After a 45-year hiatus, the popular Ice Race GP at Zell am See near the picturesque Austrian town of the same name, was revived last month to great acclaim. Thanks to an abundance of snow in the region, the race track, which is laid out on the frozen runway of a local airfield in the Alpenflugplatz area, was brought to life once again.
With the sound of race engines and the smell of high octane racing fuel, around 8000 spectators braved the sub-zero temperatures under clear blue skies as they watched 130 competitors of all levels competing in a wide a range of race cars. From vintage racers to modern sophisticated racing machinery, two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive and buggies, they all came to compete.
The list of professional drivers reads like a ‘who-is-who’ of the racing world. Former World Rally Champion Walter Röhrl, and Hans-Joachim Stuck, were behind the wheel of both classic and modern racers, while Mark Webber, Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz and Romain Dumas were just some of the other names associated with Porsche cars…and Dr. Wolfgang Porsche (Chairman of the supervisory Board of Porsche AG) was on hand just to make sure everyone behaved themselves!
Back in 1928, it was reported that riderless horses pulled skiers on the race track at maximum speed. Skijöring, as it would become known, was predicted to become a cult that would soon embrace motorsport, and how right they were. In 1937, the first motorcycle skijöring event was held at Zell am See and in 1952 Paul Schwarz won the newly founded Dr. Porsche Memorial Skijöring Race. The following year cars were allowed to compete as skijöring became just as popular behind 4-wheeled vehicles as it had been behind motorbikes. In 1956, the international motorcycle and auto ice racing event was launched, and in 1957 Otto Mathé recorded the fastest lap at 102.3 km/h, watched by 5000 visitors. This record was broken several more times by different racing drivers as machinery became more powerful and as tyre technology improved. The Ice Races took place between 1937 and 1973 and while the 1974 race was set to take place, an accident with a snow clearing vehicle put paid to the event that year.
Following an almost half century absence, the Ice Races are back, and we have compiled this gallery of images by our intrepid Hungarian photographer, Zoltan, who braved the cold! Also below, are a selection of images supplied by the magazine Curves, covering the Fetzenflieger that was driven in period by the motorsport legend and the car’s creator, Otto Mathé.
Ice Races GP gallery
In 1952, the Austrian mechanical engineer Otto Mathé built the Fetzenflieger using Volkswagen and Porsche parts. The chassis and body were handmade. The first engine, a 1500 cc pushrod Porsche racing engine and transmission were installed in front of the rear axle. In 1955, Mathé changed the engine and installed a 550 Spyder engine. He also improved the car by using rims and brakes from the 550 Spyder. Further details about this amazing racer can be found HERE. The Fetzenflieger can be found on permanent display at the Automuseum PROTOTYP in Hamburg, for further details click HERE.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Zoltan Papp & CURVES magazine