“There is a wave up front - be careful, it could make the car unstable. But there is more inside Snow, that means better grip. Look ahead, there is a sharp turn at the end of the straight. Now steer the nose of the car there, the curve closes, move the car, now carefully accelerate, think about the slip, stay inside - where the tires have grip. Don't steer too much. Now close to the snow wall again, there is some snow on the track. Be careful, there are several transverse grooves in the front because we could lose grip at the speed. " This is a short excerpt from the inner dialogue between the person Walter Röhrl and the Porsche 911 Turbo driving machine while they tackle a winding handling course together. But even if the 540 hp bullet wanted to defy commands from the cockpit on its own initiative, the lanky, no longer very young man behind the wheel would always be at least one tactic ahead of him.
It is dawning on the huge area near Levi in the Finnish Arctic that in an area as large as 80 soccer fields at the annual Porsche Driving Experience on ice and snow, there are many opportunities to do pretty pirouettes and after a failed drift around a corner to drill a soft snow wall. The falling darkness doesn't bother Walter Röhrl any further. In the course of his career in the seventies and eighties, the two-time rally world champion also won the Monte Carlo Rally four times with its notorious night blind flights. On four different brands. “I wanted to prove that it depends on the driver. Unfortunately that is different today. " The fact that the turbo is downright pious in the ice slalom despite the high speed and switched off control systems is a demonstration of masterly relaxed control. With a grin, “Tall One” agreed to speak out loud once, which would otherwise only be done in silence on his journeys. The man who taught Scandinavians to fear on their very own terrain is looking forward to the task. Even today, he still makes every private trip - be it the return home from the ski area - with the utmost concentration.
He still has this legendary Röhrl sensor system, which, like a biological scanner, absorbs everything around him in fractions of a second and is not distracted by anything. “For example, I listen to the snow under the tires. It sounds completely different up in the mountains than down in the valley: From crunchy to muddy and soapy due to the road salt. The power transmission is reduced. You have to drive softer than usual. Does the road hang inwards or outwards? And brake every now and then to gather information about the road conditions. " With his fingertips on the steering wheel, Röhrl feels like a street whisperer how the friction conditions are changing. He shakes his head at everyday observations. “The activity of driving is constantly underestimated. You shouldn't dream to yourself and then rely on your ABS. " Even Ms. Röhrl as a passenger has to forego a conversation. With future autonomous driving, Walter Röhrl sees the handover between machine and human being the crux of the matter - the driver has to be focused on that right away in tricky situations. "
Walter Röhrl, who is considered by other champions to be the most complete driver of all time, is celebrating his 70th birthday in a few weeks. His opponent on a rally was not the direct competition as on the circuit, but the time; his goal is perfection. And that made him faster than the others. “Driving on snow and ice requires great skill, not brute force. At that time, the Scandinavians touched the side snow banks to correct the direction. For me personally, leaning on it counted as an accident. " In the cone of light from the turbo, ghostly white walls appear, which the perfectionist passes through with millimeter precision without contact.
As if it were about the best time, Röhrl steers the 911 with a small, time-saving drift around the bends. Of course, this virtuosity is evidence of decades of experience. But still: the foot appears to be on the accelerator pedal like a spring. “A naturally aspirated engine is actually easier to drive than a turbo because you don't have to reckon with this slight delay. So I solve it with a short, fine throttle. " Almost imperceptible steering maneuvers give this nocturnal dance formal elegance. Röhrl has an anecdote ready: "The others always said to my co-pilot Geistdörfer: If your driver steers so little, the prize money should also be lower."
For the Finnish ice cape, Porsche had called up some fine items from the garage: all-wheel-drive models like the Carrera 4, the Turbo and the new Panamera, which with its significantly longer wheelbase drifts majestically around corners. The rear-wheel drive models such as the 718 Cayman with a lively mid-engine, the Carrera 2 and, as an over-Porsche, the GT3 RS, which made the transition from the asphalt habitat to the rough ice like a nervously prancing reindeer, provided a little more adrenaline. The turbo, on the other hand, purrs along the short straight like a contented predator. “The main problem with winter races has always been traction. With a two-wheeler that spins the wheels, you fight to get it going. With the all-wheel drive, on the other hand, you can be fast, before the curve you steer your nose where you want to go - without losing speed. "
Röhrl's experience with four driven wheels goes back to the early days of the Audi Quattros. The old school, as he knows, also cost nerves. “The straights were of course much quicker to negotiate, but I prayed before every corner that it would not go straight on when braking.” But the technology has developed so far in around forty years that the man who also helped tame the all-wheel-drive Porsche 918 Spyder for the road is completely enthusiastic. “To be able to catch the stern is of course high school. But today a car without four-wheel drive is only an emergency solution for normal safety. You do not have the optimal traction with the road. "
The conversation with Röhrl was possible because there was of course no oncoming traffic on the prepared circuit. “Why do I always preach that one should drive with foresight? My first car when I was 18 was a Mercedes 200 D. It took me so long to overtake the momentum that I had to secure myself far ahead. That shapes. " (Alexandra Felts / SP-X)