By Craig Watkins with forward by Walter Rohrl
Published by Smart Racing Products, 432 pages, hardbound, outstanding print quality!
I can’t remember where I found a recommendation to purchase and read this book but I am very glad I did! The format is very intriguing. The author, Craig Watkins, an accomplished racer and race engineer in his own right, spent many hours interviewing Roland Kussmaul. I was not familiar with Roland before I read this book but he has quite the story to tell. Craig transcribed and edited the interviews and developed this book. It is over 400 pages, very well written, and with some great photography. Craig also did something that I haven’t seen before. He embedded “QR Droid” codes at various places in the book. After downloading a QR code scanner to my smartphone, I was able to scan the codes, which took me to a Youtube posted by Craig that contained actual audio (with mainly still photos) of the pertinent interview session where Roland was telling about his experiences. Roland is German and, although he speaks passable English, it would probably be tedious to listen to the entire content of the book this way. So for the bulk of the book you get to read and comprehend this guy’s amazing story, without having the language barrier get in the way. Roland does have some amusing euphemisms, which Craig faithfully transcribes. A lot of things are “shit” and “blah, blah, blah” gets used a lot. And you can hear Rolands grandchildren playing in the background. The Youtube segments really help the reader get comfortable with the guy telling the story, without us all having to fly to Germany and visit for a month.
So you’ll have to read the book to get the details of Roland’s life but the very short version is that he started working for Porsche as a young man and never left until he retired. I would say that the bulk of his career was spent as a test and development driver but he must of have been a very capable racer because there are more than a few occasions where Porsche drafted him to drive in some very big name events. The part that I knew the least about and found to be the most fascinating was Porsche’s efforts in the Paris to Dakar rally, in the 80’s. What those men went through was grueling. Not just the lead drivers but the support crew. It was amazing to read about.
As Craig and Roland are both engineers, they are not shy about relating technical details. I found this to be fascinating, as many books of this type just don’t get into the technical details. For instance, did you know that Porsche used the positive pressure from the air cooling system to place a modest pressure on the transmission case and the cockpit, so as to keep the fine African dust out. It might seem to be an unfair advantage but Roland was very amused to note how he and his navigator would emerge from the rally car after a stage clean as a whistle while all the other drivers were drenched in dust. There are many other fascinating technical details related to the race car and road car development conducted by Porsche. I currently own several Porsches and now appreciate even more so how much solid engineering goes into their cars.
I loved this book! It is an investment to read it cover to cover, both in cost and time, but one that I felt was well worth it.