Ennstal Classic 2019: into the mountains in search of legends

David Hlaváček
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At the end of July, together with our clients, we went to the legendary car-moto event Ennstal Classic. I went to my first ever international classic car rally with a somewhat sceptical attitude. I’m not going to lie, looking at photos from previous editions I got the impression that there would be polished Ferraris, Porsches and Astons trudging at a snail’s pace through the Alpine hills, with “grandpas” behind the wheel, flanked by gorgeous blondes waiting to inherit a villa in the Caribbean. I probably should have watched the videos, because I couldn’t have been more wrong…

Pull the hose, my steak is getting cold.

A sleepy morning at Heritage Motors HQ suggested that the first day would be a more leisurely pace. Temperatures had been hitting brazen numbers on the thermometer since the early hours, and the slightly warmed-up cars of the participants were enjoying their last moments in the shade before moving on to the hot highways. The fleet consisting of a Porsche 911 997 GTS, a Porsche 911 991 S and a service Porsche Panamera 4S, as always with a “slight” majority of cars from Stuttgart, promised a pleasant and brisk journey. The move to the first rally site, the Austrian Red Bull Ring, needs no further description. Perhaps the only thing worth mentioning is a holiday dad with his family on a trip, who after refuelling at the pump left his car at the stand and proceeded to coach us, standing behind him in the convoy, to move calmly to the stand on the other side and pull a gun across the bonnet. Whereupon he left to join his family for lunch of his cutlets at the gas station. Yes, that’s what we really want. Flicking that dusty hose across the hood of a car that has a layer of ceramic protection applied to it. A few inappropriate remarks, a bit of ribbing at the expense of his eunuch haircut, and then it was on our way. We couldn’t let this get us down.

They really drive it!

After arriving at the famous Red Bull Ring, I wondered all the way from the parking lot what could be making such a brutal scream. It was clear to me that it wasn’t anything of current production, but I kept seeing those senior drivers in investment cars pull out of the garage before my eyes just so the neighbor wouldn’t forget. “No, that’s not possible”, I chastised my inner self, “it’ll just be some sort of sideshow”. But this really didn’t sound like rich seniors “matching pints” with toy cars. Finally, we walked through the stylish concourse, a nod to the racing achievements of the Red Bull stable, and saw the vast indoor depot. And I understood. Everything suddenly connected and brought an inner satisfaction – no, this trip really wasn’t going to be boring. Countless Porsches, Aston DB5 Superleggera, Jaguar E-types. At the back, a Ferrari 250 GT SWB, of which only 165 were made. Beauty alternated with splendour. All right. Anyone who goes to fairs and exhibitions, including the Czech Legends, is probably raising their eyebrows and muttering something about how the HRTG guys must have discovered America or something. You’re right, we’ve all seen most of it. Here, only the meeting place makes the difference. And believe me, it’s not just about the mountain air (it was just as muggy that day as it was in Prague on Náplavka, so calm).

You walk through the rows of vehicles, which are silently cooling. That notorious mixture of burning clutch, burning brakes and leaking petrol rolls motionless in the air. For some of us, it brings back memories of years gone by. However, it all says one thing: “these cars here are getting what they deserve, they’re in traffic, on the circuit, drivers haven’t yet fallen asleep at the wheel, and most of them are serving the purpose for which they were created.”

One vehicle, however, draws a little more attention. So we quickly head closer, and I only now notice that one of our clients is carrying a rather heavy and large book. I don’t even have time to glance at what it is and already my reflex in my hand is reaching for my camera. The heavy book is being signed by Wolfgang Porsche himself next to his 356 Speedster, where the little group of connoisseurs and fans has begun to form. I immortalise this moment for HRTG and silently lament that I don’t have a similar book with me either. Let’s hope that this is not the last time we, or Wolfgang, will be here. Suddenly, however, Wolfgang hastily gets into his 356 and sets off to stretch it out on the track. I ask for a “private smile” for the photo and say goodbye.

On three, on four: “Wolfgang, move!”

We walk, we take pictures, we debate, we marvel. We also eat a little, because the “Spielburger” at the local restaurant will satisfy everyone after such a portion of emotions. Some of the participants have lunch as well, as most of the afternoon rides are yet to follow. It’s not a complete surprise when your eyes meet Mark Webber’s, for example, and he gives a friendly, and slightly rehearsed smile, and nods directly at you. Of course, I have an immediate urge to greet him properly and go over to shake his right hand, so strong is the sense of connection between the participants here. With full bellies we go to view the track from the balcony above the pit track. Here I finally satisfy my curiosity that has been gnawing at me since I arrived. That scream is made by the engines, which are still really audible. And they’re really loud. No electrics, no hybrid, no obstructions between engine and exhaust. That’s the way it should be. Countless generations of Porsche – G, F, and even 356 – are here at a pace that would put any racing driver to shame. They alternate with Astons, Ferraris, but also packs of wild Alf Romeos and Jaguars. People are even waving to the Wolgfang Porsche just passing by, which is being briskly taken from the left by one of the many Alf Romeo GTVs. Below us, the so-called regularity ride is underway. The driver takes a lap on the track and then has to complete the same lap in as similar a time as possible. Anyone who wants to, goes for blood. Someone, on the other hand, watches the speed and braking points. We couldn’t have guessed a better strategy, but most of the competitors, to the amusement of the spectators present, obviously chose an all-or-nothing pace. Awesome!

Starter great, looking forward to the main course

After a day full of automotive highs and great experiences, we move on to our hotel in the beautiful town of Schladming. In the evening, the first day will end here, with most participants driving through the town and then parking their cars in the adjacent car park. It has to be said that the atmosphere is charming. The warm evening in the middle of the mountains and the people who literally live the whole celebration perfectly captivate us. Great dinner, some beer, fantastic atmosphere. The subsequent late walk around the still lively town brought a stylish end to the opening day of my first Ennstal Classic. Full of impressions, I fell asleep with a slight impatience. If this was the first day, what awaits us tomorrow? An itinerary is one thing, paper will eventually bear all, but the real experiences simply have to be lived.

You can find out more about the event at this link: www.ennstal-classic.at