The background-story of the Ennstal-Classic.
by Helmut Zwickl
It was a foggy evening in September 1992 in Hockes near the GP court Spa- Francorchamps in Belgium. I went for a walk together with Michael Glöckner who accompanied me as photographer. Both of us had a rather frustrating day in the „small world of circus apes“ as Niki Lauda called the Formula I at that time. Michael mourned about the fact that the closed zones for photographers became more and more. I was simply sick of the whole system. It was that evening when we made a decicion: we wanted to make motor sports like in earlier times – something to touch and experience – with the cars of earlier times on today’s streets. The name was born in the same minute: Ennstal-Classic.
Gröbming should become the starting-village – Glöckner was CEO of the tourism office at that time. The Ennstal had become my second home since I had my sailplane-headquarter in Niederöblarn.
We talked with Walter Röhrl: „We organise the Ennstal-Classic, we want you. We cannot pay any money.“ Walter smiled: „If I needed money at my age, I had done wrong in my career…“ Because Walter never did wrong he won the first Ennstal-Classic in 1993 on his Austin Healey together with his wife Monika.
35 cars started at the first Ennstal-Classic: amongst other names like Karl Wendlinger, Dieter Quester, Dietrich Mateschitz and Franz Wittmann.
1994, in the second Ennstal-Classic year, Sir Stirling and Lady Susie Moss came to Gröbming for the first time. He become figurehead oft he Ennstal-Classic and swears:
“For us the Ennstal is the most beautiful ralley in the world!“
The second Ennstal-Classic was the only one won by a ladies-team: Jutta Roschmann/Nicole Neukunft won on BMW 507 – Sir Stirling and Lady Susie reached the 9th place.
1996 the «Alfred Neubauer-Trophy» was handed over fort he first time. The legendary racing director of Mercedes-Benz brought the trophy into being in 1964 and gave it to outstanding personalities of the Grand Prix sports like John Surtees, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt and Niki Lauda. Since 1996 it is exclusively reserved for the overall winner of the Ennstal-Classic.
At the Mille Miglia the starting field has to drive against the city traffic. Therefore the participants have a permanent lack of time that leads to a street race. We chose another way for the Ennstal-Classic. We avoid big-city traffic. We drive the last light traffic streets of the Alps. It is more sporty to kill the brakes when descending the Nockalm than to kill the engines in the traffic jams of Rome.
In 1996 the brand-diversity was larger than ever before. The demand exceeded the supply.
Our philosophy became the base for the success of t he Ennstal-Classic:
We foster sporty driving without electronic devices, only analogue stop watches – the ticket back to the youth is not meant to become a computer simulation. Driving like in the 20s to 70s – an old art which is not practiced any more is reanimated at the Ennstal-Classic.
The days of the Ennstal-Classic bring the old cars to their boarders and their drivers find out what is possible on today’s streets with their cars from yesterday. Brand diversity is most important for us – cars that have been milestones of technique and sportiness at their time and have become cult today.
From the first Ennstal-Classic in 1993 until the 20th event in 2012 the year of construction of the accepted cars has not been shifted: 31.12.1972
There was a time when the Ennstal-Classic was endangered to become a computer game.
To avoid this we took an important step: only mechanical devices are allowed!
In 1997 Walter Röhrl won together with Peter Falk on Porsche 356 for the second time.
In 1998 Rauno Aaltonen and Mike Höll won on BMW 2002Ti. In the following year Rudolf Schraml set his stamp on the Ennstal-Classic. He won 2000, 2001, 2004 and 2005.
In 2001 145 Teams from ten nations drove the Ennstal. The event became an important economic factor fort he whole region with 20.000 additional accommodations, the accreditation of 190 journalists and every year more than 220 teams are selected from more than 300 registrations.
In 2008 Chopard – the top-class watch-manufacturer in the whole classic scene – came on board. At the Chopard-Grand Prix of Gröbming the stars find their youth again in the cockpits of their winner cars.
Klaus Bischof, head of the driving Porsche-museums, bring every year the family-jewels to Gröbming. Mercedes-Benz sends the legendary pre-war silver arrows. In 2001 John Surtees drove the legendary Mercedes 300 SLR #722 with wich Stirling Moss won the Mille Miglia in 1955 on the whole Ennstal-Classic route.
Also the factory museums of Alfa Romeo, Auto Union, BMW, Jaguar, Opel and Lamborghini
bring their jewels, according to the Motto: Tradition is to conserve the fire, not the ashes.
The Ennstal-Classic mobilises the “Who is Who“ of the international racing-, rally-, sports-, TV- and management scene.
Nowhere else the “legends- denseness” is higher when we think of who has been to Gröbming since 1993:
Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, John Surtees, Sir Stirling und Lady Susie Moss, Nigel Mansell, David Coulthard, Tony Brooks, Jochen Mass, Gerhard Berger, Derek Bell, Nino Vaccarella, Nanni Galli, Maria Teresa de Filippis, Hans Herrmann, Marc Surer, David Coulthard, Dieter Quester, Reine Wisell, Michele Alboretto, Eddie Irvine, Christian Klien, Mike Thackwell, Dr. Helmut Marko, Hans Stuck, Herbert Linge, Paul Ernst Strähle, Roland Asch, Rolf Biland, Erik Carlsson, Walter Röhrl, Christian Geistdörfer, Michele Mouton, Björn Waldegard, Rauno Aaltonen, Hannu Mikkola, Ove Andersson, Arne Hertz, Tony Fall, Franz Wittmann, Rudi Stohl, Ernst Harrach, Jutta Kleinschmidt, Adrian Newey, Peter Sauber, Jean Sage, Mario Illien, Dr. Mario Theissen, Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, Ernst Piech, Dr. Franz Josef-Paefgen, Dr. Hartmut Warkuss, Dr. Jürgen Stockmar, Dr. Ulrich Bez, Jo Ramirez, Franz Klammer, Hans Knauss, Klaus Kröll, Michael von Grüningen, Markus Wasmeier, Thomas Muster, Tobias Moretti, Peter Kraus, Klaus Wildbolz, Roland Düringer, Rudi Roubinek, Christian Clerici, Robert Palfrader alias „Robert Heinrich I“, Gerald Friedle alias DJ Ötzi und »Mr. Bean« Rowan Atkinson.
2008 was embossed by a unique meeting. The «CLUB INTERNATIONAL DES ANCIENS PILOTES DE GRAND PRIX F.1» held its annual meeting in Gröbming. The club of legends was the larged GP starting field that had ever been in Austria.
We have come a long way from the start with 35 cars in 1993 until 2012. Years of explanation to public authorities, sponsors and the media what the Ennstal-Classic is.
Today the print media coverage is worth 2 million €.
Also in 2012 the Red-Bull-circuit in Spielberg will be leg village and regularity test and the old car-town Steyr will present the cult-object of the Ennstal-Classic in a time check.