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St Moritz Automobile Week brings classics to heart of Alps


St Moritz Automobile Week returned to the Swiss Alps on September 8, 2023, celebrating some of the most significant vehicles in history with a selection of events held on the serpentine roads of the beautiful Engadin region. 

The week got underway with historic aircraft landing at Engadin Airport – the highest in Europe – before a fleet of spectacular vehicles took turns accelerating down the runway for the Kilomètre Lancé. 

The vehicles taking part ranged from an 1894 Benz Velo from the dawn of the automotive age to a cutting-edge Aston Martin Valkyrie hypercar. Despite such a gulf in performance, regularity regulations meant that each of these radically different machines had a chance to take the win.

By the end of the Kilomètre Lancé, the Aston Martin Valkyrie had set a new record

By the end of the Kilomètre Lancé, the Aston Martin Valkyrie had set a new record

Kicking off the first runs of the day were a pair of pre-war German cars: a 1939 Porsche Type 64 Berlin-Rom-Wagen and a 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Streamliner. Both were created to run at top speed on Germany’s newly built autobahns, which they adeptly demonstrated as they sprinted down the airport runway.

Another highlight was the race between 15 vintage Porsche tractors, which began with a classic Le Mans start before a winner was eventually crowned once the tractors made their way down the 1.8km runway.

Legendary Le Mans racers were also in attendance to mark the 100th anniversary of the famous endurance race. The headline car was a 1987 Mercedes-Benz Sauber C9, which was reunited with current Formula 1 safety car driver Bernd Mayländer.

By the end of the Kilomètre Lancé, the Aston Martin Valkyrie had set a new record, by completing its 1km sprint down the runway in just 19.5 seconds. The next best time was set by an electrified Porsche 911, and it would be unsurprising if an all-electric car eventually betters the Valkyrie’s record.

The Driven by Design award was presented to the best car and motorcycle of the event. The jury judged eligible cars and bikes running at full speed, and unanimously awarded a 1957 Lotus Eleven and 1972 Harley-Davidson XR750 as the winners. Meanwhile, a 1947 P-51 Mustang fighter plane was awarded the design prize for historic aircraft. 

The next event on the timetable was the Targa Poschiavo Engiadina, a rally for pre-war cars built between 1905 and 1926. Targa Poschiavo Engidiana saw participants compete across two days in time trials along six alpine passes, before a light-hearted drift trial on the lawn of the La Rösa hamlet. 

A new addition to Automobile Week was the Mobility Forum, which took place on September 13-15. Unlike the other events on the timetable, the Mobility Forum focuses on the future of mobility, and hosted an insightful discussion about the future of both cars and the classic car industry as manufacturers move towards electrification and alternative fuels. 

Next, Super Stick Shift saw supercars built between 1974 and 1995 drive 750km along some of the most spectacular roads around St Moritz. An unapologetic celebration of old-school supercars without automated transmissions or a bevy of electronic driver aids, Super Stick Shift placed the focus on analogue thrills. 

Motorsport Rendezvous took its place as the penultimate event of the week, on September 13-15. Held in the opulent grounds of the Kempinski Grand Hotel, the Motorsport Rendezvous allowed like-minded collectors and enthusiasts to showcase their cars and socialise in a relaxed setting. The final day of the event is arguably the highlight, with participants enjoying the local roads before returning for RM Sotheby’s auction.

The auction boasted an eclectic 106-lot catalogue, ranging from vintage Lambretta motorcycles to rarefied collector cars. A 1984 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16 Nürburgring that the late Niki Lauda raced was the most headline-grabbing lot from this year’s sale. It sold for CHF308,750 ($335,617).  

The Bernina Gran Turismo is the grand finale of Automobile Week and sees almost 80 classic cars compete over 5.6km of one of the world’s greatest driving roads: the Bernina Pass. The 1980 BMW M1of Dr Marcus Hoefken took first place in the Regularity Class, ahead of the Renault 5 Turbo of Arjun Oberoi, who had come all the way from India and was awarded the Spirit of Bernina prize. Sebastian Schömann’s 1973 Porsche 911 completed the podium. 

The cars and drivers aiming for the outright fastest time competed in the Competition Class, which was won by the 1970 Porsche 908/3 of Christoph Rendlin ahead of Thomas Kern and his 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 and Johan Bonnier in a 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R Group N.

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