“I’m always busy when I’m driving.”
Walter Röhrl, two-time world rally champion, Porsche development driver and ambassador.
Sitting behind the wheel, Walter Röhrl is always fully focused. Even now, almost 30 years since he retired from rally driving. In this feature, he shares with the Porsche Club News community the most emotional moments of his career and why it’s always quiet inside his car. On this journey, we’ll collect some extremely useful tips from the best rally driver of all time, one who’s had close ties to the Porsche brand since the age of ten.
It was the early morning on January 25, 1980. They were driving down from the mountains into Monte Carlo. The sun reflected off the sea. “Right at that moment, I felt as if my life was complete,” says Walter Röhrl, describing the bliss he felt only hours before his first victory at the Monte Carlo Rally. He’d asked himself often enough if he was a dreamer or a realist, and at last he had his answer. “It was this victory that was my prime motivation in becoming a rally driver,” he adds humbly, still somehow moved by it all. Röhrl and his co-pilot Christian Geistdörfer would go on to win the famous Monte Carlo Rally another three times in a row. But his legendary driving style didn’t just earn him major victories, but also the utmost respect amongst the competition. Perfectly attuned to the right of between control and risk, the “genius on wheels,” as Niki Lauda once called him, always hit the racing line – whether on gravel, snow or asphalt.
The Porsche brand has been present in Walter Röhrl’s life since he was ten years old. The life advice he got back then from his older brother was not to buy a car until he could afford a Porsche. At 21, he had saved up enough for a pre-owned 356 B Coupe with 75hp. Later, he was never without a Porsche 911. Indeed, one of his most famous quips on the matter is that “a garage without a Porsche 911 is just a dark hole.” During our conversation, Röhrl adds that for him, the Porsche brand quite simply is the epitome of a high-value car.
Even back at the height of his unique rally career, Röhrl was involved in developing the Porsche 959 supercar as well as the four-wheel drive technology for the Porsche 964. Ever since, he’s been involved in many further milestones as a development driver – from the Carrera GT to the 918 Spyder – and he’s still on the road with the members of Porsche Clubs and communities. Most recently with Carrera GT and 918 Spyder owners in the Dolomites. “Even I took photos there,” Röhrl comments on the memorable event. “That’s something that’s never happened before in the 40 years of my motorsport career.”
For Walter Röhrl, getting behind the wheel is a daily drive towards perfection. “I’m always busy when I’m driving,” he says, referring to his focus on the road. A truck still far away, a tractor in the field in front of him or a cyclist alongside him. “I keep an eye on all possible dangers and am always prepared for anything,” he explains. Röhrl doesn’t get on phone calls in the car, he’s not a fan of talking while driving either, and if there’s music on, it’s turned down low. As a matter of principle, it’s always quiet in Röhrl’s car. The only time he turns up the volume is for traffic news. Every bend has to be taken so smoothly that no readjustment is required. Still following the racing line. Often enough, master driver Röhrl still imagines hearing his congenial co-pilot’s voice in his mind. “Over the hill right minus,” the Geistdörfer voice calls out to him as he drives through the Bavarian Forest, meaning 5th gear and a little below full throttle. Today the pace is more leisurely. But he’s as focused and concentrated as ever.