Legendary Porsche and Audi wheelman explains who he admires most
20 February 2010

During his 14-year world rally career Walter Rohrl won an astonishing 420 rally stages, but these days he is perhaps better known these days for his circuit driving.

At the old Nürburgring, as a long-time tester, racer and ambassador for Porsche, his lap times provide the definitive guide to car performance - even now, at the age of 62.

See Walter Rohrl's heroes in pictures

Porsche 911 GT3 RS on video

Who, then, could have inspired such a man, someone whom even Niki Lauda (not known for his loose praise) calls a genius.

Michael Rohrl

“It started with my brother, Michael,” says Walter. “Ten years older than me, he’d drive me everywhere. He was my idol; I was in awe of the guy. He had a Porsche 356 coupe and I was just this kid in the back. He was a very good skier and an outstanding driver, so that’s what I wanted to be.” Sadly, Michael did not live to see his protege’s success. “He died in a traffic accident. I was 18 and had just passed my driving test.”

Herbert Marecek

The man who took up Walter’s cause was one Herbert Marecek. “We were skiers and every weekend we went ski racing and I always drove. And he’d say, ‘You must become a race driver. I never saw anyone with such a feel for a car.’ He pushed me for three years, in which I did five events – one in his own car, others in cars he borrowed. And after every event he’d write to the sports newspapers in Germany saying his friend was the best driver in the world and someone should give him a contract. After the fifth event I got a contract with Ford.”

Timo Makinen

“Everyone was afraid of Makinen,” says Rohrl. “He was a rough man – we all knew he had a whisky bottle in the car with him – but he was so fast and so wild. In 1978 we were rallying in Canada in Fiats. Makinen retired early so went to spectate instead. Afterwards he came up to me and said, ‘Only Finns are meant to be able to do rallying. But you were the best out there.’ It was the moment this boy from Bavaria felt accepted.

Hannu Mikkola

“Hannu was completely different – a proper gentleman and always quiet, but a real hero. I can remember back in 1972 watching him in a forest in Germany driving an Escort, and thinking what a privilege it was, just being able to stand there and watch Hannu Mikkola come past. It was the first time I’d seen him like that and I’ll never forget it.”

Eddy Merckx

Five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist of his and, some still say, any generation is Walter's next choice. “I wanted so much to be like him,” muses Walter. “What was incredible about Eddie was that he’d win the race before it started. He was so good that he knew that if he started, he would win. And more than anything, I wanted to be like that. Later on we became friends and for a long time I’d go cycling with him every year.”

Ayrton Senna

“Ayrton just wanted to be perfect, and that’s how I felt in my career. Not the fastest, but the best. He had the same attitude and I admired him for it. We shared the same manager for a while and I’d arranged to go driving with him in an Audi S1 when he had his accident at Imola.”

The Porsche 911 and Lancia 037

"‘If it’s a road car, it’s the Porsche 911. It always has been, and not because I’m paid by Porsche. But of all the competition cars I drove, it is without doubt the Lancia 037. That was a beautiful car to drive, and fitted my style to perfection.”

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Join the debate


20 February 2010

Sounds like a decent bloke, & not one who has let his success go to his head. Fair play to him.

currently a happy owner of a Mitsubishi Shogun Pinin :)

20 February 2010

The guy is a living legend.

He's actually one of my heroes. Superbly quick in anything he drove - Fiat 131 , Ascona, 037, Quattro. He even managed to get rally version of the old Audi 200 (big old bus) to be reasonably competitive. One of only a few to be quick on the loose stuff and also a decent circuit racer. His Nordschleife times in Porsche road cars are supremely quick for a guy not far off collecting his pension.

Mildy surprised for him to admit Mikkola was a hero of his. A contemporary hero.

Nice (but short) article.

20 February 2010

at the time the audi 200 was the only car audi had which conformed to the new grp a regs, when grp b was banned. and toyota rallied the supra for a year. lancia was quick of the march with the delta 1.6 HF, and so began the delta domination.



20 February 2010

Walter Rohrl (sideways) in 131 Abarth - about as good as it gets!

20 February 2010

[quote Challenger440]Walter Rohrl (sideways) in 131 Abarth - about as good as it gets[/quote]

Walter Rohrl in the Audi Quattro at Pikes Peak, in Too Fast To Race.

Inch perfect, and superb foot work.

This is as good as it gets.

Just search for 'Pikes Peak audi quattro' and it will come up

21 February 2010

i think michelle mouton won pikes peak in an audi quattro, as well



22 February 2010

If Walter was forty years younger, do we think he'd have been in F1?,and would he have been a champion?

Peter Cavellini.

25 May 2010

I remember sometime ago reading an interview by Rohrl saying that the only driver that beat him fair and square was late henry Toivonen.

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