The Bernina Gran Turismo Is The Best Event I’ve Been To All Year
Photography by Ted Gushue
In my relatively short career at Petroliocious I’ve been exceptionally lucky in that which I’ve been able to witness with my own two eyes. Nearly each Goodwood event twice, some three times. The Mille Miglia in a 328 Berlin Rom Touring Roadster, the Monaco Historics, so on and so forth. But it wasn’t until I was standing atop the Bernina Pass, well above the Swiss resort town of St. Moritz that I truly needed a reality check.
The Bernina Pass is of course one of the greatest driving roads of all time. Countless switchbacks test even the most seasoned drivers’ mettle as they climb up or down any day of the year, but for this one special weekend each year, the organizers of the event coordinate with local authorities to completely shut the pass down to create one of the most sinister, stunning, and satisfying hillclimbs anywhere in the world.
Marco Makaus, former CEO of the Mille Miglia, first opened the event three years ago with his colleagues Florian Seidl, Luca Moiso and Claus Müeller, but the idea sprang to mind many years before that with their mutual Kurt Englehorn, who is the chief sponsor and patron to the event, “As a group of friends, we have enjoyed countless trips up and down the Bernina Pass over the years. It is truly one of life’s great winding roads,” Marco explained to me at the top of a windy Engadin couloir, looking down at Chris Ward and JD Classics’ GT40 tearing up the hill, “And now you get to hear the pure sound of classic race cars like the GT40 or the Ferrari Breadvan singing all the way up it for a weekend.”
If many of the cars look familiar in the photos I’ve captured, that’s because they are—nearly every car has experience in the major European classic events, with the aforementioned Chris Ward’s GT40 coming off of a recent win at Goodwood for instance. The mixture isn’t all six-figure purebreds however, there is a delightful mix of vintage Formula cars, and Fiats and Autobianchis that live locally are also given a coveted spot in the hill climb lineup.
All in all there are 70 entrants who are granted access to the Bernina Pass, which is to me what makes this one of the greatest events I’ve ever been to; by the end of the weekend I had heard the personal stories of nearly every single participant. We’d dined on delicious fondue together, shared schnapps together, frozen our asses off while the cars warmed up together. It was in my mind what I imagine Goodwood would have been like at the beginning, simple, pure, and filled with nothing but camaraderie for motoring passion. Where else in the world can you see a D-Type screaming up a mountain in between snowbanks? Who else would be mad enough to jump into a Formula Ford on a below-freezing day? These guys.
Needless to say, I will be back again next year, and I encourage all of you to do the same.