PEOPLE: FERDINAND PIECH
Name: Ferdinand Piech
The son of Louise Piech, Ferdinand Porsche's daughter, Piech followed in the family footsteps and studied mechanical engineering, graduating from the Zurich Technical University in 1962. The following year he joined Porsche - which was being run by his uncle Ferry Porsche - as an engine development engineer at Zuffenhausen. He became increasingly involved with the sportscar racing programs and worked on the development of the Carrera 6, the 910 and 907 models. At the start of 1968 he was named technical director of the Experimental Department.
Piech's team of engineers began work on a new generation sportscar to beat Ferrari and Ford. That year they raced the 908 but began work on the new 917 model which appeared in 1969. The year was spent developing the package but at the Osterreichring Jo Siffert and Kurt Ahrens Jr gave the 917 its first victory. The win came soon after Porsche announced that it was withdrawing its works team from the series in 1970 in order to supply cars to John Wyer's JW Automotive. The Gulf-sponsored team had won the 1968 Championship and won Le Mans in 1968 and 1969 with the Ford GT40 but was looking for a new car. The Gulf Porsches in the hands of Brian Redman, Pedro Rodriguez, Jo Siffert and Leo Kinnunen while Piech organized a back-up team with backing from Porsche Salzburg (a Piech Family company) with drivers Vic Elford, Ahrens, Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood. The cars were dominant and won the World Championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours. There was a repeat performance the following year but in 1972 Ferrari hit back. That year the 917s were dominant in CanAm with the Penske team.
That year Porsche was privatized and the Porsche family gave up its day-to-day control of the company. Piech moved to Audi NSU (part of the Volkswagen empire) as senior manager for special projects. In 1975 he became Vice Chairman of Audi NSU AutoUnion and in 1977 began the development of a car for the World Rally Championship. The result was the four-wheel-drive Audi Quattro and in 1981 Hannu Mikkola took the Quattro to its first World Championship victory in Sweden. Michelle Mouton won the San Remo Rally in one of the cars and Mikkola ended the year with a win on the RAC Rally. In 1982 Stig Blomqvist joined Mikkola and Mouton but while Walter Rohrl won the Drivers' Championship for Opel it was Audi which took the Manufacturers' title. The following season Mikkola won the Drivers' title and in 1984 Blomqvist won the Drivers' and Audi took the Manufacturers'. Victory was complete. Audi withdrew from the World Championship although there were victories at the famous Pike's Peak hillclimb for Mouton in 1985 and for Bobby Unser in 1986. America was the new target and there followed a highly successful IMSA GTO campaign.
In 1993 Piech was named head of the entire Volkswagen company. He has continued to support Audi's efforts in racing with successful touring car campaigns and assault at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Piech retired in 2002.