up to the Bernina Pass where they stayed for the following days in a guarded garage, very convenient especially for those cars lacking a road registration.

After the cars were safely stored the evening saw the premiere of RM Sotheby´s in Switzerland with their first St. Moritz auction. Naturally a lot of cars were from Swiss origin for tax reasons and the team of the Canadian Auction House made a good debut with a total of 75% of the cars sold and a total of more than 16 million Swiss Francs.

 

Saturday was the first race day with 2 practice sessions before the lunch and two timed races in the afternoon. After their descent towards Poschiavo the cars were lined up for the start at La Rösa at the Easter side of the pass. From here the road leads up about 5.7 kilometers with well over 50 corners making this a rather demanding race. Fortunately, today the road is in a perfect condition and the hillsides are well prepared with guard rails compared to the adventurous conditions these roads had in the original period 90 years ago. In different age groups the cars were either racing for the fastest time or in regularity going after the given index time.

Especially the first cars in the competition class were in full attack and the duel between Florian Feustel and Daniele Perfetti on their Porsche 3.0 RSR were very entertaining. At the end it was Perfetti who bested Feustel with only 15/100 of a second on the Saturday run winning overall. On the other end of the competition the already mentioned Aston was the oldest car and needed 2 minutes more up the hill.

Unfortunately, the weather changed again over night and after a nice sunrise the clouds were coming in. According to the weather forecast there was even snow expected at the top at 2330 meter but it was rain at the end with sharp wind making it freezing cold and wet. Several cars did not make the Sunday runs as there was no chance to better the times from the previous day anyway and at the last cars the wind became so gusty that even the blown-up arch at the finish line had to be taken down as it bent down towards the road in the gusts. It was around 11 am when the final cars took the finish line to conclude the Automobile Week and after loading the cars, the award ceremony and a farewell lunch the cars disappeared again into all directions.

 

In the last 1.5 years the ongoing pandemic changed a lot of plans for organizers, events had to be cancelled or postponed and the ever-changing calendar did also make up new opportunities. Last weekend there was the Goodwood Revival, normally a fixed date in every enthusiast’s schedule but with the changing restrictions in travelling an unforeseeable regulation we were unable to plan the trip to the UK well in advance. So, the Automobile Week in St. Moritz was a very welcome alternative and a first for us. It would be unfair to call this a substitute as it is a great event in itself and we hope that the future dates will not collide again and we will be able to get back. For the region of St. Moritz this is a very welcome event to prolong the summer season for a week before the posh village will burst again in the winter season.

 

Report & images ... Peter Singhof
www.ClassicCarPhotography.de