This year’s Gstaad Palace Challenge makes for a weekend of thrills and spills for car-racing enthusiasts, gourmands and lovers of the great outdoors. The two-day rally – part of a three-day event from Friday August 31 through to Sunday September 2 – is limited to just 30 classic or vintage cars, which will motor around the stunning Saanenland valley on a route designed by Kim Bannister of UK-based events organiser Rally Round. Much like other events he has designed – such as the Paris-Prague, Flying Scotsman, 2nd Thunder Dragon Rally and Rally Round Africa – this adventure puts seasoned racing teams through their paces.
Guests will arrive at the Gstaad Palace hotel on the morning of August 31 ready to roll, when their vehicles will be checked and a GPS tracking device installed for timekeeping throughout the race. The first car will set off at 3pm for a “warm-up” to determine the starting order for the following day, and all will finish by 6pm, leaving guests to enjoy a cocktail or a cigar in the hotel’s stylish surroundings.
Saturday (September 1) starts early with breakfast followed by an all-day rally across rural Berner Oberland, Emmental and the flats of Fribourg, before returning to Gstaad. Upon arrival at the hotel, guests will enjoy a much-deserved rest (or a massage in the 1,850sq m Palace Spa) before a prize-giving dinner – hotel specialities are likely to include aubergine caviar, veal escalope and côte du boeuf, as well as an array of regional cheeses.
“Our slogan is ‘The rally for ambitious bon vivants’,” says Andrea Scherz, general manager of the Gstaad Palace. “We included the phrase bon vivants as I’ve been to so many rallies where I’ve found the quality of the food and wines lacklustre. Here, guests will enjoy wine pairings, rare cigars and many culinary highlights.
“Unbeknown to most, the area is a major hideaway for car enthusiasts,” Scherz adds. “The winding valley is dotted with amazing private collections and several semi-secret underground car-storage facilities. Local car enthusiasts participate in our rally, and visiting teams are hand-picked by the organiser to ensure their cars match the rally spirit.” Guests must apply for selection, and entry for one car with a two-person crew is SFr2,420 (about £1,850).