Report and photos by Dirk de Jager
The Alfa Romeo 8C Europe Rally 2011 was held September 20-25 in Austria.
Among Alfisti, the Alfa Romeo 8C, or eight cylinder models, are ranked as the most exclusive and best models produced by the Milanese manufacturer. Available in different engine displacements and long or short chassis models, the best known would be the 2300 usually seen with bodies built by the two most famous Italian coachbuilders – Touring and Zagato. The Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 is considered by most as one of the most influential and ultimate pre-war cars, as illustrated by its rarity and drive by collectors to find one for their collections.
Now in its third edition, the Alfa Romeo 8C rally for 2011 was held in Austria, a small, beautiful country in the heart of Europe that has it all. A rich cultural heritage, gorgeous landscapes surrounded with mountains and lakes divided by small country roads that are perfect to explore with these supercars of their day.
As the brainchild of Dutch classic dealer Jack Braam Ruben and German classic dealer Klaus Werner, the Alfa Romeo 8C Rally is organized by the Italian company 2Fast4You that has several years of experience with exclusive rallies. And with this rally it doesn’t get any more exclusive.
On Tuesday, September 20th, all the entrants, in this case 13 crews since one entrant had to cancel last minute, arrived in the luxury resort of Hotel Schloss Seefels at the Wörthersee.
Here we got the first glimpse of the cars being rolled out of the transporters. One person was listed with a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster but had to replace it unfortunately with a modern BMW Z4. Another signed up with a 1936 Bentley 3500 Vanden Plas since his wife would be using that car the next week on the next 2Fast4You rally for women only as she prefers to drive that car. Although the Bentley was standing in the parking lot, another entrant was kind enough to bring both his Alfa 8Cs and “lend” this to him so it could stay as an Alfa-only tour.
Most of the cars present are the “usual” suspects. This means that eight of the twelve cars are 2300 in both chassis forms and all but one with bodies from Touring or Zagato. The sole different bodied car has a more civilized cabriolet body by Carlton Carriages. This owner’s son also showed up on Friday only to join the Tour with an extra Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Touring Spider.
Up next were two original Monzas with racing history including with Scuderia Ferrari.
The last remaining cars were both 2900 models. One was in Boticella style, this is its purest racing form as was built for the 1936 Mille Miglia. The last 2900 turned out to be a real surprise and a huge treat. A long chassis Touring Spider. This elegant coachbuilt design is what most collectors search and crave after, as many feel it’s the most sought-after version. It’s an even bigger surprise to find out that the car is participating since generally these are only to be found on top Concours show fields.
For the first day of driving it’s exploring the Carinthian region and heading towards Schloss Hochosterwitz, a castle that was built on a 160-meter tall dolomite rock as early as 860 AD. After a visit to its museum, we head back out towards Schloss Strassburg for a local lunch. In the sunny afternoon the 8C Rally continued with a 100 km dash on the sides of the Alpine mountains and the valleys back towards to hotel.
For Thursday the first drive was towards Gmund where we visited Helmut Pfeifhofer’s Porsche Museum. Pfeifhofer’s life-long passion with the marque started as a young boy when he was in the same school as Ferdinand Porsche’s sons. The fact that Porsche had settled in Gmund during the war and that he created the first car to bear his own name there was enough incentive to create his own museum to honor the marque. After looking over the small, yet interesting museum, it was a short drive towards Schloss Paternion where we left the cars behind in the courtyard to take the bus high up into the mountains over a dirt road. We were greeted by the castle owner at his Alpine refuge wooden lunch were a BBQ lunch with deer meat awaited the group.
The afternoon was a relaxed drive back towards the hotel with one extra unlisted stop – Villacher Oldtimermuseum. With over 240 cars and mostly bikes on display, the car collection was mostly confined to smaller obscure and micro cars such as Fiat Balillas, Lloyd 600, NSU Prinz 4, Borgwart Arabella and a Steyr Baby, to list a few.
The next day was the day everybody was looking forward to most. Not only would this be the longest route with 240 kms, it was also the day we have to change hotels, going from the Wörthersee to the outskirts of Salsburg.
More importantly it was the day that we would drive on one of the most beautiful driver’s paradise roads – the Nockalmstrasse. This piece of 35 km road goes over the western part of the Gurktaler Alps and has elevations from 1450 meters as high to 2042 meters, passing over two peaks and a staggering 52 hairpins. During the summer months, you have to watch out for the cows roaming around freely and possibly standing still on the middle of the road. Luckily they had been taken back down the mountain for upcoming winter season so that gave us clear roads. The staggering views in the mountains left a deep impression with everybody. Most felt like turning around and doing it again, even though we had plans to visit Schloss Moosham to see one of the biggest private antique collections.
For lunch the rally went 5 km down the road to Schloss Mauterndorf where we were served a typical Austrian meat dish. The rest of the day finished the last 100 km mostly on bigger roads to make it back on time at the next luxury resort at Hotel Schloss Fuschl, located at about 30 km outside Salzburg at the Fuschlsee. During that night’s dinner, sponsored by exclusive Swiss watchmaker Parmigiani, we were told that the next day we would be the guests for lunch of the only Austrian entrant at his lakeside home. We were instructed to arrive on time since there would be a special surprise waiting.
The last day saw a fairly late departure of only 10:00 am with 1.5 hours of driving towards the small town of Obertraun where the participant’s son was waiting for us–with an Alfa 8C of course–to guide us through the small lanes to the hidden location.
Once there everybody was shocked by the view and the gorgeous, still-in-restoration, white house that once served as a vacation home to a Russian Tzar. Here we would be served right by the water a local fish that they would smoke first for 40 minutes. In the interim we would be treated by a boat ride on the lake with rowers while a smaller boat was next to us with a band providing the live music and atmosphere. After the nice long and relaxed lunch it was time to head back for the last time to the hotel where everybody had to be ready in time for a bus transfer to Salzburg. The last dinner was held in the exclusive Hangar 7 restaurant at the airport. Hangar 7 belongs to Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz and it’s also where he keeps some of his stunt planes and Formula One cars, plus his exclusive restaurant Ikarus. Known to have different guest chefs each month, this month was Hong Kong-based Alvin Leung who served a fifteen course meal of molecular cuisine.
After four days of exploring the beautiful sights of Austria, the 2011 edition of the Alfa Romeo 8C Europe Rally came to an end. All participants are already looking forward to the next Alfa 8C rally in two years, to be held at a location that is still undetermined.
Alfa Romeo 8C Rally 2011 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
[Source: Dirk de Jager]