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The Legendary Rossfeldrennen Hill Climb

Posted on 05 October 2013 by Chris

Photos and Text: Claus Mueller

The „Rossfeld Hoehenringstrasse“

In 1927 the idea to build a scenic German Alpine Road (Deutsche Alpenstrasse) was born. Running along the whole mountain range, the new road was supposed to connect the mountains between Lake Constance (southwestern „corner“) and Lake Königssee (southeastern „corner“) to promote tourism in this wonderful area. The Nazis seized the idea in 1933 and started building the first stretch in the town of Inzell.?The Rossfeld Hoehenringstrasse was planned as a sircular road on the eastern end of the German Alpine Road, running from the village of Unterau through the village of Oberau, the Rossfeld (which is an alpine scenic area with wonderful views) and the Obersalzberg mountain. Although construction started in 1938, the final stretch was completed not before 1955. The last section to Koenigssee (lake) was never finished, so the German Alpine Road finds her dead end at Hinterbrand. In the 1950s, the road was classified as a privately owned national road and a toll collection was introduced to cover the costs of building and maintenance.?The Rossfeld Hoehenringstrasse, today known as Rossfeld-Panoramastrasse, is approximately 16 kilometres (10 Miles) long and has a maximum incline of 13 %. Rising up to 1,560 meters (roughly 5,100 ft) above sea level, it is Germany’s highest permanently accessible road.

The „Salzberg race“

The first motorcycle and car hill climbs took place on the steep and sandy track leading from Berchtesgaden to Obersalzberg from 1925 to 1928. The Salzberg race attracted renowned racing drivers like Hans Stuck and Rudolf Caracciola.

The Rossfeld race

From 1958, the race on the Rossfeldstrasse near Berchtesgaden turned into an international competition for touring and grand touring cars as well as for sports and junior formula cars. In 1961 – the year I was born – the race was included in the European Hill Climb Championship. Well-known racing drivers like Sepp Greger, Edgar Barth, Gerhard Mitter, Hans Herrmann, Rolf Stommelen and Johannes Ortner have won the International Alpine Mountain Award Rossfeld.?On 8 June 1968, Ludovico Scarfiotti, two-time European Hill Climb Champion, lost his life behind the wheel of his Porsche 910 Bergspyder in a training run at the Rossfeld.?The race was organized jointly by the Automotive Club of Germany (AvD) and the Berchtesgaden Automobilclub (BAC).?Ambitious private drivers, local motor sport aficionados included, started in various classes side by side with renowned factory-sponsored drivers of the major automobile manufacturers. From Porsche to Goggo, almost everything with four wheels was raced up hill.??The oil crisis of 1973 put an end to the hill climbs and with them to one of the greatest spectator magnets in Berchtesgaden.?25 years later, Günter and Heidi Hansmann revived the spirit of the Rossfeld races. From 1998 they organized the Rossfeld Historic, an event that also brought back the hill climbs to the Rossfeld – of course as „regularity races“.

This period ended in 2010. Than Joachim Althammer tried to set up a new event which took place on the last weekend of September 2013, named „Internationaler Edelweiss Bergpreis“. But we just call it „Rossfeldrennen“.

Althammer and his crew managed that the major carmakers took part: Porsche, Mercedes, Audi and BMW sent cars from their museums, piloted by famous drivers:


– Walter Röhrl on the world famous 1987 Pikes Peak Audi Sport Quattro E2 (which was a blast to watch – 598 horsepower!)

– Jochen Mass (won the 1975 Formula 1 GP in Barcelona, won Le Mans in 1989) on an white 1928 Mercedes SSK

– Hans Hermann (who won Le Mans in 1970 together with team mate Richard Attwood, won best in class in both Mille Miglias 1953 and 54 and reached 3rd on the Carrera Panamericana in 1954, just to name a few of his results) on a 1966 Porsche 356B 2000 GS-GT

– H.R.H. Prince Leopold von Bayern (If we would still have a monarchy in Bavaria, he would be our king. He is „brand ambassador“ for BMW, his career as a race driver brought him 120 wins in different classes, mostly touring cars) on a 1961 BMW 700 RS

Unfortunately the paddocks were covered by heavy mist and cool temperature. But it could be worse – it wouldn’t be very unusual to have snow at thin time of the year. The lower part of the 6 km (3.75 mls) race course offered also limited visibility. But after about half of the climb all drivers found themselves above the clouds in the middle of a paradisaical scenery with the sun shining from a bright blue sky, offering wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.

We had 3 runs on Saturday and 2 more on Sunday. All in all 142 cars raced uphill. The goal was to match the first time without using a Stop watch. I ended up on place 19 on Saturday but I was disqualified on Sunday because i took a co-driver with me (a camera man as we are working on a tv production). But for me taking part was the fun, so what. My 1929 Model A Speedster managed to be overtaken just by the following car which started 30 seconds after me – a Railton with 180 hp. In 4 out of 5 ran I also was caught by the 1930 Sunbeam (160 hp) who started 60 seconds behind. But I also managed to pass the 1929 Pontiac with his 6 cyl engine twice. And at least I saw him every time and if the race would have been just half a mile longer…

Finde more pictures and links to videos of the race on





Claus Mueller




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