Practice makes perfect – especially when it comes to driving safely on ice and snow. Rally World Champion Walter Röhrl shows actor Richy Müller and extreme climber Thomas Bubendorfer the fine art of controlled sliding.
Walter Röhrl has a very special relationship with slippery, even icy conditions. As a young man, Röhrl was considered an extremely talented skier in Regensburg and the Bavarian Forest, who combined both extraordinary motor skills and unique instincts in a nearly perfectly curved descent. After passing the German Ski Association’s ski instructor exam as fourth best, Röhrl developed a passion for fast driving. His top priority in his early rallying days: “I wanted to drive as perfectly as I could ski.” In icy and snowy conditions, he was at least as good as the Scandinavians, who dominated rallying at the time. His four wins at the Monte Carlo Rally were the natural consequence of his search for the perfect curve.
It’s a feat nearly impossible to learn, but it can be practiced
Over the past decades, Walter Röhrl has perfected his feel for the slippery moments in life. Sliding a Carrera 4 GTS diagonally across a snow-covered road at high speed? Ordinary driving conditions for Röhrl. A few purposeful, staccato-like bursts of acceleration later, combined of course with lightning-quick steering, and the car is heading into the next curve in the correct position. It’s a feat nearly impossible to learn. But it can be practiced, most effectively of course under the guidance of the master himself.
Porsche brand ambassadors Richy Müller and Thomas Bubendorf tried their best not to disappoint their instructor Röhrl too much in the ice and snow arena situated in the Driving Safety Center Gut Brandlhof near Salzburg. Actor Müller has experience with motorcycles and has participated in the Porsche Carrera Cup, while extreme climber Bubendorf is more familiar with ice climbing.
They start by warming up on the Handlin-Parcours, still timid. The handling of a MacanGTS, Panamera 4, Cayman and Carrera 4 GTS is perceivably different, even at low speed. They continue with single sections: full brake, evasive maneuvers, slalom. Röhrl is standing on a heap of snow in warm hunting boots, giving instructions via radio: full brake pressure, steer into the curves early, but countersteer quickly, especially with the Carrera 4 GTS. Richy Müller empties half a tank in Röhrl’s own manual shift 911 Carrera 4 GTS. He doesn’t always stay on the racing line but he is undoubtedly ambitious. Thomas Bubendorfer, who usually spends this time of the year climbing with his ice pick, plays it safe in the Panamera. It takes getting into the Carerra 4 GTS with Röhrl for him to learn the basics of driving on ice and snow: “You need to follow each movement of the gas pedal immediately with a reaction at the steering wheel. That’s the only way to stay under control.”
Walter Röhrl demonstrates what he means: Easily done, seeing as he still drives like his younger self. The others keep on practicing as well as they can, sometimes in the snow next to the track. One thing is certain: Even without Walter Röhrl, there is a confident winter sportsman in every Porsche.
- Adjust – i.e., reduce – speed
- Drive with even more care because of the reduced friction coefficient: steer gently, brake gently, accelerate gently
- Don’t panic if you start sliding! Ideally, sliding should be practiced, optimally in a winter driving training
- Always drive with the right tires, i.e., good winter tires with the appropriate profile depth