I had been at the Gstaad Classic back in 2011, and keep some very good souvenirs about it. Sadly though, I had heard that the 2013 edition would be slightly different. In fact, the roads which had been closed to the circulation in the 2011 edition, would be opened, which meant that only street legal cars could participate, and no racing cars specially. I decided despite this deception to follow the rally on the saturday, knowing it wasn’t too far from where I lived. Text & Images : Mickael B. ©

Part 1 : On the road…

The road to Gstaad from the lake Geneva region is absolutely superb with a stunning scenery all along. There are actually two ways to get to Gstaad, and I always try when I am lucky enough to go there to take one on the way to and the other on the way from. The first one, is to go towards Aigle by the famous Lavaux route with the vineyards on one side, the lake and the alps on the other, and then stepping through the famous ski station Les Diablerets towards the famous Pillon mountain pass. The second one, is similar to the first one with the Lavaux route but only up to Vevey, where you have to go afterwards in the Gros-de-Vaud towards Gruyeres. It is a very nice place to stop by for a short pause or longer pause with loads of touristic attractions, like the Gruyeres Castle, the Hans Giger Museum of the Broc chocolate factory. You have to climb then to the Pays d’En Haut to Chateau d’Oex and Saanen. Knowing that the Gstaad Classic rally route was taking them to the Col de la Croix around Villars-sur-Ollon, which is just nearby Les Diablerets I decided to take the first itinerary. While arriving in Montreux, we found a very nice surprise.

On our way, completely unexpected… The McLaren SLR Rally

The Mercedes-Benz McLaren SLR Rally was there, at the Fairmont Montreux Palace, with all the cars nicely parked, and the superb scenery to complete the postcard. The SLR Rally itinerary had never been revealed, and although we had seen some pictures of the cars in Switzerland, stumbling on all of them on our road to another automotive event was a very nice way to start the day ! There were at least fifteen SLRs, including some 722 limited editions and two very rare Stirling Moss editions, that I had never seen in real life, and was very glad to have the opportunity to admire them in real for the first time.

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We took back the road and headed towards the Col de la Croix in order to find a nice spot and wait for the 2014 Gstaad Classic participants to arrive. Our great passionate friends from Future Photography (http://www.futurephotography.ch/) had come with a beautiful Aston Martin Rapide S, letting ourselves enjoy the V12 melody on the road.


Part 2 : The Gstaad Classic Rally

The 1938 BMW 328 from Mitchell and Wendy Gross, was one of the first to arrive, wearing proudly number 3. With 464 units only built between 1936 and 1940, this automotive myth is amongst my opinion the most beautiful pre-war BMW ever built. Its rarity, its avant-guardist design, imagined by Peter Szymanowski, make it a truely special sight. Next up was an Austin Healey 100 belonging to one of the VIP guests of the rally. I never liked all Austin Healey, especially the Sprite or most of the 3000 that I just dislike the design, but the 100s have been the exception. This is actually the 100/6 Pat Moss ex-works car that she crashed in 1959 in Silverstone. It has been restored in Germany but still retains its original racing engine, and looks absolutely stunning. With its six cylinder three liter engine, three Weber carburettors, a four-speed overdrive gearbox, this right-hand drive Austin was built for high-speed racing such as at Le Mans, and is now owned by Hans Hulibrandt.

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The ex-works Pat Moss 100/6 looked and sounded stunning

Car number 20 was a the second series of the first Porsche ever built. A Porsche 356 Carrera 2 Coupé driven by David Fitzsimons and Bill Wykeham in a cream white exterior and black interior livery. Although being less desirable than the ultimate 356 Speedsters, the standard Coupé Carrera are very nice cars to enter the oldtimer’s collecting world, being very easy to maintain and repair. In fact they are as well extremely reliable, and I recall seing a few 356 in some very tough modern rallies such as the Peking to Paris 2013. Although wearing number 1, the next car to arrive was not leading the rally, which might seem normal, considering it was from 1931. Pre-war Alfa Romeos are just as reknown as their post-war sisters, teling long about their reputation at the time, being not only beautiful but as well very fast, thanks to mechanical innovations such as the dual cam shaft which placed Alfa Romeo as one of the most important automotive manufacturers at the time. This 1750 GS by Touring was driven by its belgian owner Roland d’Ieteren and french copilot Dominique Gasse.

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Although I have always preferred one of the road versions of Abarth’s modified original Cinquecentos, like the 595 or the 695 EsseEsse with their less tortured and agressive design than the racing TC 850s or 1000s, I have to admit that the sheer performances and wins achieved by these cars are amazing. The design elements that really disturbs me on this car are the front aeration, the large skirts, and the fact that the global good-looking and – yes I have to say it – cute shape of the original car has been lost. This 1000 TCR, car number 5 was driven by swiss collector Stanislas de Sadeleer and copilot Amaury de Sadeleer. At that point, another Austin Healey passed by, one that I don’t really like, a 1964 3000 Mark 3, driven by belgium Olivier Blanpain and copilot Valéri Michaux. Although there might not be for the non initiate much differences between the previous 100 BN/6 car we had seen a few minutes earlier, these elements are in the details. What I really like amongst the racing 100s is the ellipsoidal front grille, the low windshield that preserves the global line of the car, and the fact they are barchettas with no soft top folding roof.

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XK120 alloys are “la crème de la crème” of the XK series

Speaking of barchettas, a splendid Type C Jaguar arrived, driven by Siamak Siassi, who owns as well one of the racing XK120 – LT2. Not knowing if it was a real C Type or a replica, I could only assume it was a real one as Siamak Siassi is an accustomed of numerous important automotive events such as Le Mans Classic, where replicas are hardly tolerated. With Nico Kleyn as copilot, they were followed by two other important Jaguars. Number 25 was Geoffroy Peter’s XK120 Alloy with copilot Bertrand Van Houtte, and the 1964 E Type Roadster of Marc Boghossian, number 11. With only 240 units built from the XK 120 Alloy convertible, seeing this one was the first I can recall, and a great pleasure. If I had the opportunity to buy a Jaguar XK of the 120 – 140 – 150 series, I would certainly seek for one of these 120 Alloys, because not only are the 120s the more desirable between the three, but moreover the Alloy bodied 120 are the most desirable of the 120 series. They are “la crème de la crème”, the best of the best, upon the Jaguar XKs convertible.

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I am almost becoming used to these first generation W196 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLs, especially to the convertible ones… It is almost impossible to go to a classic automotive event without seeing at least one. Their hard-top Gullwing doors Coupés are less usual on the road, although not being particularly more exclusive, with 1400 Coupés built and 1858 Convertible. They represent the perfect collector’s car, which means they are becoming very prized by all the automotive collecting newcomers, although some of them are still family cars which have been transmitted from generation to generation as a heritage. Number 15 was a 1957 car driven by Robert and Cécile Boos, famous french collector who owns as well a BMW M1 Procar chassis 4301040, a Ferrari 250 GT Lusso, a Jaguar E Type and a Cooper T40 Bristol amongst other. One of the official cars of the rally was following it, a Ferrari FF brought by Geneva’s local Ferrari dealer, Modena Cars, instantly recognizable with its shooting brake styling, and its noisy 6.2 liter V12.

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These Mercedes-Benz 300 SL W196 are almost becoming common

Number 27 was a 1954 Austin-Healey 100/4, driven by Jean-Marx Bussolini, who is as well a great Porsche collector, owner of a 356 Pre-A Coupé, a 914/6, a 904 GTS chassis 904-027, a 911 2.0, and a Peugeot 402 Darl’mat as known. He had come with his wife Patricia at this 2013 edition of the Gstaad Classic. Afterwards was another Jaguar from the XK series, but just “La crème”, a standard XK120 Convertible chassis 670390, with a steel body, driven by Didier and Carolyn Benaroya. Another convertible passed by, although we had already seen one a few minutes earlier. A 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster W196, driven by belgium Jean-Georges Van Praet and french copilot Béatrice Barbaud.

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A rare 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 SS Zagato arrived, car number 12 from Antoine Garreau and Bernard Huguenin. This is the 1900 most desirable version known as the esse esse zetas or the Super Sport Zagato, and with only 39 units built, it is in fact just as rare as a Ferrari 250 GTO ! Thanks to Ugo Zagato’s aerodynamics work, and lightweight body, the 1900 SSZ could get racing properly. Speaking of lightweight, next car to pass by was number 23, from Mathieu Lamoure and Pierre Novikoff, a splendid 1959 Lotus Elite, one of Colin Chapman’s original creations, and one upon his philosophy “Light is right”. Finally another very rare car arrived, that I had never seen before but had heard of in numerous occasions. A 1960 Porsche Abarth 356B GTL, one of only 20 built. Carlo Abarth had managed to improve even more the work from Reutter on the 356, with less drag while smaller, a real aerodynamic challenge. Thanks to the italian genius work on it, the 356B GTL won its class in various races such as the Targa Florio, the 1000 kilometers of the Nürburgring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the period 1960 to 1962. It was driven during this 2013 edition of the Gstaad Classic by Claude Ruiz and Sylvie Vautier.

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Next up was another very special car that I had actually never seen before. A Jaguar C Type Longtail, even more exclusive than the “standard” C Type, although an original C Type is already a great find. The Longtail version is still recognizable from the front, with its lower front grille, its different headlights, and more plunging bonnet, but the biggest difference is of course from the side or the back where it really looks like completely different from any normal C Type. This car, number 10, was driven by Alexis de Beaumont. It was followed by the 1964 AC Cobra 289 with the famous 4.8 liter engine from the Ford Mustang. Driven by Jean-Jacques Bally and Michel Gendre, who were very enthusiastic upon seeing us, it was a real honor to salute this masterpiece of automotive history.

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An Aston Martin may hide another one…

Did you know that an Aston Martin could hide another one ? That’s in fact what happened while we weren’t paying too much attention, and an Aston Martin DB5 arrived. But its predecessor, a 1960 Series 2 DB4 was very closely following her, and completely surprised us… With its 3.7 liter six cylinder in line engine developping 240 horsepower, the DB4 was less powerful than the 4 liter 282 horsepower DB5, which of course became famous after Ian Fleming’s legendary James Bond Goldfinger film, but was still very neatly chasing its stepsister. The Series 2 DB4 introduced a new air-cooling system after cooling issues on the first series, while exterior modifications were very soft. The DB5, car number 30 was driven by Christian and Annick Baud, and the DB4, by Didier Baud and Frédéric Caranta.

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It has always surprised myself how I liked the Shelby AC Cobra, but didn’t appreciate so much the standard AC, like this one, a 1956 AC Bristol, or the AC Ace and Aceca. I think they might be two main reasons for this. The first one is that I find the design of the Shelby Cobra with the 289 just more elegant, and more subtle. Even in their 427 configurations, I find them more agressive, yet simply more beautiful… And the second point, is I shall say Caroll Shelby’s magic touch, part of his genius, in all the technical aspects that makes the Cobras much more performant than their pure english sisters. This AC Bristol, number 22, belonged to Jean-Jacques Gaasch and Michael Wellens was sitting in the passenger seat.


How interesting is the color on that Daytona ?

Usually, you don’t see very much other color on a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona than the usual Rosso Corsa, but this light green one completely stunned me. I have to say though that it is not my personnal favorite, preferring the Giallo Modena, but it was still very nice and surprising to see one in this livery. This european specification example was driven by Philippe Lancksweert, who should have brought originally his Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta but had obviously changed his mind.

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It was followed by another Maranello’s creation, a 2965 275 GTB, from american collector Dennis Singleton. Missing its bumpers, and with this racing stripe, it almost looked like one of these very rare Competizione versions. Remembering a few Dinos I had had the opportunity to see that were as well missing their chromed bumpers, I do have to say that I really prefer them without. They look so much more natural, so much more agressive if I have the opportunity one day to own one, I would probably ask to take off these bumpers and would go on the road like this. This fine example of the 250’s successor had a dedicated matching numberplate GTB 2.

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The third Mercedes-Benz 300 SL W196 Roadster of this 2013 edition of the Gstaad Classic passed by. It was my personnal favorite of the three thanks to its dark blue over light beige leather configuration, which maked it look absolutely terrific. White or grey 300 SLs are nice cars, but in a dark or original color, it changes completely the car I think. The convertible goes from a very austere german car to the fine sports car it was. That’s just how much impact the color has in my opinion on the 300 SL. This superb 1959 example, number 32, was driven by Wenceslas de Traux and Françius Simons as copilot.

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The Lancia Stratos is one of the legendary cars I really never liked

Next car to arrive was car number 57, was another automotive legend, a 1976 Lancia Stratos. Although the technical achievement of Materazzi, the engineer who designed ths Stratos is amazing, I never liked the look of the Stratos, but I do respect the car for what it has brought to automotive. Moreover it is a very rare car, with only 492 units built, very performant as well, with its triple Weber carburettor Dino 2.4 liter V6 engine which developped 190 horsepower for the road versions and up to 335 horsepower in the racing turbocharged cars. Weighing less than a ton, and thanks to its very short wheelbase, it did some amazing prowesses when it won the european rally championship three years consecutively in 1976, 1977, and 1978, establishing this car upon the automotive pantheon. This particular example was driven by Charles de la Haye Jousselin.

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At this point, another E Type Jaguar arrived. This 1965 Convertible version wearing number 41 was driven by Jean Brandenburg and Renate Ojjeh. It was followed by a 1960 two front headlamps Series 1 Chevrolet Corvette, wearing number 38, and was driven by jean-François and François Nicoules. Two cars arrived next, a 1970 Renault Alpine A110 1600 S, number 40, from Georges-henri Meylan and Julien Stervinou, and a Jaguar XK120 Coupé from Andreï Zenide and Dalanda Diallo, number 8.

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Car number 46, a beautiful burgundy red AC 289 with matching belgium numberplate “AC 289” arrived just seconds before car number 44, a 1962 Porsche 356 SC. The Cobra was driven by Leopold Thise and Roberto Pace, where as the Porsche was driven by Alexandre and Philippe Axarlis. Another E-Type Jaguar, but a series 1 this time was following the duo with a 1965Ferrari 275 GTB/C. It looked like the colors had been swapped on the two cars, the Jaguar wearing an unusual gaudy red, and the 275 a too serious grey. The E Type was driven by Patrick and Caroline Reithaar, and the Ferrari by Peter Bruppacher and copilot Adrienne Von Senger. Arriving next was a Series 2 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Convertible, number 45 of the rally, driven by Charles Zaugg and Christian Beaumann.

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The Porsche 911 is probably one of automotive history’s most notorious and most important classic. The first one of this rally was car number 48, a 1970 Porsche 911 S Targa, beautiful in this red over black configuration. It was driven by Stéphane and Marie Guyot – Sionnest, coming both from France. Another Alpine A 110 passed by, a 1600 S but which had been prepared to the Group 4 Specifications for racing. Most of Alpines have been converted to Group 4 specifications nowadays, although the original ones prepared by Marc Mignotet are very rare, and sought after, in their different versions, 1300, 1600, 1900, and 1800 versions, with the last one being the most important because it was actually in this configuration that Renault-Alpine won the 1973 World Rally Championship. Car number 43 was another rare car, that I had only once seen in Zurich, about a year ago, which made me think it was actually the same car considering the number plate. It was a 1960 Jensen 541 R, one of only 193 cars built of this rather original four-seater Grand Tourer, and thanks to its four liter straight six, it was actually the fastest four-seater coupé at the time. This particular example was driven by Peter and Isabel Zuppinger.

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Two Dinos and an intruder in the middle : a 2.2 Porsche 911 Targa S

Next up were two Dino 246 GT with an intruder in the middle : another Porsche 911 Targa, although this one was a 1972 2.2 liter version. Well actually, not so intruder than it seems, because all three cars have six cylinder engines, although in two of them it is in V, and the other it is flat. The first Dino was in a color I had never seen before, in a very simple grey. This 1972 car was for women only, with a 100% female crew, Joelle Houssot being at the wheel, and Marjorie Cardot as copilot. The intruder, the Porsche, was in one of my favorite color, orange which I think makes it so jovial and incredibly looking. Suddenly the 911 becomes a happy sportscar, not the austerious automotive it can be as well. This particular example, number 51, was driven by Jack and Claire-Lise Lowe, from Switzerland. The second Dino, was another 246 GT, but from 1971 and in a more conventionnal Rosso Corsa, wearing number 55. It was very neatly driven by a 100% male crew, driven by Michaël Lok and copilot Jacques de Vogel.

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Then came the second Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona of the day, another european specification example but this time in a rather more italian color than the light green car we had seen earlier. It was in one of my favorite color for a Ferrari, the Giallo Modena, which is Modena’s city original color. I have to say that I really never liked these bright yellow on cars until very recently, where I stumbled across a few cars (a Ferrari F12, another 365 GTB/4 Daytona, but US Specifications, and a Porsche 996 GT3), which had similar colors. I started then to appreciate the subtlety of this color. It is actually one of these colors that highlights each and every design features of a car, but it doesn’t suit every car. Although it might be a bit gaudy, but I would really appreciate seeing more Giallo cars, especially coming from Italy…

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Part 3 : Gstaad Center

We decided to move then to Gstaad, continuing our road through Les Diablerets village, the Pillon mountain pass, Feutersoey, and finally to our destination. we parked our car as usual, near the train station and headed to the village center, knowing the cars would be parked on the main village square. We hadn’t guess wrong, with a very nice 1961 Ferrari 250 Pininfarina Cabriolet to greet us. The owner, Hubert Bonnet, hadn’t obviously taken part in the rally, preferring the peacefulness of the small Bernese village.

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A few meters was Isabelle de Sadeleer’s Pagani Zonda C12, the famous chassis number 003, which is probably the only strictly original C12 in existence. As part of the Gstaad Automobile Club, car passionate and collector, she is as well one of the organisers of the rally. And she has very good automotive taste… In an impeccable yeloow exterior paint, it was actually the first time I saw this car in real, and was very keen to. This is actually exactly how the Zonda was born, the very first one, with its single piece rear aileron, and its two rear view mirrors places very high on the windshield.

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The Pagani Zonda was parked just behind Modena Car’s lineup of Ferrari and Maserati. Starting from the top left, we have a Maserati Ghibli, a Ferrari 458 Spider, a Ferrari California, and a Ferrari F12, but none of them really caught our attention, probably due to the Zonda, or to the car which was on the opposite.

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No offense to the other cars, but this 250 GT SWB instantly caught us

It was a beautiful Giallo Modena Ferrari 250 GT Short Wheel Base Passo Corto. And although the other cars were very nice to see, this 250 was on another planet. We finally decided to move to the rally ending point, which was a few kilometers away, at Saanen local airport, which had been specially booked for the event. Otherwise I am pretty sure this airport is more used to private jets and helicopters of celebrities landing on its runways rather than oldtimers…

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Arriving on the public parking, just a few meters away from the runway, a young enthusiast had brought along his bright red Renault 5 Turbo, which in its racing configuration raced in the extreme group B world rally championship back in the eighties. Time now for us to concentrate on the impressive line-up of cars which had all arrived it seemed. It started with car number 2, the 1931 Talbot 105 from John Ruston and Jeremy Haylock, alongside the BMW 328 and the ex-Patt Moss Austin Healey 100/6.

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The two Jaguar C Type of the rally were parked alongside letting us really look out for the differences between the two cars. Which one do you prefer ? My choice would be the long tail, more impressive, more agressive, yet more elegant… The first car of the rally, the 1931 Alfa Romeo 1750 GS  was finally at rest, so we could have a look at its typical pre-war interior. It must be truely incredible to travel with such a cockpit. Every minute, every kilometer, every gesture must have such a particular taste.

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The Aston Martin DB5 was now with the Porsche Abarth 356 B GTL, and one of the three Mercedes-Benz 300 SL W196 of the rally. Its stepsister the Series 2 Aston Martin DB4, was alongside the Austin Healey 100/4 and the amazing light green Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona. I had to stop by and take a closer look at this car, to be make myself an opinion about such a color on such a car. My verdict ? Well, it looks great but I would have chosen another interior color than this flashy red leather one, which didn’t suit much with the exterior.

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Grey or red ? The Ferrari purist would say red, because red is the only color for Ferrari, and that would be wrong. Terribly wrong.

The two sisters, the Ferrari 275 GTB were side by side, letting their V12 at rest after a very intensive working day on the region’s best roads. Both of them looked absolutely superb, but my preferrence would go to the red GTB/2, not because it is red and purist would say a Ferrari should be red, which is wrong, but because it had no bumpers, which made it look way more sexy than its grey sisters. No doubt, that if the grey one didn’t have its chromed front and rear bumpers, I would have hesitated a lot more, and probably would have said that I’d like to go home with both of them.

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Another car that we had strangely missed on the rally was this Aston Martin DB4 Convertible, one of the 90 original car., owned by Hubert Fabri. In this Dark Blue over tan leather configuration it was great, but time passing, I admit that I do prefer the Coupes to the convertible ones. It was parked aside the XK120 Coupé, and Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray Convertible. The other Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona of this 2013 edition of the Gstaad Classic, in Giallo Modena, was just near its smaller sister the grey Dino 246 GT, and the Bristol 541 R.

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Time to pause near the Stratos, where Peter Livanos, local collector here in Gstaad was lighting his cigar on his Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark 1, prepared for Group 2 specifications. I had wondered though why he had chosen this rather conventionnal car to take part in the rally instead of his Ferrari 250 GT Spider California Alloy for example, one of only three made. Still I understood his choice when I saw how vigourous this car was on these twisty roads and imagined how much fun one must have in these first generations Golf GTIs. Another car we had strangely missed during the rally was famous american collector Peter Read’s Ferrari 250 GT Lusso. This car was another proof that red is not the only color that suits perfectly the Modenese creations.

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So what to say about this 2013 edition of the Gstaad Classic ? Well, let’s not lie to ourselves, it was certainly less impressive than the 2011 edition, but has become a more standard sympathetic rally, typically swiss, but no worries, I will come to the next edition, because there are really some amazing automotive marvels at each edition, and I am pretty sure there will still be some at the next one. So, see you in 2015 !