Bernina Gran Turismo 2020

HILL CLIMB TO THE PEAK
The hill climb race over the Bernina pass also known as “The Ultimate Historic Race” is, without any doubt, one of the most thrilling motoring events of the year. We were looking forward to it with the concern that, as for many events in this strange 2020, it would be cancelled because of the current circumstances caused by Covid-19. The organizers were able to coordinate with authorities and manage a “limited amount of visitors” event, thus kicking off the sixth iteration of the classic car hill climb racing.
Staged in the Swiss Alp region of Engadine, the two days of motoring coordinated by Claus Mueller and the staff of Bernina Gran Turismo, are the revival of the International St. Moritz Automobile Week, held so far for the first time in 1929. At that time, the main event of the seven days spent among gasoline smells and metallic sound, was the legendary Bernina Mountain race, a rally of 16.5 km (from Poschiavo to the highest point of Bernina Pass – Bernina Hospiz, 2309 meters altitude) on dirt roads that connects the Engadine valley to Val Poschiavo trough one of the greatest driving roads of all time.
The idea to revive the long-standing Swiss Automotive tradition with the hill climb to the peak well above the resort town of St. Moritz, originates in 2014 from a group of cars enthusiasts that would celebrate the motoring event held in the ’20s and ’30s in the Swiss Pass area. As for the well-organized and passion-based venture, the Bernina Gran Turismo created interest among the world of Automotive aficionados, growing each year and having well-known characters and stunning rare cars participating the race throughout the mountain’s road.
Since the first edition of the Bernina Gran Turismo race revival held in 2015, the race starting point was moved to La Rosa (location 10km from Poschiavo) to get to the historical finish line at Bernina Hospiz: 5.7 Km of pure driving pleasure on the Alpine public road (closed) and 452 meters of altitude difference to cover in more than 50 curves! Eligible are Classic sports and racing cars built up to the ‘80s, inspected and shown on Friday at Kempinski Hotel des Bains in St. Moritz. This year marked the sixth iteration of the event and, as for the past editions, it has the most varied field of participants worldwide – about 80 entrants from different countries took part. Several rare cars joined the race with their owners/collectors, excited about the opportunity to bring out their classic cars that might not usually drive in these conditions.
Four races between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning, with two free practice sessions – designed to give confidence to drivers on the Alpine pass roads – is the race weekend program devised and achieved this year thanks to the weather, which was great for the two days racing. The achievement for each participant and car in this highly selective and tough competition is to conquer the top of the mountain at 2309 meters altitude. In addition to this already satisfying result, there are awards for the winners of different classes in completion and regularity section, split into different categories according to the type and years of production.
Just to mention few of the vehicles registered for the race, were present a 1929 Bentley 4.5 L, the 550 Porsche Spyder owned by Fritz Kaiser, two Alfa Romeo Giulia TZ2 and the ex Michèle Mouton Group B Audi Quattro, with which she set a new record at the 1981 Rally of Sanremo, becoming the first woman to have won a race of the Rally World Championship. As a special guest from Motorsport, Arturo Merzario joined the event driving the 2000 Abarth which led him to the European Hill Climb Championship title in 1969. On Sunday morning arrives also Ronnie Kessel, straight from 24h Le Mans – his own Team was forced to retire the Ferrari 488 (competing in the LMGTE class) due to a crash with a prototype in the night. Attended the Sunday at the Peak of Bernina also Andrea Zagato and his wife Marella Rivolta, whom saw some of the creatures created in their Milan based atelier running up the Bernina Pass.
In parallel to the race and in partnership with Bernina Gran Turismo, The Classic Car Trust launched their first e-Classic racing event at the Kempinski Hotel of St. Moriz, in which the entrants of the hill climb competed in a funny virtual race, driving a simulator designed by Pininfarina and Zagato. During the award ceremony of the race (held in front of Bernina Hospiz instead of Poschiavo central plaza as usual) were awarded also the winners of the eClassic Racing Competition. This year marked the track record-breaking lap time of just 2:58.62, achieved by Amweg Thomas on a Martini MK 50-03 Formula 2 – it’s crazy to think there’s someone mad enough to jump into a Formula car and speed up to full gas on a Pass road! These, together with the screams of both a 1960 Ferrari 250 SWB and a BMW M1 surrounded by the Alps view it’s possible only at the Bernina Gran Turismo.
The serpentine tarmac, the beautiful colours of the end-of-summer together with the chorus of roaring engines echo in the mountains, made this race an unmissable event. We attended the Bernina hill climb for the first time this year and needless to say, we’ll be back next.

ENGINE/ROUTE

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