After a long and intense conversation above all with Klaus Neuberger, my head almost hit. “What do you think, how will the local rally sport go from here, does the Austrian still have a chance to show off really internationally?” We discussed the sponsors – because without them it just doesn’t work out – and found that there hardly any “good old days” patrons left. And Neuberger adds: “Who can be considered, and who has the necessary quality?” Hermann Neubauer’s best year was two years ago, 33, running a family business in Lungau, married and having a massive commitment to the crowd.
“Can he even compete in a world championship that takes so long?” Because it is clear to both of us that only if valuable international results can be achieved will one get the necessary attention in the big media. “Victories in the national championship are seldom noticed, Mr. Klein. Just remember: Stohl leads the 1980 Himalayan Rally – we see a twenty-minute film in Sport am Montag.” Wittmann led the world premiere with the Audi Quattro in 1981 – ORF reported for over an hour Half of the world press took over the accreditation process.
In 1982, Stohl was the first Austrian to cross the finish line in a safari rally and was 12th in a Lada and had pictures in all the newspapers – Wittmann finished third in Portugal – “Sport am Montag” was reported in both World Cup races ahead. From the audience of millions and the situation was increasing increases! As you know, the Prophet does not count for anything in his country! In 1983 Stoll brought an ’80s Audi to Argentina for its world premiere, the Eskimo was the main sponsor and finished sixth in that world championship race, and in 1984 Whitman won the January Rally for what felt like his 10th time in the Radio Advisor team. He was there in front of Aldegaard, Ecklund, Ericsson, Mark Surer and Shekhar Mehta. At the time, I was zipping between service points on a moped, keeping an eye on the different tire choices.”
1985 First Hong Kong-Beijing Rally with Rudi Stoll of course. In 1986, Whitman switched to Volkswagen as a business driver, and the tough duels between pirate Stoll and working driver Kenneth Erickson for the world title continued for about a year. Then in 1987 Whitman became the first Austrian He wins the World Championships in New Zealand and Haider did the same in 1988, we saw the pictures on the front pages of the biggest local newspapers and the new sponsors jumped on that train!”
I must agree with the good Klaus, the ’80s were crucial to the prosperity of the next fifteen years. The Austrian becomes a big fan only when he makes the history of the sport. We became a nation of judokas when our ladies won the gold medal three times at the World Championships in New York, when Peter Seesenbacher became a European and world champion and also a two-time Olympic champion. In the ’90s we got new champions, Manfred Stoll, at the age of twenty he was the youngest Austrian to get his first points in the world championships in Ivory Coast and in the safari rally in Kenya. He started his amazing career in 1997 in the PWRC World Championships in the nearby Mitsubishi Series.
Achim Mörtl won six rallies in 1999 and was the champion of a sovereign country, Haggara/Steincher became world and European champion, won gold at the Olympic Games in 2000 and 2004, and suddenly sailing was so important in Austria that main sponsor Red Bull was happy. Wolfgang Fasching was already a three-time world champion, but only through the world-famous “Race Across America” became champion in Austria and was able to finance this race eight times without any problems, including three wins and each time on the podium. Didi Mateschitz has been a patron and filer for Roman Haggara Hans Peter Stencher for more than 20 years.
We learn: only international successes really matter in Austria, but achieving them in the rally is a costly task. Even improv artist Rudy Stoll had to put aside a safari rally for a million shillings 20 years ago, despite the six mechanics’ “friendship prices.” The World Championships being held in Europe today costs around 80,000 euros if you rent a good RC 2 car. With 12 world championship races a year, you can count on at least 1 million euros, calculated frugally… “You need a big sponsor who can take on about two-thirds of the total costs,” says Klaus Neuberger, and again I have to agree with him give. But how do you get a million and is the state championship title enough to impress the sponsors like that?
“You need a manager with great connections,” I interjected, and I remember Manfred Kimmel, who worked on behalf of Audi and Hans Geest at Fiat/Lancia for Wittmann and Thomas Plasek at Opel Austria. “That’s right,” nods Neuberger, “but they also want to earn something, certainly not less than 10-15 percent, which increases the necessary budget. I do not believe in the presence of an Austrian in the World Cup who has achieved success like Manfred Stoll recently. And the artificial ventilation of the pool is already done in Austria “.
I actually resigned because Mr. Neuberger says: “At that time we had a Gustl Auinger fan club which, after a call for donations, was jointly responsible for the entire World Cup season. Almost 40 years ago, Swedish pop band ABBA was the main sponsor. For a Swede in ATS in the formula!” I stare at him in disbelief, my imagination soaring and I imagine Andreas Gabaler playing a concert at the Munich Allianz Arena and the net proceeds going to Simon Wagner… Hulapalu, I sing Liad für di…
On the way home, all hopes are dashed for now, and I don’t see any international chances for an Austrian in the rally. But then I think about the experiences with Rudi Stoll, who made the impossible possible. And to Hermann Hess, who wrote over a hundred years ago: “You have to try the impossible in order to make the possible!” The moral of the story: It’s never too late to become what you could have been!
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