The initiative, that started when a group of local friends decided to revive an event that took place in 1929 and 1930 in Switzerland’s Engadin Valley, initially with a hillclimb on the Bernina Pass, has grown into an international celebration of the motor car comprising a week of rallies, tours, concours, discussion forums, and culminating in the Bernina Gran Turismo hillclimb.
Opening the week on 8 September with the Kilomètre Lancé on the Samedan airport runway, coordinated by Solitude GmbH, organisers of the well-known eponymous event, a large array of 65 cars, from the Edwardian era all the way up to the Aston Martin Valkyrie that took the fastest time of the day with a stunning zero to 1,000 metres in 19.5 seconds were in the running. To the great surprise of spectators and participants alike, an electrified Porsche 911 from 1983 was only beaten by one second. Last year it was a BMW motorcycle, but this year the hypercar was visibly unimpressed by the thin air at altitude and set a new track record.
Cars ranged from the 5 horsepower Benz Velo from 1894, to Marcus Hoefken’s DKW 250 “Ladepumpe” motorbike built in 1938, a Ferrari 512, and a Lola T70. The regularity formula meant that anyone could win. With two timed runs each, the winner was the one who could come closest to the same time for each run. Christian Rühle won the post-war class with his De Tomaso Pantera, and in the pre-war division Swede Glen Billquist mastered the discipline best with his 75-year-old Gleenster S-12 Monoposto.
When Mercedes-Benz rolled the Sauber C 9 onto the runway, the tension rose. Bernd Mayländer, the pace car driver of all Formula 1 races worldwide, had travelled to St. Moritz to put the spurs to the 1989 Le Mans-winning car. But even for the pro, it was difficult to get the 700-plus horsepower onto the road
But the crowd favourites had nothing to do with performance. It was the 15 Porsche diesel tractors, some of which had come to the Engadin from South Tyrol and Germany on their own axles, that took a Le Mans start. After one minute and five seconds, the fastest tractor driver in Europe could be determined.
Some of the other events during the week were less lucky with the weather, always a hazard in the mountains at any time of year, but the concours on the lawns of the elegant Kempinski Hotel, the tours for brass-era cars and another for modern supercars, and finally the Bernina hillclimb itself completed the week of festivities.
The hillclimb, which was run in mostly dry conditions, includes a competition category and a regularity category, but it has become a tradition for many racers to enter the regularity section and still enjoy their runs on the closed road.
In the regularity category, Dr. Marcus Hoefken, driving a BMW M1 won ahead of Arjun Oberoi, who had come all the way from India and drove his Renault 5 Turbo 1 from London to St. Moritz on the road, which also earned him the special “Spirit of the Bernina” prize. Third place went to Sebastian Schömann with his 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7.
Christoph Rendlin took the Competition Category in his sensational 1970 Porsche 908/03, a real site on the hill, ahead of Thomas Kern’s Shelby Cobra 427 and Johan Bonnier in a Group N Nissan Skyline GT-R.
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