Cows, castles and engines

Cows, castles and engines

A passion for motors and speed can easily be hidden here, amidst the apparent tranquillity of the natural setting. This is the case of Spielberg, a small town in the region of Styria, Austria’s “green heart”, where 60% of the land is covered with forests and another 25% with meadows, vineyards and pastures. At the start of every summer the Formula 1 bursts into this little corner of paradise on earth, followed by its crowds of fans. The contrast is summed up in the Red Bull Ring, a track located more than 600 metres above sea level in what must be the world championship’s most beautiful natural landscape. 

After all, the Austrian Grand Prix has bucolic roots. It all began with a local group of automobile racing fans who created a simple L-shaped circuit using traffic cones and bales of hay in the town of Zeltweg. The first race was held there, exactly sixty years ago, with the participation of international sports cars and the victory of Wolfgang von Trips in a Porsche. 

The Austrian Grand Prix offers an opportunity for discovery on the road in Stiria, a Land where wide open spaces, fresh air and spectacular Alpine scenery provide the perfect backdrop for enjoying the pleasures of driving on the winding roads extending toward the border with Slovenia and Hungary. In the vicinity of the circuit is Tremmelberg watchtower, offering a unique view of the area, and the tranquillity of Lake Ingeringsee, in a fairytale-like setting framed by mountains. The Castle Route is another perfect itinerary: from the witchcraft museum of Riegersburg to the romantic Kornberg, you can lose yourself in a little voyage through the history and architecture of Styria, touring twenty medieval castles, some of which are still inhabited.  

Travelling farther from Spielberg, you can go as far as Graz, one of Europe’s most beautiful medieval cities, with a historic centre that is a Unesco World Heritage Site. And seeing as we’re talking about an itinerary for motoring fans, it’s impossible not to mention that Graz is the city where Austria’s first Formula 1 champion, Jochen Rindt, grew up. He was unfortunately also the only champion to be awarded a posthumous win, after his fatal accident in Monza in 1970. Born in Germany of an Austrian mother, Jochen was orphaned by World War II bombing at the age of only two and was brought up by his maternal grandparents. It was as a child on the streets of Graz that he started scooting about town on a wooden push scooter, going on to ride a motorcycle a few years later.

Unlike the other great Austrian driver to go down in history, Niki Lauda, who came from a wealthy Viennese banking family, Rindt represented the most reckless spirit of the Austrians, hidden behind the white icebergs, flowering meadows and romantic mountain valleys. His spectacular driving and balancing through counter-steering helped Austria get its own Grand Prix (the first official race was held in 1964) and made a whole nation fall in love with speed. Cows, crystal clear mountain streams, medieval castles... and revving engines: this is what Austria, or rather, Styria, is all about! 

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