Bernina Alfa

Bernina GT

Cars Culture

Snowy mountains, verdant fields, lush forests, grazing cows, crystal water brooks and quiet.

These are the Engadine and Valposchiavo, Swiss valleys, famous for Saint Moritz, the world of skiing and the alpine pass roads open all year.

All year except the last weekend of September, when the Bernina Gran Turismo takes place: a 5.7km hill-climb, with more than 50 curves and racing cars up to the 1980s.

Bernina Porsche

The Bernina Gran Turismo is a revival of a hillclimb that ran for the first time in 1929 and has been won by the racing driver Hans Stuck. It only ran for two years, and was stopped because it was deemed too dangerous.

But for two years, the BGT revival has again brought the echo of the engines to the Swiss Alps, with a hill-climb speed trial and a regularity race.

I attended the third edition of modern Bernina GranTurismo, which has already attracted the attention of fans and collectors with sponsorship from JD Classics.

Eligible cars are limited to 80 for logistical reasons, and must belong to racing cars between the ’20s and ’80s, three-wheelers, single-seater, Formula 1, Group B Rally and Group C sport prototypes.

After Friday’s administrative and technical checks, the cars are transferred to a guarded garage on the Bernina, ready for the two free practice sessions that allow the drivers to familiarise themselves with the challenging mountainous roads.

The start line is at La Rosa, on the Italian-speaking side valley Val Poschiavo, and the finish line is at the highest point of the Bernina Pass, surrounded by snowy mountains, at 2,338m.

Elevation is 459m from bottom to top, in just 5.7 km. A tough and demanding route for classic cars.

Four sessions against the clock: two on Saturday afternoon and two on Sunday morning during which I could see rare beauty in action with the background of a breathtaking panorama. Ford GT40, Lancia Delta S4, Renault Alpine, Abarth Zagato, the one and unique Ferrari “breadvan”, Jaguar D-Type (my favourite), the Formula 2 Brabham BT30 and the amazing Formula 1 Maserati 250F from 1959.

Sunny morning free practice was followed by a very uncertain afternoon weather that allowed Chris Ward of the JD Classics Team, at the wheel of the Ford GT40, to immediately gain command of the ranking with 3min 20.38sec, to go down to session 2 to 3min 18.89sec.

On Sunday, however, colder temperature and overnight snow made it even harder for cars and drivers with a wet and treacherous asphalt.

The fastest on the hill-speed was British Goodwood winner Chris Ward in the Ford GT40. “A season finale with the flakes,” said Derek Hood, founder of JD Classics!

In the coming years, the Bernina GranTurismo is set to become the St Moritz Carweek motorsport event.

Bernina Ferrari

This event lends itself to being lived from a cockpit, rather than as a spectator. Friendship, finest meals and exclusive places. Bernina GranTurismo is a unique event of its kind.

It reminded me of a perfect mix between Goodwood and Mille Miglia. More curves on one side, more sports cars on the other.