He spent 40 years doing a car enthusiast’s dream job.
Porsche is celebrating the 80th birthday of Roland Kussmaul, a test driver and racing engineer who dedicated an incredible four decades to the iconic manufacturer. A stalwart in the automotive racing scene, Kussmaul left an indelible mark on the brand’s racing pedigree. His journey with Porsche began in 1969, and his contributions range from developing iconic Cup racing cars to achieving a sixth-place finish in the Paris-Dakar Rally with a Porsche 959 service car.
Known for his pragmatism and precision, Kussmaul was more than just a test driver for Porsche; he was an engineer and a visionary. He played a vital role in the development, testing, and optimization of an impressive line-up of vehicles, including the 911 Carrera RS 2.7 Safari, 911 GT2, and Carrera GT. He even leaped into the role of technical manager at prestigious events like the East African Safari Rally. Whether it was testing the 908/03 in an endurance drive or spearheading projects like the 924 Carrera GTS, he showcased a rare blend of technical brilliance and hands-on capability.
Thomas Laudenbach, Head of Porsche Motorsport, summed it up eloquently: “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.” True to that, Kussmaul’s work ethos resonates in an era where blending technological innovation with practical application is paramount.
One of the highlights of Kussmaul’s illustrious career came when he ventured into the rallying world, a domain that fascinated him. “Rally driving fascinated me right from the start because it’s not an uncompromising motorsport,” Kussmaul said. He cherished the improvisational nature of rally driving, such as when he and rally legend Björn Waldegård navigated a 15-meter wide river in a 911—purely on instinct and calculated risk.
Kussmaul’s influence isn’t limited to the confines of Porsche’s test tracks or the thrilling atmosphere of rally races. Walter Röhrl, who drove the 924 Carrera GTS developed by Kussmaul in just two months, describes him as the “best mechanic, engineer, and driver” he’s known. Even after retiring on December 31, 2009, Kussmaul continues to serve as a consultant and contemporary witness for the Porsche Heritage and Museum department, reinforcing his lifetime commitment to the brand.
In a time when the automotive industry is undergoing rapid transformation, figures like Roland Kussmaul serve as anchors to a legacy of meticulous engineering and daring innovation. As he turns 80, his contributions are a testament to Porsche’s unwavering commitment to performance and excellence.