Snowball express: Ford Fiesta ST vs. Cortina D'Ampezzo

It’s blowing a gale as wind funnels through the 2239m summit’s saddle, so we don’t tarry. The snow thins on the descent, so we remove the wheel jewellery for another slalom whose switchbacks and kinks don’t let up for three full miles, plunging from windswept mountainside to sheltered forest. Trunk-shaped dents in the Armco denote the enduring timber trade; before the early 1900s tourism boom helped forge this road, wood was instead transported by the area’s numerous ice-blue rivers. 

Rising again to Passo Sella (2244m), we pause on a panoramic hairpin so photographer Luc Lacey can capture the jagged skyline beyond. There are no other cars, and there is no sound but for the creaking Armco and a whirling snow devil whispering by. It’s one of those moments to feel small. 

The pass itself is an ice-free up and down, then we barrel along the smooth, tree-lined Val Gardena road, skirting bizarre, precarious-looking rock formations so tall and so steep I get dizzy peering up their walls. Winding upwards again, we bounce swiftly between second and third gears before cresting spectacular Passo Gardena at 2115m where, as the sunset turns peaks to molten lava, some well-heeled skiers hitch a helicopter ride down the valley before the weather turns. 

No such luxury for us. Even with chains reinstalled, it’s tricky going, the road dipping and diving as much as it twists. Approaching one particularly evil left-hander, the naked rear tyres try to overtake the fronts before a delicate dose of throttle straightens us out. 

Once below the snowline, we veer east again under a freezing, clear sky, the crescent moon peeping between peaks as we home in on the welcoming lights of Cortina. It’s been a brilliant drive and, unlike our counterparts from 1964, we’ve kept our borrowed Ford largely horizontal and entirely intact. Mind you, there is one remaining Olympic bobsleigh track wide enough to drive a car down. Now we just need them to launch the Ford St Moritz.

The Crazy Gang

The 1964 Salute to Cortina Champions celebrated more than 200 competitive wins in 26 countries for the humble Ford Cortina, launched just two years before. Alongside Jim Clark, the field of 19 drivers included luminaries such as Colin Chapman, John Whitmore, Jack Sears, Vic Elford, Eric Jackson, local Olympic sledder Lino Zanettin and speed polymath Henry Taylor – a British bobsleigh team captain turned Formula 1 pilot turned Ford works saloon racer. 


Leave a Reply