WORDS: STEPHEN ARCHER | PHOTOgraphy: TIM SCOTT
When a new event comes along, there is always a nagging question; will it wither or become a victim of its own success? We can all point to examples of both, but hitting that sweet spot in the middle is rare — an event that keeps to its original purpose and style. The ICE in St Moritz is in that sweet spot, and is likely to stay there for very good reasons – but I will return to that.
Above all, an event is judged on how it makes the participants and visitors feel. In February, when there are no serious event clashes, the answer is that people feel elated. With sunny, crisp air at 1800 metres in the tranquil Swiss Alps, it clears the mind and soul. And then the V16 Auto Union Type C is fired up, the sound rattling along the valley as though God’s chariot has just been awoken.
I catch up with a very excited Ronnie Kessler, the organiser of this, the fourth ICE event. That is a little misleading, actually; the first staging was in 2020, just before Covid. The second event almost took place, but Covid did for that – with two days’ notice. 2022 went ahead in -15°C, making that the third event. As Ronnie says: “The event has evolved with the quality of cars and numbers of visitors. We can have no more than 50 vehicles, because the frozen lake has to be respected.”
That is something of an understatement, looking at the meltwater in the late afternoon – but the notional weight and space limits are real, although the ice only needs to be 50cm thick. Being in Switzerland, they know what they are doing. Don’t worry that you are walking on water; the owners of the parked-up Ferrari TdF, Bugatti Type 35 and Auto Union all look relaxed enough. Speaking of which, Ronnie nicely understates their fortunate position: “With the limit on the numbers, it means that we are fortunate to be able to invite the best cars and an eclectic variety (such as Valkyrie Racing’s Antarctic-conquering Porsche 356).“
In 2022, perhaps the biggest car was a Ferrari 250GTO. This year, the show-stopper has to be the Auto Union Type C driven by nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen. I speak to Tom just after he’s waved off a Le Mans start session of 24 Hours winners and participants on the ICE track. “To be sure, this event is unique. Others may say the same of their own events, but what a great setting and cars.” People such as Tom don’t get over excited – but hang on, what about the Auto Union on ICE?
“We have over 500bhp, it is supercharged and on methanol, and so the altitude is not a problem. Having the Hillclimb double-wheel set-up and spikes helps, but really the wheel will spin in any gear and speed, so I just have to steer it with the torque – no problem. I will drive it gently.” Err, the evidence suggests the Danish word for gentle is not the same as ours.
Over two days, the old and newer, the road and race cars, take part in a concours d’elegance and then a day of driving around the 1.5km ICE track as sideways as the owners see fit. Everyone loves it. One may bump into familiar faces, but this event is like no other. To return to the opening question, perhaps Kessler best sums this up: “We cannot grow any bigger, our footprint on the ICE is as big as it can be. We are very happy and proud of where we have got to.” This is a very relaxed event where you will see more grins than maybe anywhere else.
So there you have it, the secret to successful event is a (modest) size limit, a wonderful location, great cars and a feeling of social intimacy. Smiles all round then.