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GP Week : Issue 35
5 Minutes with ... Walter Rohrl Twice World Champion, and winner of Monte Carlo four times Walter Rohrl was also the unchallenged master of the groundbreaking Audi Quattros. After 25 years he is back, heading the jury panel for the Pirelli Star Drivers. He spoke toMARTIN HOLMES GPWEEK: Your last World Rally win was nearly 25 years ago. How have you kept up with what happens in rallying? WALTER ROHRL: I check out the results and watch a bit of television, so I still know what is going on. It is a pity that Sebatsien Loeb is so alone. The character of rallying has changed, but of course times have changed and these days you cannot do things as we used to do. Public relations are different and there is a different spirit generally. When I was competing rallying was a test of reliability, an endurance factor for people and cars. Today it is much closer to racing. And of course the cars have changed. They are really fast but not as spectacular for spectators. When you see how many spectators turn out for the classic car rallies, you can see that people like spectacular noisy cars. It would be nicer if present day rally cars sounded like they used to do. Is rallying well promoted these days? This varies from country to country, but generally it is quite poor. Obviously it depends on whether there is a leading driver from the country concerned. I feel that in Germany things have been going down without leading German drivers in the World Championship. The problem is that if you want to learn things about rally sport you have to stay up into the night to see the programs on television. And it is difficult to find anything 20 about rallying in newspapers. What do you think of the cars these days? Highly sophisticated! They are too efficient for the spectators to enjoy. They are also too expensive for drivers and I think they are too easy to drive. With the present day World Rally Cars many drivers are able to drive fast. You were in Austria to judge some new drivers. What qualities do they need to succeed in the sport these days? Various qualities. Like they must be good on every different surface – gravel, snow, or tarmac. People must be clever enough to know that even if he has the right speed, becoming a champion does not depend on winning every event, it is much more important to be very safe in his driving. You need speed combined in the right way with reliability to get to the top. What ideas do you have as criteria for judging the drivers at the Star Driver Shoot Out? I hope the stages will give drivers a chance to show their ability. When we interviewed the drivers, it was clear there are five or six drivers who are incredibly marketing- minded, which you need to be. From the interviews it was difficult to select the two drivers to have the drives next year. English language is now so important in the sport. If I had been one of these Shoot-Out drivers at their age, I would never have been able to answer the questions and have the chance to progress in the sport. I was not able to speak English at all when I started rallying. But from my angle, I was eager to discover who was the best driver, not the best speaker! However much it is important to be publicity- aware, for me I hoped the winner would turn out to be the best driver. So in Freistadt you were back again with fellow former Audi driver Michele Mouton, who is working with you on the selection panel. I haven’t been going to Race of Champions very much so I have not seen Michele recently. I must say once and for all I do not have a problem with Michele. We have always been very good friends. We worked together with Fiat, [and] I helped bring Michele into Audi. It was just unfortunate that so many misunderstandings cropped up during the 1982 World Championship. It is very nice for me to catch up again with Michele in Freistadt. And finally, what has been your life since you finished rally driving? I have been racing but recently I have done a lot of work with Porsche helping to develop production cars. It is very satisfying when a model becomes successful in the market place. When people like to drive a car that I have helped to develop, then I am very happy!