Anniversary – motorsport
Successful Alpine Ride
In 1910, the first year of the toughest rally proved the quality of Laurin & Klement vehicles
Count Alexander Kolowrat with a L&K car of 1913, a small propeller on top of the radiator recalls another of Sascha's hobbies – aviation.
his year, ŠKODA AUTO is celebrating not only 125 years since its beginnings in 1895 but also several other anniversaries, including 110 years since it participated in the first-ever Alpine Ride. The Mladá Boleslav brand would go on to become the star of the first five years.
Challenging alpine terrain
At the beginning of the 20th century, racing in alpine conditions was one of the most difficult sports events. One of the forerunners of rallies was the Austrian Alpine Ride (in short, Alpine Ride). The first one started on 26 June 1910 in Vienna; three days later, 14 of the 23 starting cars crossed the finish line. Along the way on their 867-kilometre journey, they passed through Lower Austria, Styria, Carinthia and Salzburg. The organising Austrian auto club routed the way through challenging alpine terrain, steep climbs and the dreaded Katschberg Pass.
The exceptional role the Mladá Boleslav brand has is that it had five times in a row (1910–1914) a minimum of one crew at the finish line of the Alpine Ride without penalty points. No other factory team managed to do that.
Mladá Boleslav team
It comprised “three Laurin & Klement market touring cars à 20 pcs 95 × 130”, that is, vehicles close to series production containing an engine with an output of 20 hp (14.7 kW). The Czech Count Saša Kolowrat-Krakowský, who completed the race without any penalty, won the race. The other cars were driven by Croatian noblemen Paul Drašković and Otto Hieronimus, the chief designer at L&K. The best Czech cars finished the 5-kilometre speed trial near Vienna with a magnificent average of 104.985 km/h. The organisers verified that the cars had not been equipped with a lighter permanent transmission in comparison with the standard version to gain an unfair advantage in the climbs.
The following year, the L&K brand simply could not pass up the races, and this time, it was a track 1,421 kilometres long and “spiced up” with an ascent of up to 30 percent to the Loibl Pass. Strict regulations required the engines to run without interruption throughout the entire daily stage. Drivers were also penalised for any repairs during the race, for driving too slowly or for taking a wrong turn. In each car, everything was checked during the competition by the Austrian car club commissioner, who put a seal on important components and powertrains. After the end of a stage, the cars were parked in a locked-up area. All five L&K cars crossed the finish line without penalties, and Hieronimus won a silver plate. RED
Big Itinerant trophy
In the third year, when the track was extended to 2,667 km, the factory team did not score a single penalty point, and Hieronimus won the silver plaque again. The last major automobile race in the era prior to World War I was the Alpine Ride, held from 14 to 23 June 1914. Almost one-third of the 75 starting cars dropped out on the nearly 3,000-kilometre track. Kolowrat-Krakowský was one of only five competitors who completed the races in 1912, 1913 and 1914 with a clean slate and were entitled to receive the Grand Alpine Itinerant Traveling Prize. The organisers did not count on this, so they subsequently had five identical trophies made (the original is now part of the collections in the ŠKODA Museum – ed.). The assassination in Sarajevo – and with it, the start of World War I – followed two days after the competition, which meant that the race was temporarily interrupted.
Stars behind the wheel
Imagine, for example, Prince Albert II of Monaco or the FAVORIT’s chief designer, Petr Hrdlička, racing for the ŠKODA Motorsport team.
… Similar personalities were actually L&K factory team members in the first years of the Alpine Ride.
Count Alexander “Saša” Joseph Kolowrat-Krakowský
Car racer, aviator and founder of the Austrian film industry. He started racing as a student and befriended Václav Klement and Ferdinand Porsche. He was awarded the Grand Alpine Itinerant Prize for his achievements the first five years of the Alpine Ride.
Car and engine designer, pilot and racer of German origin. He mainly participated in hill-climbing races. He started working as a designer at the Laurin & Klement factory in 1907.
Croatian count, whose ancestors in the 17th century were among the most powerful families in the country.