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What’s your 911 story?

Porsche engineers share their personal 911 sagas

To date, 27 different variants make up the current generation of the 911 model line-up. Chatting to its developers at a ‘speed dating’ event made one thing clear above all: each Porsche 911 has its own story. Chaos is the enemy of the engineer. Perhaps that would explain why there are usually empty seats in lecture theatres during talks on fluid mechanics. This topic is all about turbulence, one of the greatest challenges in mathematics. Complex partial differential equations, Navier-Stokes equations and inherent non-linearity are things you rarely hear about in everyday life – and perhaps for good reason.

However, there are also the people who thrive in this field. These people can describe in an abstract way how the velocity of air changes in space and time when you vary the viscosity, pressure, density and external forces. They can apply these aerodynamic theories to create numerical solutions that enable state-of-the-art simulation algorithms to perform in the most effective way possible. However, this is still not enough to get closer to a truly accurate result. This is because one of the tricky parts of this higher-level mathematics is its butterfly effect – small changes in the initial conditions can lead to large differences in the results.

So, it needs an all-round genius. Someone who combines in-depth knowledge of mathematics, physics and simulation technology in modern computer systems. Someone who comes up with the idea of mounting the rear spoiler of a Le Mans prototype on a road-legal 911, for example. It needs Mathias Roll.

Hopelessly devoted to the 911

If it were down to this aerodynamics engineer from the GT department, the current Porsche 911 GT3 RS would have an even more radical wing design. What is now considered to be one of the sharpest designs in terms of downforce and active drag control is almost verging on boring for the young engineer. Both on paper and in simulations, he has long been three steps ahead.

But Roll is far more than just a cool analyst. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t be driving around in a 3.2 Carrera that shares his own year of birth (1987). He also could have chosen something more conventional as a wedding car last year, but he’s a romantic – hopelessly devoted to the 911.

Like Roll, the other experts we met for ‘speed dating’ with the 992 generation were equally enthusiastic. Whether head of the series, chassis developer, designer, project manager, GT guru or exclusive specialist – they all share one love: the Porsche 911.

Stories full of passion and character

Each person has their own story to tell. For example, there is Matthias Kulla, who was lucky enough to drive a 964 Carrera RS as his first company car as a young designer. Or Tom Wieler, who can still remember what he wore to his job interview in Weissach and who skipped his own sister’s wedding so that he could go on his first ever prototype test drive.

Their stories are more than just your average anecdotes shared over a beer. They are all told with eyes full of excitement and with no detail spared, as if they had only happened yesterday. Because they are ingrained. Because they were important, formative experiences. They are stories of lovers, of enthusiasts and sometimes of a hint of madness. They are stories full of passion and character. Because – and perhaps most interestingly – they all have their very own signature.

This is also the secret as to why every derivative of the 911, however similar it may appear to another, is fundamentally different. Why a Carrera T is more than just a trim level. Because it’s an idea. A purist interpretation, a slimmed-down 911. One in which the driving dynamics have to be perfect, because customers buy it precisely because of this clearly defined overall concept rather than opting for a Carrera 4 or Carrera S. When speaking to the Carrera T’s chassis developer Daniel Steyer, he effortlessly jumped between topics including his appreciation for the BMW E38 series and how the dampers in the Carrera react to sharp bumps. He is a shining example of how this all-round-genius model succeeds: through a deep understanding of all things automotive.

To carry the 911 into the future

And they all have this talent, including designer Kulla, who has a selection of beautiful cars in his private garage, including a Fastback Mustang and a classic Maserati Ghibli, as well as a Jensen Interceptor for something a little different. But it takes exactly this sort of insight, this foresight, to carry the 911 into the future and to continue its legacy. In Kulla’s eyes, the 911 Targa Heritage Design Edition is the best example. It offers the spirit of a classic while opening the door to a whole new world of workmanship, color, and materials.

The Porsche 911 Dakar is also a whole new ball game. It is more than just a nod to the former competition car. It represents what is possible when you are allowed to cross boundaries. When you combine the most powerful production Carrera engine in the rear with Cayenne off-road capability in the chassis and extreme lightweight motorsport-style construction in the body. When all-terrain tires and underbody engine protection meet thin glass windows and lightweight bucket seats. When Achim Lamparter has to change the routing of the air intake especially for this special model because the engine was sucking in sand when driven in the desert.

Everyone pulls in the same direction

The 911 can cope with all these extreme conditions because its developers have mastered the technology. Because they map out every tiny facet of the vehicle in such detail that it would practically be ready for series production. The number of people involved in decision-making discussions today is surprisingly low. There is a small, round, high table in the department that serves as a kind of unofficial meeting place after work. New ideas are discussed here by two, or sometimes four, people. The fact that this is still possible today is partly due to the fact that Porsche is still conveniently compact in terms of its organization. However, it mainly comes down to the fact that everyone is pulling together in the same direction. Because for them, the 911 is the best car in the world.

One who would never hesitate to agree to these statements is Walter Röhrl. He also took part in the ‘speed dating’ event. He drove a Shore Blue Metallic 911 S/T from the Zuffenhausen plant through Germany’s Black Forest to the Palatinate region and back again. On the final stretch of the motorway back to Museumsplatz, he expressed his annoyance, even after hours behind the wheel, about a lack of indication by the drivers in front and about lorries overtaking each other too slowly and causing traffic. For Röhrl, even long after the end of his active career, only one thing counts: perfection. This makes the S/T a very special 911 in his eyes. For him, it is the perfect recipe for driving pleasure.

About to head home to the Bavarian Forest, Röhrl climbs into his 992 Turbo S. After more than eight hours in the S/T’s Heritage Design bucket seat, when asked whether he still wanted to drive the four-hour trip back, he answers with a hint of disbelief: “Of course.” The turbo is fast and comfortable, so distance doesn’t really matter – which is why he also traveled straight from his home that morning. According to Röhrl, “If you have a 911, you don’t need another car.”

Photo © 2024 Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG