Porsche will hardly be able to stop celebrating in 2022. In addition to 50 years of the Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 and 25 years of the Porsche 996, there is another birthday to celebrate. One of Porsche’s all-time-great engineers turned 90: Peter Falk. For 33 years, he held various positions at Porsche in the areas of racing and development. He celebrated his 90th birthday on November 27.
The list of successes for which Peter Falk was responsible as Porsche race director is as long as the hills. Especially the Group-C-era remains unforgotten. Under Falk’s management, Porsche won seven times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and achieved eleven world championship titles. Porsche also took two overall victories in the Paris-Dakar Rally under Falk in 1984 and 1986. This makes Falk Porsche’s most successful race director to date. Nevertheless, the Athens-born engineer is still considered exceedingly modest to this day. For him, the team was the star and he never tired of emphasizing that. The ranks of his companions range from Herbert Linge, to Hans Mezger and Norbert Singer, up to Jacky Ickx, Walter Röhrl and Hans-Joachim Stuck.
„I’ve always said I’m nothing myself, but my team has to be good. And that is the most important thing.“Peter Falk
After completing an apprenticeship as an automotive fitter, Peter Falk set out to study mechanical engineering with a focus on automotive technology. As a young man, he was already fascinated by all forms of motorized transport. As Falk says today, “[…]it’s no wonder that I made the intensive study of the technology of these vehicles my profession.”
After a podium finish in a skills race on a motorcycle, Peter Falk, who was 24 at the time, switched to rally racing as a co-driver. Guiding his neighbor Alfred Kling through the stages, Falk celebrated his first successes in 1957. The pair won the Geneva Rally and the International Rally Germany – in a Porsche, of course.
In 1959, Peter Falk joined Porsche as a test engineer for driver testing – one of only ten employees in the department. Five years later, he moved to pre-development and race support. That’s how he came to be Herbert Linge’s co-driver at the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally. There, they both used a rudimentary intercom system for the first time. “I spoke into a thick plastic tube that went directly into Herbert’s helmet. This mouthpiece worked brilliantly,” Falk concluded positively. In the end, the team finished a respectable fifth overall on Porsche 911 2.0.
As head of the pre-development and racing department, and from 1973 to 1981 also head of series development testing, Falk was responsible for a whole series of extremely successful sports and racing cars from Porsche. He played a key role in the developing the 906, 908 and 917, helping Porsche to its first overall victory at Le Mans in 1970. Later, Falk was responsible for the bodywork, transmission, driving-tests and endurance-tests for the 911, 924 and 928 series.
Falk was also responsible for hiring another legendary Porsche engineer. In 1970, he hired Norbert Singer. Singer himself still speaks devoutly and enthusiastically about his former boss. “He gave us a free hand in developing the 956/962, let us realize our ideas, and always trusted us”, Singer recalls. Incidentally, Falk recorded many of their shared memories in his fantastic book 33 Years of Porsche Racing and Development.
He gave us a free hand in the development of the 956/962, let us realize our ideas and always trusted us. He took full responsibility for everything we did. I only realized much later how special that was.Norbert Singer about his former boss Peter Falk
Walter Röhrl also has only positive things to report. “I am a great admirer of Peter Falk, of his calm and level-headedness. It was unimaginable to me that a person would prepare for something so extremely. He had his computer with him and basically told me every 100 meters that I was a bit too fast or too slow – and that over 500 kilometers,” Röhrl concludes after taking part together in the 1997 Ennstal-Classic classic car rally. Naturally, the two took the overall victory.
After countless successes in racing, Peter Falk moved to the chassis department as head in 1989. There, he steered the predevelopment of the Porsche 993 and later the 996. From today’s perspective, it can be said that he was successful across the board in this role as well.
Incidentally, Falk is a self-confessed all-wheel drive and off-road fan: “I’ve always been a rally fan, someone who can drive on more than just nice asphalt roads. For me, it was always important that a car should also be good off-road,” says Falk. As such, he is likely to see the Porsche 911 Dakar, spiritual successor to “his” Paris-Dakar-winning 911 Carrera 3.2 4×4, as a kind of birthday present.
Even after his retirement from active business in 1993, Peter Falk remained closely associated with Porsche. In countless interviews as a contemporary witness, Falk still played a part in the preparation of the company’s history in the Porsche Museum right up to the end. At the same time, Falk is still an enthusiastic rally fan. He is still busily involved in organizing vintage car rallies. We say “Congratulations” on the 90th birthday of one of the greats from Porsche’s company history!