Report from Magnus Lie
After a look around a few of the other cars that had joined us in Cortina d’Ampezzo for the weekend, and a closer look at the advertising that the local council had put up about our visit, Graham and Claire came up with the idea of touring the Olympic sights in Cortina, and I tagged along.
Italy and Cortina held the Winter Olympics in 1956, 32 nations competed in 4 disciplines and 24 events. Funnily enough, they encountered a lack of snow at the alpine skiing events, so the Italian Army came to the rescue, transporting large amounts of snow to the courses. Following the town’s one way system from the hotel, first up was the ice rink. The big wall across the front didn’t really make for very good pics, so we had a quick look around and carried on, in search of the bobsleigh run.
Graham looked like he knew where he was going, but when he started dodging the corners and stairs of some local houses, and proceeded up this narrow and bumpy gravel track, I wondered where we would end up. Myself, I’ve got absolutely no sense of direction at all, so I followed suit. Turns out we were in the right area, but not on the right track. Undeterred, we carried on and found the bobsleigh run, where we did some off roading, trying to get the cars close to it, for some photo oooops.
When you know that the guys went through these almost vertical turns in a rather primitive bobsleigh in 1956, at a fair lick of speed, they must have had some fairly big and hairy cojones, that’s for sure!
As some of you will know, Ford pulled a PR stunt in Cortina in the winter of 1964. At the end of the year, they got 19 of the world’s top Ford racing drivers down there, to celebrate 200 race wins for the Cortina, and 1964 being the Year of the Cortina. Ford put groups of eager racing drivers in a mk1 Cortina and sent them down the bobsleigh run, topping 50 mph on the snow on their way down! Apparently, the racing drivers (including Jim Clark) took to the challenge like fish to water, and were soon pulling all the stops to go faster than the previous guy. Later that day, Ford had to stop the play, before the cars gave up and someone got seriously hurt.
Some of the famous stars were Jim Clark, David Seigle-Morris, Vic Elford, Gilbert Staepelaere, Peter Hughes, Sir John Whitmore, Henry Taylor, Jack Sears, Bo Ljungfeldt and Trond Schea. A local guy came to see us outside Hotel Cortina on the Saturday, to show us this photo he had taken way back in 1964, of the famous stars that Ford had brought to the town for the photoshoot that turned into the famous bobsleigh footage.
We had a walk along parts of the bobsleigh run, and seeing how narrow it was in places, we couldn’t understand how they got the cars down there, as even a mk1 Cortina was clearly too wide. While up in the cable car on the Sunday, Graham and Claire discovered there are 2 different bobsleigh runs in Cortina, there is a bigger and wider one further up the hills.
We carried on to the Olympic ski jump, and pondered on how to get some good pics of the cars up there. The wooden barriers were in the way, so we lifted them away (we were almost alone up there that day, so figured we could get away with it, as long as we put them carefully back again afterwards).
The Dolomites do make a nice back drop!
Just to prove we had been there, we also needed a stop at one of the town marker signs.
All photos © Cortina MkII Owners Club LTD