This story started three years ago when I stumbled upon an event called Planai-Classic. The annual winter rally for cars from before 1973 takes place in the first few days of January every year on winding roads around Austria’s Dachstein glacier.

I was hooked immediately and have been attending the Planai-Classic every year since.


This year’s event – its 26th – is special to me for several reasons. First off, because I treated myself to a new camera system, which was making its debut. After 12 years of shooting with Nikon cameras, I recently switched to a “red dot” camera and bought myself a Leica M10-P. Of course, I still brought my trusty ol’ Nikon D3, so this post consists of images from both cameras.


The second reason, and most important, is the access I have. It was my first time filming as part of the Planai-Classic media team and my car got an official placard and was able to drive on closed roads ahead of the race cars. Anyone who has ever photographed an entire rally will know what a godsend it was, let alone near a glacier in the middle of winter!


2023 The Planai-Classic ran for three days and was the most well attended ever.There are 64 teams from six countries representing 20 brands.


Entrants were divided into three age-based vehicle categories: Era I – until 1940; Era II – 1940-1964; and Era III – 1965-1972. Then there are the rules, about tires – normal road types only added with nails (and chains if needed), signage – besides the official stuff, and navigation/timing equipment – just old mechanicals and pens and Paper. These rules give the event a real vintage feel.


It always puts a smile on my face seeing these old cars, many of which are now very valuable, put to the test under extremely challenging conditions. Hats off to the owners for using them the way they should rather than keeping them in the garage as statues.


The owner/driver and co-driver were also very friendly. There is no elitism; everyone is having a good time here and it shows in the camaraderie among the teams and race officials.


Day 1 started with technical inspections, which gave me the opportunity to inspect the cars before they set off for the first special stage – night drive along the Dachsteinstraße – a toll road linking Ramsau with farmland at the foot of Styria at its highest Mountain – Dachstein.


Day 2 drove around 250 kilometers through the Enns Valley, culminating in an exhibition stage at the Gröbming harness track in Schladming. On day 3, the competitors drove around the valley again, including a special stage at Niederöblarn Airport and another climb up the Dachsteinstraße, this time during the day.


The final stage ended at the last ski lift station, and the sunset and golden glow made for one of the best backgrounds I’ve had for photographing cars.


This golden finale was the perfect way to end three days shooting some amazing vintage and classic cars and interacting with some of the kindest people I’ve ever met at any automotive event. I will definitely be back in 2024!

Jacob Witte
Instagram: somal1sh

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