logo automotive
january 23, 2019 - Volkswagen

PS fireworks, ice cold

The relaunch of the iconic ice race at #zellamsee, #Austria thrilled participants and spectators alike.

Any relaunch always faces the same challenge: to successfully recapture the magic of the original – a hurdle, at which many fall. However, if the superlatives being used by participants and visitors to the 2019 Ice Race are to be believed, organizers Vinzenz Greger and Ferdinand Porsche achieved precisely that.  

Despite the bitter cold, with temperatures as low as 15°C, roughly 8,000 people flocked to the 600-metre racetrack, which was bathed in glorious sunshine. Perfect conditions for a festival of horsepower on ice, at which there was a little bit of everything on offer. For two days, more than 130 participants with race cars spanning eight decades of motorsport history drifted their way round the track, amazing the spectators time and time again.

“Ice #racing is motorsport up close and personal”

The ice race in the township of #zellamsee in the Salzburg region can look back on a long tradition. From 1937 to 1973, the #Event was held on Lake Zell, before going into hibernation – until Nuremberg-born Vinzenz Greger and his friend Ferdinand Porsche, great-grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche, had a chance idea: “About a year and a half ago, we found a spiked tyre in the garage next to my father Wolfgang’s Porsche 550 Spyder – we simply had to follow that up.” Shortly after, the idea to relaunch the ice race was born.

 “Then, like now, ice #racing was motorsport for everyone – motorsport up close and personal,” says Ferdinand Porsche. “There is an open pit lane and everyone has access to everywhere. The #Event should bring people together, that is the whole point of motorsport!” As the lake seldom freezes, the organisers opted for an artificial ice rink at the nearby airfield. This certainly did not dilute the enthusiasm for the #Event.


Romain Dumas takes on the ice

Among the big-name drivers, including Walter Röhrl and Mark Webber, is one #romaindumas. The Frenchman, who set a new all-time record for the Pikes Peak hill climb in the fully-electric #Volkswagen ID. R in 2018, was entering unfamiliar territory in #zellamsee. “The last time I took part in an ice race was at the Trophée Andros ten years ago,” says Dumas. “But this is great fun, particularly because I get to drive the new #pologtir5 for the first time.” The 41-year-old cannot not stop singing the Event’s praises. “This is a great #Event, superbly organised, and the driving is really good fun!”

The results confirm how much fun Dumas was having: up against experienced rally aces and Škoda drivers Jan Kopecký and Julian Wagner, Dumas hurtled over the ice in pursuit of fast times. The R5 rally cars only race against the clock, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm. “In the R5 class, the atmosphere was even more boisterous than usual – absolutely bombastic,” says a delighted Ferdinand Porsche. “That truly was a spectacular display of driving.”

“Great Event”

The drivers in other classes also put on a great show, including Michael Gross and his son Christopher in their 1955 Beetle. “We bought the car in the USA in 2016,” explained Michael Gross, who allowed his son behind the wheel on Sunday. The Beetle took part in and completed the Carrera Panamericana in 1996. 

“We bought the car in the USA in 2016,” explained Michael Gross, who allowed his son behind the wheel on Sunday. The Beetle took part in and completed the Carrera Panamericana in 1996. “The most valuable things are the doors,” says father Gross, laughing. “They still have their original stickers from the Panamericana on them. If anyone drives into them, I will not be happy,” he warns the opposition, tongue in cheek. He has nothing but praise for the relaunched ice race. “This is a great #Event. Thank you to everyone who made it possible!”As well as the Beetle, the Gross family also travels with a 1956 Karmann Ghia, which attracts at least as much attention.

The coupe, with its 90-PS Porsche Super 90 engine, was used in ice races in the USA between 1957 and 1969, and has only belonged to the Gross family for two months. Michael Gross jr. is at the wheel this weekend, making his father proud. “This is a real father-son bonding weekend,” he says, giving his son a few final tips before he heads out onto the ice.

Another man having plenty of fun is Mario Minichberger, who did not just come to #zellamsee for the fun of it. The head of Minichberger Motorsport, who can usually be found tearing it up on the hill climb circuit, is using the Ice Race for training. He normally competes in the Internationaler Allgäu-Alpen-Pokal with his 900-kilogram Golf III, and really put pedal to the metal in #zellamsee. Powered by a two-litre naturally aspirated engine generating 211 kW (287 PS), Minichberger’s lap times were not far off those of the #pologtir5

Jochi Kleint at the double

Jochi Kleint has nothing to do with the race against the clock this weekend. The demonstration drives with the Golf II Pikes Peak and the Golf II GTI are actually more of an early birthday present, as the rally ace turns 71 on 24 January. Behind the steering wheel, the foot is already twitching on the accelerator pedal. “My first ice race with #Volkswagen was a long time ago. I drove the Golf I GTI in Chamonix in the 1980s,” recalls Kleint. With Jochi Kleint at the wheel, entertainment is guaranteed. “I threw the car into the corners a little bit more and gave the odd spectator a little snow shower,” he says, grinning.

So, while Kleint was busy with two cars, Dumas ends the #Event with podium finishes to his name. “I feared that I would be last in the class,” admits the endurance expert. “Second on Saturday and third on Sunday is a great result! For me, this outing was a nice present, as I was primarily in #zellamsee on a different mission.”


Next record attempt: the ID. R on the Nordschleife

During the #Event, #Volkswagen announced its plans for the ID. R this year. Dumas is targeting a new record for electric cars on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife with the fully-electric race car in the summer of 2019. There is always the risk of a follow-up falling flat. In this case, however, it looks like living up to the hype – just like the 2019 Ice Race.