After two days of classic car folklore in and around Gröbming, consisting of check in of the participants, rally check of the vehicles, final Tripmaster calibrations and dedicated special test dress rehearsals, the 30th edition of the legendary classic car rally in the heart of Central Europe traditionally got underway with the Welcome Evening at the Imlauer Hotel Schloß Pichlarn.
259 teams, 25 of them in the newly launched “Racecar Trophy”, presented themselves and their competition material in the noble gala setting before the rally, as every year, once again substantiates its claim of “motoring in the last paradise” and sets off on Thursday from 9 a.m. onwards for the Großglockner round. In the noble forecourt of the castle, so to speak, the anniversaries piled up: the 30th edition of the Ennstal-Classic meets the 50th anniversary of the hotel business in the noble castle, where hospitality at the highest level has been celebrated in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Austria since 1972.
Ines Wohlmuther-Maier, general manager of the hotel, emphasizes how often the hotel, which places great emphasis on golf, is associated with the Ennstal Classic even away from the classic car season. The tradition of the opening evening is a cherished one in this setting, or, as hotel owner Georg Imlauer puts it, “The Ennstal-Classic is one of the largest and best quality classic car events in Austria, measured by the exclusivity of the vehicles and the selection of the drivers. So it fits perfectly into the framework of our house and also in the round of anniversary events, which go over the stage with us this year.”
Guests in the idyllic castle courtyard in the best summer weather included prominent rally participants such as Wolfgang Porsche and Rudi Roubinek, racing cracks Jo Ramirez or Arturo Merzario, as well as friends of the house such as former ski star and TV entertainer Hans Knaus, who has also taken part in the Ennstal Classic three times. “Three times I was there, three times I was completely amazed at how hard you have to work to be at the front.” As a former professional athlete, Knaus found it difficult to rule out a top finish a priori, “but I had to admit to myself: I lack the experience.” The Schladming original gets goose bumps when he thinks about the sound and the feeling that comes up during the special stage at the Niederöblarn airfield, for example: “That’s real racing, there’s something going on, that goes through my spine.”
Time and again, fans of the event have asked when the legendary racecar classification will celebrate its resurrection – this year, on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, the time has come. Purebred race cars, a total of 35 teams, will compete not only at the Niederöblarn airfield but also on the extensive grounds of the “ÖAMTC Driving Experience Center Gut Brandlhof | Saalfelden”.
Whether the Ennstal-Classic anno 2022 represents a kind of time capsule in the midst of a modern society? „Eher das Gegenteil ist der Fall“ meint Porsche-Markenleiter Helmut Eggert. „Wenn man hier mit diesen wunderbaren, alten Autos durch die Ortschaften fährt, wird man mit viel Wärme, Begeisterung und Liebe empfangen. I believe that the enthusiasm for the subject of automobiles, with all its heritage and history, which is wonderfully charged by events like the Ennstal-Classic, is still there.”
That a racing crack like 79-year-old Arturo Merzario (the legendary and uniquely odd racing driver with the characteristic cowboy hat drove in Formula 1 from 1972 to 1979 for Ferrari, among others, and gained world fame for his daring rescue of Niki Lauda in his Nürburgring accident, when he climbed into the flames and opened Lauda’s seatbelt buckle) is alienated by various current social trends is hardly surprising. But Rudi Roubinek, a regular guest in the Enns Valley for many years and attending for the ninth time in total, also finds clear words: “Unfortunately, we are really in a bubble here with our passion, we are virtually fighting a defensive battle if we want to keep these rolling cultural assets rolling, so to speak. But it’s worth fighting for!”