Walter Röhrl is one of the greatest pilots of all time. While many may know him from his dominance of the World Rally Championship in the 80s, Walter made a significant contribution to the world of motorsport through his work with Audi and Porsche.
Walter managed to lead several different rally teams to victory, also taking part in the epic 1983 battle between Lancia and Audi. Walter is best known for not wanting to be famous, picking the races he wanted to enter strategically to avoid winning more titles. If you want to know more about the legendary German test pilot, here are 10 quick facts about Walter Röhrl.
ten Youth and career
Born in March 1947, Walter Röhrl grew up in Germany with a real passion for motorsport. At the age of 16, Walter finds himself far from motorsport and works for the company responsible for legally representing the Bishop of Regensburg.
As a driver, Röhrl managed to master the art of driving until he was invited to participate in a rally competition in 1968. After competing here, Walter was invited to participate in the world championship rallies and seized the opportunity with both hands.
9 World Rally Championship
Walter started his career at Irmscher Tuning in 1973. Driving an Opel, Walter didn’t have the best starts. Walter was forced to retire twice during the season, scoring no points and ranking nowhere in the Championship.
Despite the rough start, Walter managed to win his first race in Greece in 1975. He continued to work on his craft and eventually moved to Fiat in 1977. At Fiat, things turned around for Walter as he started win races regularly. . He managed to win the championship in 1980 and 1982 before retiring from the sport.
8 Victories in the WRC
Walter Röhrl was one of the greatest rally drivers ever to compete in the World Rally Championship. Having won the series twice, Walter managed to collect a total of 14 gold medals during his participation in the competition.
Walter won with 4 different teams. This includes Opel in 1975 and 1982, Fiat in 1978 and 1980, Lancia in 1983 and Audi in 1984 and 1985. After racing for Lancia and Audi, Walter played a major role in the development and execution of the Quattro AWD system which is still found in modern Audi cars today.
seven Lancia versus Audi
The 1982 World Rally Championship season caused quite a bit of controversy as Audi managed to bring an all-wheel-drive car to the rally championship. This saw them dominate the season with no team even coming close.
Despite this, Lancia doubled down on its two-wheel-drive system and put Röhrl in the driver’s seat for most races this season. After a season of laps and laps, Röhrl managed to win 3 races throughout the season. It was a monumental achievement considering the gap in quality between the two cars.
6 The hated fame
Despite the success Walter has had on track for Lancia, Fiat and Audi, the only reason he hasn’t won more championship titles is because he made a conscious decision not to. After winning two titles, Röhrl decided to skip races on purpose so he could never win another.
He did so due to the effects of fame and the publicity that followed winning a rally championship. Röhrl made it clear to the team when he signed on as a driver that he would choose which races he wanted to race this season. Preferring Monaco to races with bumps or jumps, simply because he didn’t like them.
5 24 hours of Le Mans
Walter managed to participate in a number of endurance races during his career. His most notable event being the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1981. Racing with Jurgen Barth for Porsche, Walter managed to complete 323 laps and finish 7th overall. However, he managed to finish 1st in his class for the event.
The second season at Le Mans did not go as well as he had hoped. Despite sharing the wheel with two other drivers, the Porsche 911 Turbo S only managed to complete a total of 79 laps before having to abandon the event.
4 Drove blind
While others may think of slowing down in the pouring rain, Walter Röhrl did the exact opposite. During the 1992 24 Hours Nürburgring race, rain and fog made the event almost invisible. As other riders backed up and took their time around the track, Walter accelerated.
Walter managed to drive the racetrack blind, using his own personal timing to predict every turn. It turned out amazing, but was short-lived as the race was halted for a few hours as the weather cleared up.
3 Rally Driver of the Century
Röhrl was awarded the title “Rally Driver of the Century” in November 2000 in Italy. A jury of 100 motorsport journalists from around the world gathered to elect him as the undeniable greatest of all time in sport.
While this was appreciated, critics based this decision primarily on Röhrl’s dominance over the competition whenever he decided to race. It was so obvious that even his competitors knew they couldn’t compete if Röhrl decided to race.
2 Test driver for Porsche
After a long and complicated career in motorsport, Röhrl was offered a position with Porsche to be an ambassador for the German brand. Seizing the opportunity to leave competitive motorsport, Röhrl accepted the offer and joined the German automaker’s development drivers.
From 1993, Walter worked internally for the Porsche team as an official brand ambassador. This included visiting various races and events on behalf of Porsche and mentoring young drivers who competed for their factory team. Walter also helped develop a number of cars with Porsche, including the redesigned 911 range.
1 Germany Sports Hall of Fame
Although he hasn’t had as many awards to his name, Röhrl is widely known as the greatest rally driver of his generation. Due to his personal decisions to avoid winning championships, Röhrl ended his professional career with only 2 titles to his credit.
However, the German Sports Ministry took this into consideration when considering awarding Röhrl for his contribution to motorsport. This earned him a nomination and addition to the German Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
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