Two steering wheel legends about the legends surrounding the Porsche brand

Text and photo: Roman Klemm

The owner of the "Taumwerk" museum Mr. Hans-Peter Porsche (son of the great Ferry) organized a meeting of motoring friends called "Benzingesprache" - Gasoline Conversations for the first time after the "flu break" in his premises. At the beginning of February, perhaps the best racer of all time, Walter Röhrl, and the legendary developer of the famous Zuffenhausen brand, Hans Clausecker, remembered and talked about the chosen topic of "Porsche" and "50-year anniversary of the presentation of the first Porsche 911 Turbo prototype" near Salzburg. The organizer of the historic "Rossfeldrennen", Mr. Joachim Althammer, took over the moderation and the visitors, including two accredited writers, had a lot to look forward to...

Röhrl experienced his first and only season as a factory driver for Porsche in 1981 and revealed this much about it: "It was actually a move out of necessity. At that time I signed with Mercedes and we had just completed the first practice sessions around Monte Carlo. The gentlemen from Untertürkheim asked me after them if there was a danger that we would not win the Rallye Monte Carlo? I told them flat out that their cart had such poor traction that such a danger was quite likely to exist! The consequence was that our cooperation ended after only one month... While Mercedes was not driving the rally, Mr. Bott from Porsche called me immediately: 'Now we can finally afford you - after all, Mercedes continues to pay you gas and we will build you a capable car.' So I raced for Porsche for a year. Since then, I've also been testing and developing for them virtually non-stop - even though I then signed with Opel or Audi."

Hans Clausecker probably holds the eternal record. He worked as long as no one else in the development of Porsche: "I am grateful to fate that I could spend my professional career in this company. For example, I was active in the development of the famous type 911. We had the chassis ready long before the first body, so we tested it with the 356 castle. You may not believe it, but it was I who assembled the first prototype "Smart" - then still "Swatch ". We used parts from all possible European brands. Porsche also did a lot of development for VW. Everything happened in strictly separated areas, where only half a dozen co-workers were allowed. We called it the "cage" ward because we were truly hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world. Once, a young fellow kicked old Ferry out of there because he didn't know him. Porsche was impressed - and gave the boy 5 Marks on the spot as a reward!"  

Röhrl described the end of his highly successful dalliance with Audi quattro and the beginning of a firm relationship with Porsche as follows: “I ended up there because they were going to race a front-wheel drive car after the four-wheel drive ban. Such a thing is not a car for me, but a DISEASE! I immediately told them to give me the papers. I didn't want to race cars like that. I need a hard-to-manage beast where I can show everyone that it goes fast mainly thanks to the rider. I left racing and have been with Porsche as a developer and consultant ever since. We are now celebrating our 30th anniversary.”

He also drives a Röhrl Porsche privately: “In 1978 I got their 930 Turbo. Back then it was still a real exotic, because it reacted in the way "today you add gas - and tomorrow it will go." I wanted to handle it. This problem of slow response of the engine to the blower then caused many accidents of less experienced car owners. Engineer Bott himself admitted that if he were to compare turbo-technology to a 10-story building, they were only on the 1st floor at Porsche..."

Clausecker first met and soon became friends with the great Röhrl sometime around 1980: "We were testing the tires for Porsche at the Nürburgring and all the development guys were whispering to each other, 'Wow, there's Röhrl watching us in the last corner, so don't be embarrassed.' Even then, everyone had incredible respect for him." And the world rally champion adds: "That day we were supposed to test the Lancia Beta Montecarlo for the 1000km race there. But you know the Italians - I've been waiting for them all day in vain..."  

It was on the North Loop that Röhrl embarrassed someone else. Actually, he never wanted to talk about it publicly, but the tabloids brought it up anyway: "We also tested the new Porsche types by first setting a target time with a competitor's product. That's why I drove the Ferrari 599 that day. In the Adenauer Forst section, I started to catch up with another car of the same type of the same brand. I overtook him at Galgenkopf. He then clung to me tooth and nail. After Döttinger Hiohe I took the national road. He too. He overtook me and made me stop – it was Michael Schumacher! He was testing the new Sachs race setup and couldn't believe I'd pulled him like that with a stock rental car. It wasn't until years later that he admitted to me that he could actually drive really fast only in cars with a seat in the middle..."

Röhrl was a world leader in rallying, but during his irregular trips to the motodromes, he also regularly mocked the specialists. He drove his first circuit race at the Nürburgring: "In the run-up to the 1976 German GP, they held an Opel Kadett race. I took the lead soon after the start. It was wet and I narrowly ended up in the barrier in the last corner. I drove on, but several cars crashed behind me and the race ended prematurely. I was far ahead and did nothing for the red flags of the marshals. I didn't know what they meant. I thought they were waving at me with joy and I drove full speed ahead. When I returned to the pits, the second and third were already waiting for me on the podium..."

Dlouhán from Regensburg fondly recalls his circuit phase in DRM and IMSA with Audi: "I developed the car for IMSA. Haywood and Stuck destroyed the competition in the US with it and confirmed that it was the best racer they had ever driven. It meant a lot to me - about as much as winning a rally. In the DTM, I drove for Audi with their V8 at the Norisring for the first time. I was called there to help Stuck fight the BMW army. Before the start, I told my colleague not to be nervous if I was going to pass him right away. That I will let him go ahead later. Stuck just replied "You fools (literally "Du Arsch…”) in the DTM no one can overtake anyone". Of course, I passed him in the race and only just before the finish I let him go ahead. I wanted to direct the way he wins and show who is the boss."

However, Röhrl also had respect for one car: "In 1981, the guys from Porsche put me in a private 935. It was at the 6-hour WC of brands in Silverson. It was a beast and I thought maybe this hosting was a mistake. Well, in the end, it rained the whole race - so no one could beat us."

Clausecker had this to say about respect: "Whenever we got new young engineers into development, I made sure they came with me to the Nürburgring test. Then, when they experienced the prototype at full speed, twisting, struggling, fighting back and hearing how it wails and roars, they got a completely new attitude towards their own work. They saw what their work would do on the track.”

Of course, Röhrl had to defend his recent statement that "Formula 1 is a children's party against rallying", which caused a great stir in the German media. "Nothing against what the boys in F1 are doing, but rallying is on a different level. In F1, they circle the same track 100 times a weekend. When they are charmed, they simply continue along the asphalted zone. And the rally? There, the rider saw the sea track a few days ago and doesn't know if there is a puddle like a lake around the next bend. They then have to deal with the new situation within a tenth of a second. And if he makes a mistake? The trees are waiting for him on the slope…”

In conclusion, Röhrl evaluates: "I tried circuits, but I didn't find a special passion for them. I probably lack the character and elbows to compete against others. In order to be successful on the circuits, you often have to be a jerk - and I don't like that. Racing uphill or in a rally against the stopwatch – I consider that to be the highest art and pure racing.”

Walter sometimes doesn't have it easy at home: "My wife sometimes asks me if I still need to train Porsche customers on some glaciers and in the snow at the age of 77? But it's simple: In the morning, he entrusts me with a dozen nemehels, which he can drift perfectly in the afternoon. And experiencing this gives me a lot.”

With an enthusiastic audience, Clausecker and Röhrl said their goodbyes in their own way: “Have a nice evening—and don't buy any cheap crap. Better save up for a proper Porsche!”

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