This is how you can bring petrolheads closer to nature. “The mountain is calling!” said the brochure for this year’s Grossglockner Grand Prix, and I didn’t hesitate to answer the call. I was there to celebrate the hillclimb’s 80th birthday last year, and it became one of my favourite events of the season.
Compared to previous events, the organizers changed the format of the revival. Following their opening pitch, this year they focused more on the mountain, both its living creatures and people. Meaning: the teams enjoyed a mixture of the historical hillclimbs and quality time on the Grossglockner.
Between the hillclimb runs to the highest point of the pass, different organized tours lead the drivers and co-drivers to discover the local nature or, for example, to watch the sunrise at 6 am and at 8,858 ft. (2,700 meters). The lucky ones could meet marmots, the charming mammals of the high alpine region, which nearly became extinct in the Alps 150 years ago.
Fewer participants took part due to the “closer to the nature” theme of the event, but even so, 21 classic cars gathered at the start in Fusch. To be honest, you could put nearly anything in this scenery and you’d be happy to be there. On this sunny September weekend, the classic cars were the cherries in the perfect cocktail, the final touch on a finished painting.
When it kicked off, the Pre-War monsters stole the show again, my favourite was the 1928 Marmon T68 with inline eight-cylinder engine with 3.3 liters of displacement and 78 horsepower—and a sound I could listen to for eternity.
There were goodies in the class of cars built between 1955 and 1965 as well, like the Lotus Eleven. The Elevens were produced only for two years until 1958, and despite the short period and low production numbers they became the most successful type from the legendary Colin Chapman’s stable. The fully loaded car weighed only 992 lbs (450 kilos), so just a 1.1-liter Coventry Climax engine was enough to make it a contender in endurance races like Le Mans and Sebring.
This year, I also took the opportunity to explore this part of the Hohen Tauern Nationalpark, where we drove up and down the road, got a nice, traditional Austrian lunch in a lodge, and enjoyed—maybe—one of the last summery weekends of 2016.
The Hochalpenstraße or the High Alpine Road is worth a visit itself: every kilometre, and every single one of the 36 turns is magic. But driving the pass isn’t easy, as you’ll fight the contending duality in yourself.
On one hand, you’ll want to nail the throttle to the floor and enjoy a spirited and delirious drive up to the Fuscherl Törl, with Austria’s highest viewpoint. On the other, look out the window and you’ll want to stop to enjoy the scenery and the cool breeze of the Alps. A daily ticket for a car costs 35 EUR (~$40 Usd.) and be sure, it’s well worth the price. My advice is to check the conditions on the road before planning a trip, is up-to-date and brings you the latest info.
Between September 21–23 2017, the Grossglockner Grand Prix Revival will be back in its original form, with mainly Pre-War cars…and according to the organizing team, it’s filling up already. Will you answer the mountain’s call?