Porsche salutes Roland Kussmaul
As acclaimed 911 test driver and engineer Roland Kussmaul turns 80, Porsche has dived into its extensive photographic archive to celebrate his legendary career.
Porsche is celebrating its former race engineer and test driver Roland Kussmaul on his 80th birthday. The Porsche legend worked for the brand for 40 years, counting among his many achievements contributions to the 908/03 endurance racer, alongside the technical development of countless 911 Cup cars, including the 964 RS and RSR, 993 GT2, 996 GT3, GT3 RS and GT2, and even the Carrera GT.
Born in Ludwigsburg in 1943, Roland studied mechanical engineering at Stuttgart University and joined Porsche as an engineer in 1969. Just two years later he became a driver in the test department before moving on to the Porsche racing department in 1974 at the request of Peter Falk. Roland became responsible for testing the legendary 911 Carrera RS 2.7 Safari, and in 1978 he was made technical manager of the East African Safari Rally project. One year he even took part as a driver.
“Rally driving fascinated me right from the start because it’s not an uncompromising motorsport. There’s no premature end, so to speak, because of material damage. If something breaks, you repair it. I was immediately a fan of this improvisation in situations that suddenly arise without warning,” recalled Roland, who shared the cockpit with rallying icon Björn Waldegård. “Björn taught me so much. I still remember clearly how we bounded across a river. It was about 15 metres wide and we didn’t know how deep it was. Björn said, ‘We’ll give it a go. Keep your foot on the accelerator so that the front end stays up.’ And then, like a stone that a child skims on the surface of the water, we bottomed out three times – and then we were on the other side,” smiled Roland.
In 1981, Roland became project and racing manager for the German Rally Championship. Over a two-month period he built the 924 Carrera GTS for Walter Röhrl to race in the event. Walter is clearly a big fan of Roland’s work. “The 20 years of working together with Roland was definitely one of the highlights of my life. He’s the best mechanic, engineer and driver that I’ve known,” said Walter. “He’s a very modest man. And everything he does makes perfect sense. I wish him health, and that he keeps his youthful drive and his roguish spirit.”
Between 1984 and 1986, Roland worked on the Paris-Dakar Rally project, and in 1986 he once again raced in the desert rally endurance event, famously finishing sixth in a Porsche 959 service car. From 1987 a new path beckoned. Roland began working as project manager for the 911 Cup cars, a part of his career that saw him create the stripped-out racing 911s used in Porsche Supercup, numerous Carrera Cup championships around the world, and in significant endurance races.
From the 964 to the 996, Roland was ‘Mr Cup Car’ at Weissach. He retired in December 2009 after 40 years at Porsche. Since then he’s acted as a consultant and an ambassador for Porsche Heritage and its Museum in Stuttgart.
“We congratulate Roland Kussmaul on his birthday and thank him for his tireless commitment over his four decades at Porsche,” said Thomas Laudenbach, head of Porsche Motorsport. “With his determination, his entrepreneurial thinking and his courage to try new things, he is a role model for us and stands for qualities that are perhaps more in demand today than ever before.”