The full Gallery is at the bottom.
Located in the Swiss Alps close to St. Moritz in the Valposchiavo is the legendary pass “Passo del Bernina” stretching across 25km of glaciers and vineyards in the Engadine. The Bernina Gran Turismo is a historic car
event taking place here, and a marvellous one at that.
Back in 1929 and 1930, the Bernina Grand Prix was the main event during the “Automobilwoche St. Moritz” – the St. Moritz’ automobile week. Events like these were started to compensate for the loss of time between 1900-1925, when any kind of automotive activity was forbidden in the Swiss Alps. The “Bernina Gran Turismo” makes it possible to relive the revolutionary time from yesteryear and to celebrate the enthusiasm of the automotive community.
Taking place for the third time, this event seems to be just the perfect size in terms of spectators and cars. At approximately 80 participating cars, the atmosphere is quite intimate. The quality of the cars is outstanding, the friendly familiarity of the group and the calming landscape are bound to bring about pure relaxation for everyone there – all while enjoying some petrol talk and meeting new enthusiasts.
Out of the total of six runs, two are test runs, but all the runs happen on closed roads and are spread out over the weekend from Saturday to Sunday. Arriving there, calling the event a “hill climb” started to seem like an understatement to me: the participants conquer 50 turns, covering a vertical stretch of 459 meters in total, before the arrive at the top level at 2330 meters. Needless to say, all while leaving everyone with an incredible view across the Swiss alps and down the pass winding down the mountain which has just been traveled.
The event kicks off with a party at the Dracula Club, a mysterious location founded by Gunter Sachs in 1974, and the party sets the bar high for the days to come. The official part of the Bernina Gran Turismo then starts Friday morning with administrative admittance and vehicle scrutineering at the Kempinski Hotel in St. Moritz, followed by free trial runs up and down the alps. The day then finishes up with a drivers meeting and a marvellous welcome dinner for everybody. The night shift is called in early with everybody eager to be ready the next morning.
Waking up around 6am Saturday morning, the participants are greeted by a beautiful alps scenery as they assemble the top of the Passo del Bernina to await the first practice. While cow bells and the sound of the nearby river seem almost too cliché, the morning glow of the alps certainly doesn’t, as it turns the mountains into red peaks and the cars, engines roaring as they adjust to the altitude, into a movie set one seems to have stumbled into, a magical scenario of marvellous classic cars that perfectly transports the spirit of the event.
Sunday awaits with another two runs early in the morning. The enthusiastic group is greeted by a powdery white landscape: snow has fallen during the night, turning the mountains into even more of a playground for the avid motorists. The excitement, despite the literally freezing cold temperatures, shows in the faces of the group. When the run finally begins, the scenery is once again absolutely stunning.
After the last cars and motorbikes finish their final run, everyone heads towards Poschiavo, a picturesque little Italian speaking town on the other side of the pass. There, the award ceremony is held, right in the town centre. The spectators, locals and Bernina GT crowd alike, are left with a big smile on their faces as the trophies are handed out to the Gran Turismo competitors.
The Bernina Gran Turismo is a true marvel and a must-attend for classic car owners looking for opportunities to drive their vehicles and automotive history fans alike. Ted Gushue, Editorial Director of Petrolicious, brilliantly summed up the impressions of his own Bernina GT attendance in a single sentence: “Imagine if Goodwood Festival of Speed and the Mille Miglia had a baby, that is Bernina Gran Turismo.” I couldn’t have said it better myself! ;)
For me, the Bernina GT was a wonderful experience which I hope you will also eventually have the opportunity to attend. Until then, I have tried to capture some impressions from the event – you can find them in the gallery below. I would be delighted to hear your thoughts! Let me know especially if you have plans to attend Bernina (or similar events) and what your motivation is.