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Germany’s greatest rally driver and one of the stars of rallying in the 70s and 80s, Walter Rohrl, reached the age of 70 years on March 7.   

His early working days in Bavaria were spent as a driver for the regional Bavarian ecclesiastical authorities, between his passion for skiing.  He was invited by a friend to drive his first rally in 1968 and, remarkably, for very many years never competed in a car he owned.

He was the first driver to win the FIA’s World Rally Championship twice (1980 and 1982) and is the only driver to win the Monte Carlo Rally four times with four different marques (Fiat, Opel, Lancia and Audi).  

He was also a racing driver, winning his class at Le Mans in a Porsche, and competed for Lancia in endurance racing.  

Despite never having a contract to enter every event in a season, he still won 14 WRC events.   

A driver of strong character, he walked away the night before the start of the RAC Rally after his team demanded he performed publicity work for the cigarette sponsor Rothmans, for which he was not committed by contract, and whose cause he loathed.  

It is also reported that he caused an offer to drive for a new official Mercedes team in 1981 to be withdrawn, when he told executives that the car had no chance of success against the new four-wheel drive cars in the sport.  

After three years battling against Audi cars, he joined the Audi team in 1984.  

Outside the WRC he became the first driver to cover the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in less than 11 minutes.  In recent years, he worked as a test driver for Porsche road cars.
- Martin Holmes    

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