Natural High – Bernina Gran Turismo hillclimb

The 4th Bernina Gran Turismo offered an exciting finale to the summer classic car season in Europe. For the next event, from 20th to 22nd September 2019, the organizers would love to see some South African classic car enthusiasts at the starting line of this legendary hill climb. GQ ed Dieter Losskarn enjoyed last year’s race action.

It’s just you and 5.7 kilometres of almost race track quality tarmac, between La Rösa and Hospizio Bernina. 448 vertical meters, from 1871 to 2330 meters. Only you and your classic car on the mountain. Well you and the stopwatch, more than 50 exhilarating curves and wild nature only the Alps can provide. And while Swiss police is regarded as the most serious and unforgivable in Europe towards fast & loud vehicles, for those two days on Bernina mountain pass it is all different. The uniforms are only there to make sure the race is safe for participants and spectators. The course is so safe that even former and now historic Formula 1 cars are taking part in it.
There are six runs on the closed (normally public) road on Saturday and Sunday, two of which are test runs. A total of four are timed competition runs. If you don’t want to race you can take part in the regularity event, where all your driven times should be as close together as possible.
The reinvented Bernina Gran Turismo classic car ‘hill’ climb is inspired by another motoring highlight, the Bernina Grand Prix, which was first held in 1929 and 1930. And with the hill climb those good old days are coming back as the newly established “St. Moritz Automobile Week”. Indicators of which were already visible during the 2018’s Bernina Gran Turismo. The Autofilmtage St. Moritz were very well received and attracted spectators to come to the theatre of the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, where car film classics such as Le Mans and Rush were screened.

The scrutineering on Friday already attracted a lot of spectators. The race itself took place on Saturday and Sunday and offered the chance to watch some spectacular cars, such as the pristine Porsche 912 and the 1931 Martin Special Ford, America’s most beautiful roadster. Both from California. And latter not only had the look, but the performance as well. It raced on the salt flats of Bonneville just as well as on the twisty Bernina mountain pass. Other participating racing cars ranged from pre-war Bugattis and Rileys to Ford Falcon, Shelby Mustang and a couple of wild Italian Lancia Stratos rockets.

The perfectly prepared race track saw a best time of 3:28:65 minutes, driven by Danielle Perfetti in a 1975 Lancia Stratos. Second place was for Michael Stoschek in a 1973 Porsche 911 RS 3.0 with a time of 3:40:44, third went to Reto Gansser in a 1970 Porsche 911 ST with 3:45:61.
Bernina will never become an overcrowded event, it’s secret is the family-like atmosphere. A maximum of 80 starters with the focus on great, unusual cars and interesting drivers. So spectators will be able to admire familiar cars that take part in the most prestigious motoring events in the world, from the Mille Miglia to Pikes Peak.
A total of about 70 vehicles from many different countries took part in the hill climb in 2018. And for 2019 the organizers would love to welcome some South African classic car enthusiasts to this perfectly (like Swiss clockwork), organized motoring event, which is regarded as one of the best in the world.
An idea would be to ship your classic car from SA to Europe during the rainy season and take part in a couple of vintage car events. Or you buy a historic car there and have an appropriate first run in it.
Personally I think Bernina Gran Turismo is not only about the fantastic racing, it is a combination of wild nature, breathtaking mountain landscapes and the wonderful food, especially those to-die-for cakes. This year in September I don’t want to be a mere spectator, I want to be alone with those 5.7 kilometres of mountain road for about 3 ½ exhilarating minutes.

More infos:

Watch last year’s event here and get hooked:









21 July 2019

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