Ferdi Porsche, Reviving Great Ice Race in Zell am See, Has an Eye for Fun

Jackson Wheeler
12 Min Read

Ferdi Porsche has turned out to be a cool dude.

A lot of people in his situation might not have done quite so well: You inherit a great name known around the world, maybe you also get financial security in one way or another from the multi-billion-dollar family business (maybe $55 billion across the descendants of five generations since Ferdinand, maybe $70 billion, reports vary), maybe you start using the family name to get into all the right clubs, maybe you use it to get out of speeding tickets, maybe you go a little crazy and become a genuine pariah.

Not Ferdi Porsche. He has taken all that he inherited in terms of family name, heritage, and access to the world’s greatest sports cars, and he is turning it into some of the coolest experiences in all of car culture.

And you’re invited.

ferdi porsche standing next to a row of porschesClick for gallery

Mark Riccione

Ferdi Porsche and some of his namesake family’s cars.

You may have heard of GP Ice Race, an event started with horses on frozen lake Zell am See in Austria in the 1920s and ‘30s, then with cars in the 1950s, then disappeared in the 1970s.

Ferdi Porsche and a small group of friends revived it five years ago, racing 550 Spyders and other classics on the frozen lake (called a “see” in German) in the Porsche family’s ancestral home town of Zell am See, Austria.

Last summer he also created Mankei, at the refurbished Hutte Mankei, perhaps the world’s highest-altitude Cars ‘N’ Coffee, at the summit of Grossglockner Pass in the Austrian Alps, the same great road used to develop the handling of generations of Porsches.

And this month young Ferdi and his team brought the Ice Race to Aspen, rebranded the “F.A.T. Ice Race Driven by Mobil 1,” the name comes from a Porsche sponsor whose 962 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1994, and from Mobil 1, which sponsored the Aspen event. And there is more to come.

How does he manage to do all this, run his own architectural firm at the same time, and not turn into a privileged, tantrum-throwing, barking, lunatic? He comes from a good family. His father, Wolfgang, son of Ferry and grandson of Ferdinand the 1st, raised him in a more or less “normal environment.”

“My parents sent me to a regular school in Bavaria, in Munich,” Ferdi said via Zoom after returning to Zell once the F.A.T. Ice Race Aspen had concluded. “I wasn’t in a private school or anything. I had friends from all different backgrounds. And basically, as a kid, you kind of want to fit in, right? So I think that played a big role, because I just had a super-chill and diverse group of friends. And then I still enjoy that most. I don’t want to be in a bubble, or put myself in a bubble. And I think it never really felt that way.”

He wasn’t raised with stories of ice racing. The introduction came almost accidentally.

“My dad bought a car that came with the spike tires that they used to race in Zell and I was like, ‘Why do you need a spike tire for a 550?’ And then he told me his story of ice racing at Zell and then, when I first saw the pictures, I was immediately smitten.”

By then ice racing had long since fallen into memory.

“They used to race in Zell from the ‘50s to the ‘70s,” he said. “So ‘52 was the first time that they did it with cars. They had done it before with horses towing skiers in the back. And then in ‘52, they did it the first time with motorbikes and skiers in the back. And then ‘53 was the first year that they did it in honor of my great-grandfather (Ferdinand Porsche). It was called The Dr. Porsche Memorial Ice Race.”

You could almost get the feeling that reviving the ice race was his destiny.

“The connection to Zell obviously began when I first saw the pictures of the race, which almost has been forgotten. I mean, people from my generation didn’t really know—I didn’t know about it, to be honest, up until that point.”

Then his dad bought that 550 Spyder with those spiked tires.

“It was my grandfather’s personal car, like his company car, basically. And he sold it to Huschke von Hanstein, and I mean, a 550 with centimeter-long spikes in the wheel—that’s just something you talked about. So that’s how he introduced me to ice racing in Zell. And I felt like, with the history, with the pedigree, with my family’s connection with how cool Zell is, I just figured it would be the best place.”

So he and a few friends revived the tradition of racing on the ice in Zell am See. It went off well in its first year, then COVID hit, then global warming robbed Zell (as the locals call it) of any ice at all one year. But Ferdi and friends kept at it and kept holding Ice Race and just last week expanded it from Zell am See to Aspen, Colorado.

There were challenges in Aspen, of course. The event was capped at 500 spectators, there was no wheel-to-wheel racing because of insurance restrictions, and the cheapest ticket was $1900 (the most expensive was $7000). So it wasn’t exactly a Race of the People. But they carried it off with help from sponsor Mobil 1, which brought about half the cars and many of the professional drivers. Porsche supplied the Le Mans-winning GT1-98, driven once again by Stéphane Ortelli, who co-drove the car to victory at Le Mans in 1998.

“It was a lot of work to do something in a different country, do something on a new location, a new venue. Ice race itself isn’t the easiest thing to pull off, like, starting from weather dependency to getting all the different manufacturers and people involved. But looking at it as it being the first time that we did it in the States, I’m super happy. I’m happy about the content. I’m happy about the people that were there, the cars that were there, and I mean, we’re already working on next year.”

He has big ideas.

“For now, having one big event in the US and one big event in Europe already feels like we’re quite solid on the ice racing side of things. COVID obviously played a big role in (slowing our expansion) beyond just our very first ice race in Zell am See. And it also led to us securing the IP (intellectual property) of F.A.T. International.

“And I think there is a huge potential there, because this thirst for car-related events, as well as things that draw inspiration from the car world, occasions and happenings, clothing, etc. I think people are very excited about that, just because it has so much to offer. And I think F.A.T. plays a big role in helping us to grow this. I mean right now we have three verticals: events, locations, and products. And to be honest, I try to expand in all directions from here and in all verticals.”

If that sounds vague, it’s because he hasn’t figured out exactly where F.A.T. Ice Racing will go next.

“Obviously, we look at the US still, just because, one, I like being in the States. Two, the U.S. has a great car culture, people are going nuts for cars. We started with Ice Race, so we feel like we’ve teased the market and we want to come back for sure, not with ice racing, but with other events and activations.”

Does that sound vague?

“I’ve done the interview training,” he says with a laugh. “I don’t have anything super-specific now, otherwise I would tease it for sure. But I know that we need to do stuff in the States right now. We have a couple of ideas. I can tell you that it’s not going to be another big race, probably, but it’s… gonna be something with another cultural connection. I can’t tell you anything specific yet, but you will be the first.”

And when I know, you’ll know.

In the meantime, keep an eye on https://fat-international.com/gpicerace for updates. Whatever they chose to do, it’ll probably be a good time.

Headshot of Mark Vaughn

Mark Vaughn grew up in a Ford family and spent many hours holding a trouble light over a straight-six miraculously fed by a single-barrel carburetor while his father cursed Ford, all its products and everyone who ever worked there. This was his introduction to objective automotive criticism. He started writing for City News Service in Los Angeles, then moved to Europe and became editor of a car magazine called, creatively, Auto. He decided Auto should cover Formula 1, sports prototypes and touring cars—no one stopped him! From there he interviewed with Autoweek at the 1989 Frankfurt motor show and has been with us ever since.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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