1956 Ferdinand Porsche Memorial Ice Races

Ice-racing has a long history in Switzerland. In cities like St. Moritz,  they saw it as entertainment for winter visitors.  In the early 1930s it was nothing more as a riderless horse that pulled skiers over the frozen lake with a tow rope. Skijöring became the name of the activity. The landscape around Zell am See is quite similar to the St. Moritz area. They have the brooding Bergsee, a breathtaking Alpine backdrop of towering white peaks shimmering in the cold winter air. And ofcourse, Zell am See is strongly connected to a pioneer in cars and motorsports. Professor Ferdinand Porsche chose to make the Schuttgut at the foot the Schmittenhöhe his family home. No wonder the Austrians took over the tradition of Skijöring. However, the Austrians quickly transformed the activity into a spectacular event

Prof. Dr. h.c Ferdinand Porsche memorial ice-race

In Zell am See, motorcycles replaced the horses.  The fuel-powered horse power pulled the dare-devil skiers across the frozen lake, at high speeds. The Zell am See skijöring offered everything the public could hope for, as early as 1937. The haydays however came only after World War II. From 1952, the event was held in memory of the great designer, Prof. Dr. h.c. Ferdinand Porsche himself, as it became something like a Grand Prix on ice, with separate motorcycle and car classifications. The inaugural Ferdinand Porsche memorial ice-race took place February 10 1952.

Ferdinand Porsche Memorial Ice Races
Porsche 356s on the frozen lake of Zell-am-See during the Ferdinand Porsche Memorial Ice Races

The best way to commemorate Ferdinand Porsche was to bring people related to Porsche to the race. So the factory sent   along a full team of ice racers from its own stable. First the visitors saw Porsche 356 Coupés on the frozen lake. Later, the mid-engine Porsche 550 Spyder came along.  Factory drivers like Richard von Frankenberg and Huschke von Hanstein took the wheel. 

Otto Mathé in his Fetzenflieger at the Ferdinand Porsche Memorial Ice races in Zell-am-See
Otto Mathé in his Fetzenflieger at the Ferdinand Porsche Memorial Ice races in Zell-am-See

Private racers like Otto Mathé and Ernst Vogel joined them in their private Porsche or Porsche derivatives. Mainly Otto Mathé  was simply in his element on ice. He seemed almost unbeatable in. Ernst Vogel, president of the Austrian Porsche Club at the time, even beated Wolfgang Graf Bergh von Trips. The latter was one of the best wet-weather drivers in Europa back then. factory Porsche.

1959 Ferdinand Porsche Memorial Ice races in Zell-am-See
1959 Ferdinand Porsche Memorial Ice races in Zell-am-See

The tradition took on, until 1974. During snow clearance, a Unimog truck sank, together with its driver. That was the end of the Zell Am See ice racing event for a long, long time. Until 2019, when the great-grandson of Ferdinand Porsche and son of Wolfgang Porsche,  and his friend Vinzenz Greger relaunched the event.

Pictures courtesy Porsche AG