It sounds like a Hollywood movie story: A young, globally successful mountain biker named Andi Wittmann has a serious accident. In training before a show, he goes too fast into a jump he has done thousands of times before. On impact, he breaks both feet and destroys his joints. Andi Wittmann is confined to a wheelchair for four months. It is uncertain whether he will ever be able to walk again. But Andi fights his way back, and some time later even rides a bicycle again. Today, he builds bicycle infrastructure and skillfully drives a Porsche 911 GT3 over race tracks, mountains, snow and ice.
Born in Rosenheim, Bavaria, in 1987, the sportsman is now bursting with enthusiasm, joie de vivre and, above all, a passion for fast cars. Andi Wittmann talks about why driving at the limit motivates him so much and explains how he persuaded his wife to give her blessing to the purchase of a Porsche 911 GT3, even though it means he is once again pursuing a new, dangerous hobby.
Hi Richard, thanks for the invitation! I was a freeride mountain bike pro from 2005 to 2015. High jumps, tricks and steep descents were the order of the day. After that I was in a wheelchair for four months and had to fight my way back into life, including learning to walk. In the meantime, a large part of my life takes place on the bike again. I work as a brand ambassador for various manufacturers and also take care of the sustainable creation of bicycle infrastructure with my company Trailements.
I would characterize myself as motivated. I can’t stand still at all, and I always have the urge to do something. Now and then, that gets you into trouble, because you’re also a somewhat driven person. But I come from professional sports and that’s what’s inside me. That’s what defines me as a person. Nevertheless, I’m not ultra competitive.
The greatest fascination for me was always to have maximum control over the sports equipment. It gave me the most when I was the boss over the bike or now the car. The development of cycling, for example through video and photo projects, was also always high on the agenda. I wanted to show something that would advance the sport.
Four wheels have always been a fascination for me. Cars were already important to my father, who worked in the field service. He drove a Mazda for a long time and later also looked at Audi. I thought to myself, “Wow, if we ever drove an Audi, that would be something”. In the end my dad bought a Lexus instead, because it was cheaper and more reasonable. I just thought that my dad should finally buy a sick car. (laughs)
My two brothers were always drifting around in winter as soon as the first snow fell. Right from the start, I was fascinated by experiencing the car moving at the limits. That’s why my first own car, a Honda Civic, naturally had to endure a whole lot of wild stuff. At some point, after a brief interlude with a Subaru WRX, I bought a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo.
A friend of mine was doing winter driving training at the ice rink at the time. I also took part once and he offered me to drive with him more often. That winter, I drove almost 5,000 kilometers just on the ice rink. I also met great people there. The Italian rally driver Gigi Galli, for example, taught me a lot of driving techniques there – left-foot braking, correct steering… I was hooked!
And it was also ideal in terms of timing. Winter was off-season for us mountain bikers anyway. For me, that was the start of ambitious riding. During this time, for example, I drove in hill climbs and even won some. I could have done a bit more motorsport, but having a car and driving it properly are two different things…
After the accident, I was in a wheelchair for four months. It was touch and go whether I would ever be able to run again. So it was clear that the bike career was no longer possible just because of the risks. I then came to eBikes and re-learned the sport from a different direction. It’s a much more normal approach to it with regular bike rides, rather than world record jumps. That’s how I fought my way back.
But as an athlete, I missed the challenge. You come from professional sports, a life of superlatives. My was about traveling from one event to the next. I was sort of super famous in the admittedly small scene. You ride contests, have successes, give interviews, do photo shoots, go from one emotional madness to the next. When that’s gone, you’re missing something.
I wasn’t in danger of falling into a huge hole, but the challenge with the car kicked and challenged me. Despite my handicapped feet, I was able to be fast again. I then drove a few rounds in the Austrian Rally Championship. That was great fun and it gave me a lot to drive the car at the limit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the money to do it seriously.
Gravel always means extreme wear. You have to regularly repaint a lot because of the many stone chips and have crazy high maintenance costs. And it just so happens that I had a defining Porsche moment… I had discussed with a very renowned mountain bike photographer friend of mine that we wanted to do something with the car manufacturers. Maybe somebody was looking for someone who could do good photo stories in the Dolomites. After all, we knew our way around there…
So I asked someone in my circle of acquaintances if he could lend us a car sometime. I knew that he had a few Porsches. His answer: “Not the 918 Spyder, but you can have the 991 GT3”. I couldn’t believe my luck. So we had a white Porsche 991.1 GT3 with PDK available for 1,000 kilometers of Dolomites. We were there at the beginning of fall, had the roads almost completely to ourselves. I was immediately Porsche-smitten.
That’s when I said to myself that at some point in my life I’d have to manage to build a car like that. It’s so crazy emotionally and in terms of performance that I had to have something like it.Andi Wittmann
It was brutal. I had never experienced anything like it. I had driven all-wheel-drive sports cars before. There I sat in this rear-wheel-drive car with a naturally aspirated engine and such incredible performance on asphalt. It was a completely different vehicle, which I simply didn’t know like that. It was all new to me. The Grödnerjoch had just been resurfaced and we were going up there at breakneck speed. It was so fast that the photographer felt sick.
The PDK and the sound of the engine had completely picked me up and I wanted something like that. Shortly before my accident, I was able to fulfill my dream of owning my first Porsche. It was a Porsche 997 Carrera GTS. At that time the market was very favorable just for buyers. After my accident, I had handicapped driving aids installed and used it as my daily driver. After all, it was my only car with automatic transmission.
I had the GTS for about a year. After that, I swapped it for another 997 Carrera GTS with a limited-slip differential. Another year later came my first “real” GT Porsche in the form of a Porsche Cayman GT4. That was a cool time to take your son in the Maxi-Cosi in the Porsche 918 bucket seats. But it was short-lived. A year later we built our house and everything had to go. It then took a few years, but 2022 was the time. That’s when I actually got my first GT3, the Porsche 992 GT3.
Gela says nothing about it, to be honest. She finds nothing in cars. That’s why the GT3 was also very difficult to argue with. I then took a bit of a psychological approach and told her that I wanted a car like that. She thought it was totally stupid at first. Then I threw a photo of exactly “my” car on the wall as a picture in a digital picture frame. I denied Gela’s question whether we would rather show a family photo or something, because the car is so beautiful. She accepted that at some point.
If you want your partner to understand your hobby, let her drive herself instead of riding shotgun!Andi Wittmann
Half a year later, I had one in sight, a factory vehicle. So I could think for a while whether I really wanted to accept. I guess Gela came to terms with it over time. D-day came when the salesman called me and said I could really have the GT3 now. Gela’s reaction at some point was “Yes, you want it anyway, then just take it”. She was then present at the pickup in Zuffenhausen. When she drove the 992 GT3 herself, she actually thought it was pretty cool.
Phew, I’d probably drive a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. Preferably on the Nordschleife or perhaps in Rijeka. But actually, the 992 GT3 is already perfect. You can do just about anything with it. I’m probably one of the few who use this car for what it was built for. I go drifting and to the Nordschleife in the summer, and to the ice rink in the winter…
Next winter, I really want to put properly studded tires on it, so that I can drive really fast on ice. But also the cozy pass round in the Dolomites is a wonderful experience with it. I enjoy the performance and emotionality, combined with the suitability for everyday use. Maybe I’ll even put a bike rack on top of it at some point.
My wife always says so nicely that you can’t actually go out in the GT3 because she finds it chavvy. But I don’t have the car to show off, I have it for the challenge against myself. It’s all about driving the car to its limits. My claim is always to be able to control the car and drive it properly. Driving is so complex that you never say you can do it perfectly. It has so many facets and there are so many parameters. Getting better and better at it is simply a great incentive.
For example, I rarely drive the GT3 during the day, but much rather in the evening when it rains. In the evening, there’s nothing happening on my local mountain. I’m alone in the car on the road. The best time is when no one is around. You don’t have to show that to anyone, even if many owners of exclusive cars certainly see it differently.
You know, anyone can buy a super sports car with insane performance these days. Even a sporty compact car can reach speeds of almost 300 kilometers per hour. These cars take a lot out of you with their assistance systems and convey great safety. That’s why drivers often overestimate their abilities. But at some point, the limits do come.
Driving supercars, this safety can be deceptive. Especially since very few people have ever worked on driving skills at the limits before buying such a car. Few even have the bite to learn how to drive properly. And we don’t all have to be racing drivers, either. But anyone who drives such a bullet should have a minimum level of car control. That’s why I like to pass on my knowledge as a self-employed instructor and driving coach. I know (unfortunately) very well what happens when you feel safe and become careless.
That’s exactly why I want to show people how a car behaves when even the safety systems can no longer help, or are completely off. Many sports cars today are delivered on semislicks, and they don’t work at all when it suddenly starts to rain. In order to act correctly at that point, you have to have felt how to hold or intercept a drift. Simply to get routine into the processes. And in addition to all the fun of drifting, the participants should become better drivers in the end. That is my goal.
The most important thing is always that what you do is controlled. If you intercept a spin in a controlled manner, you have already gained a lot.