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Class Reunion 2024 – Porsche talk with Roland Kussmaul, Walter Röhrl & co at Hohenstein Castle

13.03.2024 By Richard Lindhorst
Class Reunion 2024 – Porsche talk with Roland Kussmaul, Walter Röhrl & co at Hohenstein Castle

What happens when a renowned, well-connected journalist and Porsche photographer teams up with an up-and-coming artist from the scene and organizes an art exhibition in a 700-year-old castle? A wonderful setting for conversations about our favorite hobby. Tobias Kindermann and Nikita Karagozov created their very own vision of the interplay between art and photography within historic walls under the title “Klassentreffen (Class Reunion) 2024 – Porsche Petrol Talks”. At Hohenstein Castle near Coburg, they are currently offering a unique opportunity to delve deep into Porsche’s development work through artistic and historically accurate works. A large number of deserving Porsche employees have accepted their invitation to the class reunion and are reporting on their time in Zuffenhausen and Weissach. Roland Kussmaul recently made the start. We had the exclusive privilege of being there for you and getting to know one of the fathers of the modern Porsche RS range.

At the opening of the “Class Reunion 2024 – Porsche Petrol Talks” exhibition, some top-class vehicles were on site. These included the development prototype of the Porsche 964 Carrera RS, probably the last Porsche 993 Cup and a Porsche 911 S 2.5 in which Gerard Larousse took second place in the 1972 Monte Carlo Rally. © Antje Hamann for the Art Forum Hohenstein Castle

Tobias Kindermann got the idea for the Porsche class reunion from Ralph Veil of the Oskar Hacker Foundation

Tobias Kindermann and Ralph Veil met at the end of 2023. Veil is a lawyer and Chairman of the Oskar Hacker Foundation, which aims to revitalize, preserve and promote Hohenstein Castle as a cultural monument. The two quickly found a common theme. The idea was born to organize an art event around the legendary Stuttgart sports car brand at Hohenstein Castle. Foundation Chairman Veil was attracted by the contrast between the very intimate exhibition rooms and the otherwise very technical theme.

Art only comes to life when it is talked about, when it is seen, when it is perceived, when communication takes place.

Ralph Veil, Chairman Oskar Hacker Foundation

Tobias Kindermann and Nikita Karagozov organized the class reunion in record time

Planning and preparing an exhibition in less than three months requires good partners. That’s why Tobias Kindermann teamed up with Nikita Karagozov, the founder of Sechszylinder Art. The two got to know each other at an event at dp motorsport. Together, the two of them display small excerpts from Porsche’s rich history with art prints and photographs. From the Porsche 356 3000 RR (Röhrl Roadster) and air-cooled 911 models to the development prototypes of the Porsche 964 Carrera RS and 996 GT3 RS. These historically significant vehicles are still owned by Roland Kussmaul, who played a key role in their development.

We think this passion, this enthusiasm that people bring to this brand is something you can hang on your wall at home.

Tobias Kindermann

From tank development to racing – Roland Kussmaul’s path is simply unique

To do justice to the title “Porsche Petrol Talks”, Tobias Kindermann invited the very same Roland Kussmaul to enrich the petrol talks with his countless experiences from more than four decades of Porsche development. He did not miss the opportunity to answer the invited guests’ questions at the opening vernissage. Coupled with his own Swabian and sometimes cheeky sense of humor, young and old alike were immediately hooked.

In an interview at the official opening of the art exhibition, Kussmaul talked about some of the cornerstones of his career at Porsche. It all started in the tank development for the Leopard. Kussmaul was employed there to develop and design the pedals. In his calculations, he underestimated how much force a tall man could exert on the brake pedal during a panic stop.

Roland Kussmaul im Gespräch bei der Eröffnungsvernissage Klassentreffen 2024 - Porsche Benzingespräche
When Roland Kussmaul (2nd from left) began to talk about the development history of the Porsche 964 Carrera RS, car enthusiasts of all ages listened attentively. © Antje Hamann for the Art Forum Hohenstein

When starting the unit, an employee had not considered that the Leopard tank also starts in gear and drives off immediately. Full of panic, the employee slammed on the brakes. He applied so much pressure that the brake pedal gave way and broke. “He turned the key and the thing ran off immediately. Unfortunately, there was a brick wall in front of the vehicle and the silhouette of the tank was perfectly visible in it afterwards,” recalls Kussmaul with a grin. His boss then said “I think you might be better off going to the sports cars now”. A momentous decision for the Porsche brand, as it later turned out.

The modest mechanical engineer Roland Kussmaul quickly became Porsche’s all-rounder for rally events

Peter Falk assigned Kussmaul to suspension development and testing. He quickly rose through the ranks and was jointly responsible for Porsche’s rally entries. Kussmaul’s story of how the Dakar entry on Porsche 953/959 came about is evidence of the fact that a lot of improvisation took place at that time and that decision-making processes were still short. Racing driver Jacky Ickx met a board member of the American oil giant Texaco in the elevator of a Paris hotel in early 1984. A brief conversation ensued which, within a few months, resulted in a Porsche entry in the Paris-Dakar Rally.


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At the beginning, the board member asked whether Porsche could also compete in Dakar. Ickx refused at the time. After all, Porsche would not have released any funds for such an exotic event. But the board members answer was very direct: “I didn’t ask you if you could pay for it, I asked you if you could do it!”

I didn’t ask you if you could pay for it, I asked you if you could do it!

This question from a Texaco board member to Jacky Ickx led to Porsche’s Dakar entry from 1984 to 1986

Without further ado, Texaco agreed to finance the project to the tune of between 1.2 and 1.5 million Deutschmarks. Jacky Ickx presented the idea to Chief Development Officer Helmuth Bott. While still discussing the matter with Ickx, he called Roland Kussmaul in for a chat and asked whether he could imagine working on such a project in a managerial capacity. “Yes, if we have enough time to learn,” replied Kussmaul and was promptly interrupted. Bott gave the order “If we go there, then we want to win!”. During the conversation in February 1984, Bott revealed that they wanted to compete in the Paris-Dakar that year.

At the 1986 Paris-Dakar Rally, Roland Kussmaul drove to a top position in the support car

Kussmaul himself had no four-wheel drive experience. He brought this up with Bott. His boss immediately gave him the keys to his company car. His 911 was equipped with an all-wheel drive system from Audi. From then on, it served Roland Kussmaul as a development car and was never returned to Bott. Looking back, Kussmaul says that despite the funding from Texaco, “we had to work on it with a lot of love and ambition”. With the 1.2 to 1.5 million Deutschmarks, the project ultimately had to be financed – including racing – over a whole three years. In the third year, Roland Kussmaul achieved a highly regarded sixth place overall in the support vehicle. The intended use for that car was carrying spare parts for the Porsche 959s of Rene Metge and Jacky Ickx who claimed the overall victory and the runner-up spot.

Roland Kussmaul at the Paris Dakar Rally 1984, driving a Porsche 959
Roland Kussmaul at the wheel of a Porsche 959 at the 1986 Paris-Dakar Rally. The car was primarily intended for carrying spare parts. Kussmaul finished the rally in a respectable sixth place overall. © Porsche

Even when Roland Kussmaul was already retired, Porsche trusted his judgment – without his blessing, the Porsche 911 R would not have gone into production as it did

Towards the end of the almost hour-long talk, Kussmaul shared an anecdote that impressively demonstrates Porsche’s appreciation of deserving employees and their importance to the company. During his active time, Kussmaul always insisted that the Porsche 911 GT3 needed a rear wing to improve driving stability. Several years after retiring, Kussmaul received a call from Porsche’s management. They now had a car in front of them that had no wing at all and was to be released. It was about the Porsche 911 R.

You two, Walter (Röhrl) and you, take the car for a weekend and on Monday you call me and tell me “the car is okay” or “it’s not okay”.

The board wanted to reassure themselves and have the new car approved by the Kussmaul/Röhrl duo. Kussmaul drove to Regensburg early in the morning to pick up Walter Röhrl and was “stunned”. On the Autobahn, the 911 R prototype underwent Kussmaul’s usual test program. “I could actually change lanes with the car at 300 (kph) and the tires squealed,” said the forefather of the RS models happily. His colleague Röhrl was also impressed by the handling of the wingless GT3 RS sibling. The two of them had a lot of fun on their tour through the Bavarian Forest. The response to the Board of Management was correspondingly positive: “On Monday I said it was the best car we’d driven in a long time,” said Kussmaul. And the Porsche 911 R has long since become a new legend.

The works of Kindermann and Karagozov are on display at Hohenstein Castle until March 31. On March 17, Hartmut Kristen and Walter Röhrl will enrich the talk round.

The exhibition by Tobias Kindermann and Nikita Karagozov can be visited at Hohenstein Castle on Saturdays from 11 am to 6 pm and Sundays from 2 pm to 6 pm until the end of March. Next Sunday, March 17, Roland Kussmaul will be joined by Porsche’s former Head of Motorsport Hartmut Kristen and rally legend Walter Röhrl for petrol talks at the Class Reunion 2024. Like the petrol talk with Roland Kussmaul, the class reunion will be streamed live on YouTube from 2:45 p.m. on March 17.


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The location is really fascinating. I realized that I was in a location that has been there for more than 700 years. There is so much energy and creativity here. It’s really amazing.

Nikita Karagozov on the special atmosphere at Hohenstein Castle

This is a unique opportunity for all Porsche fans to take a journey through four decades of Porsche history. The historic ambience of the centuries-old castle in the north of Bavaria not only provides a worthy setting for the exhibition itself. With its exciting architecture and the castle park, it also offers plenty to discover beyond the exhibition itself. An absolute recommendation!

Tobias Kindermann

Born in 1966 and has been a Porsche fan since childhood. Even as a young boy, his uncle often took him for rides in his Porsche 356 SC Cabriolet. In 1991 he bought his first Porsche, a 924S, followed in 1999 by a 911 Carrera 3.2, which he still owns today and is constantly developing further. He documents his results on his GT Speed portal.

Tobias Kindermann combines his profession with his passion: he works as an editor at the Fränkischer Tag, in 2000 he co-founded the first online community for the Porsche 911, and for 14 years he has also been active as a Porsche journalist and photographer.

Nikita Karagozov

Born in 1989 and founded the sechszylinder label in 2020. Here, the art director of an advertising agency lives out his passion for the Porsche brand, designing fashion and art prints. As a representative of a young generation, he has a new perspective on the culture around Porsche and is a sought-after guest at international meetings in many countries.

“Over time, you develop an ever stronger sense for the understated elegance of Porsches in the sports car segment. For the performance on the racetrack, the functionality and the perfect design,” he described his view of Porsche in an interview.

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