Tracing the Klausenpass legend

Klausenpass Bild

The Klausenpass may link the cantons of Glarus and Uri, but it is far more than an east-west connection: it is a legend.

In the early days of the automobile, the Klausen race was the longest, toughest and most popular mountain race in the world. For the best motorbike and car racers, not to mention 30,000 spectators, no other race captured the imagination quite like this one – a 21.5km-stretch of unpaved road that starts in Linthal, winds its way up 136 curves and reaches an altitude of 1,237 metres at the top of the pass. Emil Frey himself took part in the race four times, between 1925 and 1929. In 1925, the 27-year-old mechanic bought a Sunbeam motorbike in England and boosted its performance by 20 percent in his own workshop. But what really made the motorbike a serious contender was his special petrol mix. Only decades later, in an interview with Memorial-Revue 1993, did Frey reveal the secret ingredients: benzene, picric acid, ether and castor oil. He also explained the motivation behind racing: “As I was always short of money in the beginning, and could not afford to advertise the English motorbikes I was selling, I had to find other ways of making a name for myself. That’s what I used these races for. My wins made me famous and gave customers more reason to believe in the quality of products in my shop.” 

At 19:01:04 minutes, Emil Frey recorded the fastest time ever in the professional half-litre class on an English HRD. He received his trophy in front of the William Tell memorial in Altdorf.

Recently, we headed back up to the Klausenpass to take two of our classic cars out for a spin, though this time we had no intention of breaking any records! Behind the wheels of a stunning 1964 Jaguar E-Type 3.8L Series 1 roadster and a spirited 1972 Toyota Celica ST in bright green, we experienced the magic of the Klausenpass once again.

Come along for the ride…