Wild Man Walter

Also from Issue 160

  • Ruf 3400K coupe: A 400-hp Cayman
  • Steelie Screamer: Early 911 Hot Rod
  • 911 SC-based 953 Rally Replica
  • Skip Hudson’s 356 Speedster
  • Inside Penske Racing’s Premises
  • 997 GT2 Preview
  • Great White: A 680-hp 996 GT2
  • Market Update: 914 and 914-66
  • Porsche Icon: 917/30
  • Project 914 3.6: Fiberglass Bumpers
  • Installing Wheel Spacers Properly
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Walter Röhrl 1
Walter Röhrl 2
Walter Röhrl 3
Walter Röhrl 4
Walter Röhrl 5

In front of his little audience, Walter stops the 953 by executing a handbrake turn, complete with donut, leaving only a mighty cloud of dust. Silence. Deadlock. My breath gradually comes back to me, as if through a snorkel. Warily, I pull my fingernails out of the dashboard, one by one. It is over. When I slowly gain orientation and confidence again, I hear these ominous words of Walter Röhrl distantly, as if through cotton wool, indistinct, barely audible: “Okay, so what time do we meet at the Nordschleife today?”

My goodness, I suppressed all thought of that. The more horrible part of our trip is still to come! Side by side with Röhrl in the middle of would-be racers, tourist coaches, and motorbike kamikazes, three laps at the infamous North Loop of the old Nürburgring. With the speedometer needle showing exactly 70 km/h, I steer my MGA across the autobahn, heading for the second half of a personal dream that is rapidly becoming more of a nightmare. Temporarily, I discover the fascination of driving slowly. It’s nice. Really.

At the Nürburgring, we face a momentary delay, which doesn’t do my already weak condition any good. A Porsche customer demands that his Carrera GT, fresh from a factory reconditioning, should be tested by Walter himself. This gives me the chance to observe from the outside what awaits me. When Röhrl re-emerges onto the home stretch, catapulting the 612-horse projectile sideways at 200 km/h, two people curse their so-called good ideas. My planned ride with Walter at the Nordschleife suddenly grows snarling teeth, and, on seeing the pale skin of the Carrera GT’s owner, he would clearly have preferred to rely on a graying technician in a white coat for the test drive.

Never mind, we’ve got to keep going. We aren’t chickens, are we? For a car, we have — since Porsche couldn’t find a car in its collection for Röhrl this time, either — a private Porsche. It is a 1965 911 owned by Bernhard Pfültzer. Even though he has two races scheduled for himself at the Oldtimer Grand Prix in the following two days, he’s another one of those cool-as-a-cucumber types, the kind who trusts in the goodness that exists in a human being — provided his name is Walter Röhrl.

Climb in, fasten belts, and up we go to the toll booth with Walter’s “Compliment-ary Ticket for Tourist.” How cute. Tourist. Hah — if they only knew! Three laps lay before us. The first is to get the 911 up to temperature. The second is to really let it fly. It’s comforting to recall Pfültzer’s words: “In training, we need around nine minutes, ten seconds for the lap, but Walter certainly will go with this car under nine minutes.” And, to hear those words coming from the mouth of a man who knows the Nordschleife well and has stood many times on its podium. But he seems to understand Röhrl, too. Hmpf.

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