Like father, like son
For Jürgen Barth, the Schauinsland hill climb and the 718 Boxster are as much about family as they are about driving
Hidden away in Germany’s Black Forest, the Schauinsland mountain has heard the echoes of motorsport since 1925. Rudolf Caracciola, Hans Stuck, Bernd Rosemeyer and Hans Herrmann all won here during the 28 iterations of the Schauinsland hill climb. But this mountain, with its 173 corners spread across a 12km route, is also a place that brings together a father, a son, and the Porsche 718.
In 1957, the race was won by Edgar Barth, driving the four-cylinder Porsche 718 RSK. Now, 59 years later, his son Jürgen Barth has returned to the mountain in a new four-cylinder Porsche 718 Boxster S. He’s sitting inside the hotel Die Halde on the summit plateau, leafing through a 10kg, leather-covered photo album when we meet.
A family photo album like few others
Jürgen was nine at the time of his father’s victory. “Training was mainly done at night,” he says. “It was relatively safe to follow the ideal line, because the headlights of oncoming cars made it possible to see them in good time.” He was allowed to sit in the passenger seat as his father attacked the mountain. “Those were naturally magic moments for a young boy,” he recalls.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Porsche’s test engineers and racing drivers were regulars at the Halde. “I came here often with my father,” says Jürgen, a racer himself. “The drivers trained for the race on the route up the Schauinsland, and on the steep descent down to Todtnau they tested the brakes.” The road – along with a few ski runs – descends a slope called Notschrei. It means “cry of distress” in German.
The 718 Boxster tackling one of Schauinsland's 173 corners
Some of the black-and-white photos include a little boy. “That’s me,” says Jürgen, pointing to a little gent in a peaked cap. He turns the pages, pausing when he spots his father’s victory in the Autobahnspinne Dresden in 1953, the Targa Florio in 1959, and his four victories at the Schauinsland race.
Edgar won the European Hill Climb Championship in 1959, 1963, and 1964. His car of choice back in the day was a Porsche 718. He initially drove variants with four-cylinder boxer engines, but later switched to eight-cylinder engines.
Jürgen Barth took after his father, and is an accomplished racing driver
“Some of the engine sounds in the new 718 Boxster S remind me of the old race cars,” says Jürgen. “The dark, muffled growl while accelerating, for example.” The route to the 1284-metre summit provides ample asphalt to test the Boxster’s capabilities: “You know there’s a turbo behind your back propelling you, but it feels like a naturally aspirated engine.” He adds: “The 718 Boxster S is wonderfully compact and light. It reminds me of the earlier 911s.”
In 1969, Jürgen entered the Schauinsland race for the first time in a 911 T, and promptly took sixth in his class. “I liked hill climbs a lot,” he says. “You had to know every corner in detail, because there was no codriver like in a rally. And you had only one chance, unlike in circuit races, in which consistency and strategy are much more important.”
Green heaven: once you've memorised the Nürburgring's corners, have a go at Schauinsland
Like his father, Jürgen has enjoyed considerable racing success. He started out as an apprentice mechanic with Porsche, and this understanding of cars gave him a considerable advantage. A case in point came in 1977. It was the Le Mans 24 Hours, and the Porsche 936, which he was sharing with Jacky Ickx and Hurley Haywood, was running on five of its six cylinders. Car smoking, Jürgen brought the car home to victory. Then, a few days later, he was flying to Australia to offer technical support to Polish driver Sobiesław Zasada in the London–Sydney Marathon. Of course he was.
“Maybe driving fast was in my blood. How I really learned it, though, was through the many opportunities that I had as a driver of the service vehicle, such as in the Safari Rally in Kenya for Björn Waldegård,” recalls Barth. Today, Barth says that “the art of racing is not to drive 100 percent at one point in the race and post the fastest lap, but to go as close to 90 percent as you can for the whole race. If you can manage that, then you’re really fast.”