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Gaisbergrennen 2019 ... 90 years after the first and 50 years after the last real race up the hill


 

Salzburg, 30th of May - 1st of June, 2019 

In the classic car calendar the May usually is packed with numerous events ranging from international rallies and concours to more local events. With the late edition of this year’s Tour Auto there was literally an event every weekend and sometimes one had to choose. After chasing cars through France and Italy and watching the line-up of masterpieces at the Lago di Como the month ended in Austria with the Gaisbergrennen. Although not having the same international reputation as the Mille Miglia or the Villa d´Este Concours the race up the hill at Salzburg can look back at a long tradition.

It is 90 years ago that the street going to the hill top was opened to replace the cog railway and as it was usual in those days the new street was opened with a hill climb. Reason enough for the Rally Club Salzburg to bring the historic cars back to the Gaisberg and with the 17th edition the historic car event has a tradition on its own. 90 years after the first and 50 years after the last real race up the hill today’s event is a regularity trial with the opening city GP on the holiday of Ascension Day on the closed road in Salzburg, no less than 3 runs up the hill, a tour in the hinterland and a few laps on the nearby Salzburgring.

Unlike the big international events the Gaisbergrennen has a more familiar character and most of the participants are returning every year, certainly due to a good organization and a relaxed atmosphere, the competition is strong but leaves enough room for enjoyment rather than eager ambition although the front runners are usually within tenths of a second.

Unfortunately the positive part of the events is also its only flaw, the fact that most of the cars are well known being seen every years on the hill. Fortunately there are always a few highlights every year making worth the trip alone, many of them due to the relationship of the Porsche/Piech family to Salzburg.

So some of the oldest cars on the streets of Salzburg are from the Piech Collection Fahr(t)raum with several Austro Daimler as designed by Ferdinand Porsche who was also responsible for the design of the first Gaisberg winner, the Mercedes-Benz 710 SS with the supercharged straight-six. This very car was present this year remembering the debut victory 9 decades ago.

Later Porsche certainly became one of the most famous car brands with numerous race victories all around the world and some of them are linked to Salzburg, the maiden victory in Le Mans with the 917K in Porsche Salzburg colors or the record run of the 909 at the Gaisberg.

In the 1960s the Gaisbergrennen was part of the popular European Hillclimb Championship and Ferdinand Piech as head of the development department brought Porsche to the top of the game, developing a car for every possible occasion. The 917K with the numerous victories at the Sportscar Championship alongside the small 908/3 for the narrow tracks comes to mind but the most uncompromising purpose built car might be the 909 Bergspyder. Following the 910 hillclimb car that was present in static form in Salzburg as well the 909 was only driving two events, the Mont Ventoux and the Gaisberg where it set the record in 1968.

The 909 was all lightweight and the story goes that Piech went into the development department with a magnet to find all the steel parts that he asked to replace with lighter material. One of the most radical ideas might have been the pressure tank for the fuel instead of a fuel pump delivering enough fuel pressure for the short hill climbs rather than wasting weight on the pump itself.

This years the 909 had one of its very rare outings and the 2 litre engine effortless brought the 430 kilogram racer up the hill although the run was far from flat out as it was in 1968. With a regularity time of 10 minutes compared to the track record of less than 3:45 minutes the speed was much reduced but still one could get an impression what the car was capable of despite a very short development time. Even more impressive was the comparison of the purpose built racer and the huge Mercedes-Benz 710 SS that went up the hill 40 years earlier. One can only imagine what it meant to bring up the long wheel base car in the hands of von Brauchitsch and von Arco-Zinneberg. 

Saturday afternoon the last run up the hill brought the showdown in the regularity competition. At the end it was Hermann and Barbara Wallner on Porsche 356 winning over the Lancia Aprilia of Georg Geyer and Paul Hecht with less than 5 tenths difference. The Lancia made a lasting impression at the Salzburgring when a loose contact made the horn working in every turn almost like the engaged supercharger of the 710 SS. 

Just as at the Villa d´Este the week before the organizers were lucky with the weather in comparison with the forecast as the intended rain never showed up and sometimes even the sun showed up in between the clouds making a dramatic background with the snow covered mountains.

Next year will be the 18th edition of the hill climb and with the good relations to Porsche one might bring the shirt of the Le Mans victory of the 919 that said “finally 18”.

 

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