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  Home > People > Drivers > P to S > Rohrl, Walter
Walter Rohrl
Like any great driver, Walther Rohrl is difficult to define and describe in a few words. He is controversial character to say the least, (in)famous for his outspoken manner and never pulling punches. Because people are quicker to condemn than to praise it is this side that Walter is best known for - even though there are other, softer facets in him too.

Rohrl first came in contact with rallying in 1968. His brother had died in a road accident couple of years earlier and that effectively forced Walter to start rallying in secret from his parents. At that time he had been working in church administration for eight years and was studying to become a skiing instructor. But neither of these careers got any further, legend says that after doing only five events he was contracted by Ford Germany to do some national championship events for 1971.

Driving a group 1 and 2 Ford Capri, hardly a winning car, he won two rallies outright and finished three more times on podium. Walter's obvious driving talent caught the Opel's attention and after two years he was snatched up by them. During these years at Opel he became European Champion in 1974 and took first WRC win at Acropolis 1975. From modest programme at Opel Rohrl moved to proper World Championship team when Fiat signed him in 1977.

Driving the top car of the time, the Fiat 131 Abarth, brought wins and in 1980 Walter became World Champion. However, as a german he had long-standing ambition to drive for german manufacturers and succeeded doing so in a wider scale than any other top-driver of his time. These included works drives with Opel and Audi, but also works contract with Mercedes and private outings in a Porsche. In Mercedes' case the the deal was struck at the end of 1980 and only few weeks later team announced their withdrawal from rallying, leaving newly crowned World Champion without drive for 1981.

Some one-off drives followed but for 1982 Walter returned to Opel. Despite Rohrl winning title for a second time it was troubled season, mainly because of the internal strifes within the team but also because Audi quattro was pressing two-wheel drive Opel Ascona hard. During the season tension escalated between Rohrl and team's sponsor Rothmans but also between two championship contestants, Rohrl and Michele Mouton of Audi. After Mouton crashed out of Ivory Coast Walter had made sure of second title and was effectively sacked by Opel team boss Tony Fall after another quarrel over pre-RAC rally PR dinner.

For 1983 he moved to Lancia but even though he squeezed almost impossible results from the 2WD Lancia 037 Rally, superiority of Audi quattro convinced him that scales had tipped irreversibly. Consequently he joined Audi for 1984 and were to remain with them for the remainder of his active career, moving to USA and later to DTM with them. He has since had some outings with Porsche, mainly endurance racing but also driving a course-opening car in Rally Deutschland.

No matter what has been said of Walter as a personality nobody can deny his talent. There are very few records that remain unbroken from early days of the WRC but nevertheless there are some things. Rohrl was the first driver to win title more than once, he is the only driver to win with monstrous Audi quattro Sport S1 but above all he has four wins at Monte Carlo, all with different makes, earning him the nickname Montemeister.

And those softer facets? Let one example suffice. In Portugal 1984 Rohrl was new in Audi team alongside regulars Mikkola and Blomqvist. Walter lost chances to win with a puncture while Mikkola was battling against Markku Alen in Lancia 037 Rally. At one point Rohrl approached Hannu with a proposal, what if he would stop and allow his team mate past to enjoy dust-free run over the crucial stage? Mikkola was astonished, such a generous offer coming from man generally thought as arrogant and self-centered was unprecendented. Hannu eventually won by mere 27 seconds over Alen.

WRC starts:75
first: Monte Carlo 1973
latest: Acropolis 1987
Resultswins:14 (18.7% of starts)
second places: 10 
third places: 7  
total podiums: 31 (41.3% of starts)
points finishes: 34  
total points scored: 494  (drivers' championship points)
DNF's: 33 (44.0% of starts)
Stage wins: 439 
WRC titles:winner of 1980 FIA World Championship for Drivers
winner of 1982 FIA World Championship for Drivers
First WRC event: 1973 Monte Carlo
First DNF: 1973 Austria
First scored point: 1979 Safari (8th)
First stage win: 1973 Great Britain
First time led rally: 1975 Acropolis (SS40)
First podium: 1975 Acropolis
First win: 1975 Acropolis
Career summary
  Team  StartsWinsPodiumsDNF'sPointsRank
 1973  Private3 0 0 2 N/A N/A 
 1974  Private2 0 0 1 N/A N/A 
 1975  Private6 1 1 5 N/A N/A 
 1976  Private6 0 0 5 N/A N/A 
 1977  Private5 0 0 5 N/A N/A 
 1978  Private,
6 2 2 2 N/A N/A 
 1979  Private,
4 0 1 1 21 9th 
 1980  Private,
7 4 6 0 118 1st 
 1981  Private1 0 0 1 0  -   
 1982  Opel10 2 8 1 131 1st 
 1983  Lancia6 3 6 0 102 2nd 
 1984  Audi6 1 1 4 26 11th 
 1985  Audi8 1 4 4 59 3rd 
 1986  Audi2 0 0 1 10 22nd 
 1987  Audi3 0 2 1 27 11th 
Walter Rohrl
Nationality: Germany
Birthday: 07-Mar-1947
Nickname: Montemeister
Walter's homepage

Walter Rohrl
(Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window)
Rohrl drove for many manufacturers but is most often remembered for his last WRC contract with Audi. Here in Monte Carlo 1985. Click picture to see larger version in a pop-up window