For several weeks now, conversations in the automotive scene have all ended with one question: ‘will we see each other in Zell am See?’. And more often than not, the answer was ‘yes, of course’. Early last week, Instagram and Facebook were flooded with photos of countless racing cars prepared to tackle the ice and loaded onto transporters. For a moment, it felt like even Donald Trump and the coronavirus had nothing on the GP Ice Race.
In fact, with the second edition, the GP Ice Race’s organisers Ferdi Porsche and Vincenz Greger have achieved the feat of securing their position in the league of absolute ‘must-attend’ events. Of course, the family ties and quick official channels of Porsche and Volkswagen facilitated the organisation, but the youthful après-ski spirit of the inaugural event last year was thankfully retained for 2020.
Before the first starting flag was dropped on the wonderfully prepared ice field of Zell am See on Saturday, the weekend was ushered in by a squad of Californian Porsche trendsetters. Headed by Jeff Zwart and Patrick Long, the group held an ‘ice-cold’ edition of their incredibly popular Luftgekhült festival on Friday night, showcasing five exceptional air-cooled Porsches that set the standard very high for the days to follow.
In addition to Dr. Wolfgang Porsche’s personal Porsche 356 and the beautiful ‘Wiesbaden Commission’ from Singer Vehicle Design, there was a Porsche 718 RSK Works racer which won at Daytona in 1958, a Porsche 911 ST successfully piloted by Gérard Larrousse at the Tour de France Automobile in 1970, and the monstrous Porsche 953, a Group B concept study from 1983 that laid the foundation stone for the Porsche 959.
Thanks to Instagram and the like, events such as the GP Ice Race are always small media spectacles with their very own hyped stars. Perhaps inevitably, the most photographed, shared and ‘liked’ cars of the weekend included the two modern Porsche 935s, the Rothmans-sponsored Porsche 991 Carrera 4 GTR christened ‘Vanina’ by its fans and a piste-bashing Bentley Continental GT off-roader.
Proof that experimental motorcars can still be exciting in our times came in the form of the wild Singer Vehicle Design test mule for its Dynamics and Lightweighting Study. The super 911 was expertly drifted through the ice, snow and mud by British Porsche guru Richard Tuthill. James Turner of Sports Purpose brought along his wonderful Porsche 911 designed by Paul Smith, which was built by Tuthill and is still seared in our memories after our trip to the pub with the car in the summer of 2018.
And yet it was the classic racers that made the most eyes well up. Ecki Schimpf and his son Oliver, the heirs and caretakers of Jägermeister Racing, presented four of their orange racing legends including a Porsche 935 and the 500HP March Ford Cosworth in which ‘Striezel’ Stuck once collided with his rival James Hunt.
BMW, meanwhile, brought an E30-generation M3 and Audi celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Quattro with a brutish Sport Quattro S1 E2 from 1985. The latter was once driven by the dynamic duo of Walter Röhrl and Christian Geistdörfer, although it was directed over the ice by Stig Blomqvist last weekend. The great tradition of the Safari 911 was continued by Philip Kadoorie, who was followed around the temporary track by the obligatory snow fountain.
Skijoring is of course the supreme discipline in ice racing, and this year there was no shortage of spectacular ski stunts. An unexpected winter sports talent emerged from the screaming Trabi, while the men from Chrome Cars paid homage to the most rapid incarnations of the VW Beetle. And who would have thought back in 1984 that the Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 4x4, which then raced through the African desert on the Paris-Dakar Rally, would one day take on a second career as a ski lift?
Elsewhere, the future of motorsport was symbolised by Daniel Abt, who whirred across the ice like a spaceship in his Formula E racing car with skier Benedikt Mayr in tow, while the majestic peaks of the Alps slowly disappeared into the darkness. And to answer your question in advance: of course, we’ll see you in Zell am See in 2021.
Photos: Andrea Klainguti for Classic Driver © 2020