Former world champion Jim Clark says it’s the most exciting sport he’s ever tackled. We’ll take his word for it. But if you have any doubts, he recommends "a Cortina, lots of nerve, and plane tickets to Italy for you – and your doctor.”
So concludes the astonishing minute-long newsreel about the ‘Salute to Cortina Champions’ of December 1964, when road-going Ford Cortinas were driven down an Olympic bobsleigh track. You can read about this audacious (read foolhardy) event at the bottom of this page. Fifty-five years on, we’re taking one of Ford’s current stars, the suitably game Ford Fiesta ST, to revisit the site of this historical madness.
Following a night-time handover at Treviso Airport, our eager little three-door ST pounds up the empty Autostrada before climbing deep into the Dolomites to the chic ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, home of the 1956 Winter Olympics and regional epicentre for la dolce vita. There’s a particular excitement to arriving somewhere scenic in the dark, and we bed down in a hotel beside the town’s landmark bell tower in anticipation of what sunrise will reveal.
And rightly so. The next day, drifting wisps of mist can’t hide the huge, broken crags of limestone that cradle the Ampezzo Valley, their haywire structures jutting at all angles, barely softened by January’s snow.