An Austrian Hill-Climb

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To start this season’s activities I visited two out of the way hill-climbs in Wales and Cornwall, and in order to get the best appreciation of them I took part in the Gran Turismo category with the Porsche. Both proved to be most enjoyable and the delightful air of informality was a real joy after the severe and controlled events that form the bulk of a season’s motoring competition. When I discovered that there was a hill-climb in Austria, down in a remote corner near the Yugoslavian frontier, not long after the Italian Grand Prix, I thought I could not do better than to wind up the season by competing in it and finding out at first hand how Austrian motoring competitions are run.

My first impression was pleasing, and so for that matter were subsequent ones, for when I studied the regulations I saw that there was a clause which said that in the Gran Turismo classes if there were sufficient entries from cars with push-rod engines they would form a subdivision away from the camshaft engines. The word for push-rod engine in German is “stosstangenmotore,” so having one of these I entered the 1,600 c.c. G.T. class. There being sufficient entries I joined in with six other push-rod Porsches and three M.G.-A, while the higher category comprised two Carreras and a Twin-Cam M.G. At scrutineering it was noticeable how clued-up on Porsches the Austrian organisers were, and most other cars for that matter, for they took one look at two of the 1,600 Supers, said “You’ve got Carrera brakes and are not standard, so go in the non-standard category.” For the rest a quick glance under the lid at the back was sufficient for them to see if it was Carrera or Super, unlike some scrutineers who barely know how many cylinders a Porsche has.

On the Saturday morning everyone was dashing up and down the mountainside doing unofficial practice, and after lunch the roads were cleared, the timing apparatus made to work and the serious business began. The course was the Wurzen Pass, which runs from just outside the town of Villach over the mountains into Yugoslavia, the frontier being at the top of the mountain. The length was 4.6 kilometres, the first 1½ kilometres being on gently climbing wide tarmac road, where you could get moving in top gear, and then it became a loose gravel road, just wide enough for two cars that climbed very steeply up the side of the mountain, with two hairpins, numerous fast curves and a long tightening lefthander, with the average gradient 1 in 10 and one quite long stretch of just under 1 in 4, in fact a real hill-climb.

The timing apparatus, using Longines clocks was at the start with a beam across the road, and a continuous stop-watch was working, the Longine apparatus recording the moment the beam was broken. At the top of the hill another electric contact recorded the passage of the car and wires strung down the mountainside connected this to the Longine mechanism which again recorded the finishing time, busy timekeepers doing sums to get the results. As a check the starter had a hand stop-watch synchronised with another at the finish, and cars were sent off at one-minute intervals, or less if there was no fear of the man in front being caught. Commentators at two of the most tricky corners were coupled into the loudspeaker system so that any car falling by the wayside was not lost. The entry was very varied, from normal small saloons, including a new B.M.C. baby car, through Giuliettas, Porsches, Ferraris, B.M.W.s to Formula Junior cars, and among the drivers were Hans Stuck, Frankenberg, d’Orey, Vogel, Greger, and most of the Austrian sporting world. Unfortunately race day was wet from start to finish, and though it damped the paddock and officials, the public did not seem to mind and turned out in their thousands to tramp up the mountainside to the more exciting corners. Although the wet made the tarmac surface a bit slippery it improved the loose gravel part of the course, for it bound the dust and stones together into a sticky constituency that enabled slides to be held nicely. There was only one climb for each class and having got to the top and parked the car it was possible to walk back down the hill a little and see the finishes of the faster cars. The Austrian driver Vogel, with an RSK Porsche set a new record in 2 min. 48.2 sec., an average speed of 95.5 k.p.h., and he took the loose-surfaced corners in terrific slides using all the road. Second and third fastest were two Formula junior cars from Germany, built around three-cylinder D.K.W. components retaining front-wheel drive and the engine ahead of the axle. Although rather large compared with a Stanguellini Junior they went remarkably well on the loose stuff and the three Italian Juniors that took part could not keep with them. In the Gran Turismo classes Greger drove his hot Carrera superbly to beat Stuck’s works prepared 507 B.M.W., and d’Orey’s 250 GT Ferrari. When the paddock was empty and the whole entry at the top of the mountain, there was a pause and then everyone, including the public came down the mountain together to form a happy confusion in the valley below, but it all sorted itself out eventually and prize-giving was held in one of the local cafes. How did I get on? Well — I did manage to beat the M.G.s, but there are some awfully fast Porsches and Porsche drivers in Austria. — D.S.J.

Results:

F.T.D.: E. Vogel (Porsche RSK) 2 min. 48.2 sec.

Fastest G.T.: J. Greger (Porsche Carrera) 2 min. 59.7 sec.

Fastest Formula Junior: G. Mitter (D.K.W.) 2 min. 52.6 sec.

1st: E. Vogel (Porsche RSK) 2min. 48.2 sec.

2nd: G. Mitter (D.K.W. Junior) 2 min. 52.6 sec.

3rd: W. Schatz (D.K.W. Junior) 2 min. 57.0 sec.

4th: F. Albert (Porsche Spyder) 2 min. 57.8 sec.

5th: J. Greger (Porsche Carrera) 2 min. 59.7 sec.

6th: H. Stuck (B.M.W. 507) 3 min. 02.0 sec.

7th: H. Maltz (D.K.W. Junior) 3 min. 02.9 sec.

8th: F. Bayer (Porsche Carrera) 3 min. 05.7 sec.

9th: F. d’Orey (Stanguellini Junior) 3 min. 07.0 sec.

10th: F. d’Orey (Ferrari 250 G.T.) 3 min. 07.3 sec.