If you are lucky enough to have his phone number, you’ll know that when you call him you are often greeted with the words: “I’ll call you back! I’m working right now.” And work he does – gladly, and of his own accord – even though he will turn 75 on 7 March 2022. That’s our Walter Röhrl. Not only was he crowned World Rally champion twice, but he is also one of the only drivers ever to have won world championship rounds in both rallying and racing. He was victorious in every class or series – whether TransAm, IMSA, hill climbs (Pikes Peak) or in the German Touring Car Championship. Röhrl is regarded as the world’s greatest rally driver of all time and, at the same time, he’s known for his honesty, being someone who always says what he thinks. Röhrl has been a Porsche brand ambassador since 1993 and until recently was also a Porsche test driver, putting the finishing touches on all new production cars on the Nordschleife. Originally from Regensburg, Röhrl was particularly involved in developing the 959, Carrera GT and 918 Spyder supercars.
He is still on the road a lot today – predominantly for ‘his brand’, Porsche. Just recently, for example, he taught journalists how to perfect ice drifting in Porsche models, and appeared on podcasts answering questions on synthetic fuels, the preservation of historic vehicles, and sustainability. Driver training courses for Porsche customers are mandatory. “And when I’m asked what I think of a thoroughbred sports car like the new 911 GT3, I’ll take a test drive before I answer,” says the septuagenarian. “All in all, I’m still on the road for more than 100 days a year.” And he is always a very welcome interviewee at events organised by the Porsche Heritage and Museum department. He has met motorsport fans at a variety of events including during appearances at the Porsche Sound Night, at various trade fairs, and at driving events.
For Röhrl, work also means looking after his own fleet of vehicles, which includes a number of classic 911 derivatives. Incidentally, his first vehicle was a Porsche 356 B Coupè with 75 PS. Even as a works driver for Ford, Opel, Fiat, Lancia and Audi, Röhrl maintained his relationship with Porsche, including rally entries with a privateer 911. Last year, Porsche thanked him for his loyalty: to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1981 rally season, the Porsche Heritage and Museum department surprised Röhrl with the 924 Carrera GTS Rallye that he drove back then – newly restored. Together with his co-driver Christian Geistdörfer, he took four overall victories in the 1981 German Rally Championship in the gold-and-black 924 ‘Monnet’.
However, the keen skier and cyclist is not making much of a fuss about his platinum celebration. “I’m going to go skiing that day,” he reveals, confessing that he has always felt a little awkward about award ceremonies in his honour. Whether he will be able to fulfil his wish to have more time for himself over the next few years is debatable – considering how active he is. “I’d like to get my old cars out a bit more often and visit friends,” he says. One thing’s for sure, his schedule for this year is already booked up.