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Ruf CTR Yellowbird and the Legendary Faszination on the Nürburgring


Ruf CTR Yellowbird and the Legendary Faszination on the Nürburgring

Ruf Yellowbird

Before the internet, Gran Turismo and social media, a hazy VHS went viral in the car community. Such was the car, and such was the manner in which it was driven, it's still talked about today. Images courtesy of RUF GmbH.

What is it to be fascinated? For me, it’s a feeling so evocative that it first puts us in that heady, trance-like state. It then lingers on the mind, harking back to that most joyous moment of original attraction. It’s like a new car smell or a particularly powerful scene in a film – you never forget it.

That feeling is why I can’t think of a better name for the video which left me, like so many others, absolutely fascinated. It was one of the first pieces of film to go the VHS equivalent of viral in the automotive sector. The striking images of Alois Ruf Jr’s dastardly, maddening creation with test driver Stefan Roser at the wheel would be burned into the mind of car enthusiasts for generations, guaranteed to incite juvenile giggling as it careens around the Nordschleife.

The video is wonderfully simple. Just the yellow car on the Green Hell. Nowadays, there is no theatre to a Nürburgring onboard video as you can find hundreds with a simple search; it is the driving and the car that made Faszination Auf Dem Nürburgring special when it was released in 1989.

The way that Roser conducts the Ruf CTR ‘Yellowbird’ is purely flamboyant – he’s driving for the sheer fun of it. He grapples with the standard Porsche steering wheel, coercing it into every bend with pinpoint motions, power sliding through a majority of them. There’s a swagger to his driving, as he sits - sans helmet - in short sleeves and loafers, masterfully modulating his pedal applications. Not once is he uneasy. Not once does his commitment waver. There’s a humbling element to how he gingerly commands the wheel, in such control of the Blütengelb (blood-yellow) beast.

And what a beast it is; external ground and helicopter shots reveal the heavily modified G-Series 3.2 Carrera chassis (which weighed just 1,198kg) as it spiritedly manoeuvres through the bends like a luminous Scalextric model. The ‘bird soars through the Eifel Forest, with even the pursuing helicopter struggling to keep up. Ruf had made their name tastefully enhancing Porsche’s latest and greatest, but the CTR (Group C Turbo Ruf) was the most ambitious project to come out of Pfaffenhausen yet. As Ruf calls it: “the ultimate in driving excitement”.

Ruf Yellowbird
Stefan Roser making the world's fastest car dance on the world's most fearsome circuit
Ruf Yellowbird

You may drool over that tuned 3.4-litre single-overhead-cam flat-6 with its KKK twin-turbochargers and twin-intercoolers, providing that violent kick to give the car performance that was unseen in period. Or you ogle at Roser, knocking through the custom-made 5-speed gearbox in this 1 of only 29 cars, making full use of the 462bhp and 408lb-ft. The intoxicating six-cylinder roar rings through the cabin like a ravenous animal, clawing to break free.

Ruf had made a name for themselves tinkering with all things Porsche, particularly for prying more power out of the 930 Turbo. They were designated a manufacturer in 1981, having released their first Ruf branded vehicle – the SCR – in 1978, and continued their crusade to make the ultimate 911. The CTR had already started to make a name for itself, most notably in a group test in Germany with every supercar titan of the era, published in Road & Track in 1987. They liked it, a lot. Even giving it its infamous name: ‘Yellowbird’. On their own, the test rivals would be legends of the industry, but to the CTR they became mere irritations as it casually sprinted to a top speed record of 211mph.

Journalist Peter Egan said “Nothing quite surpassed the magic of going 200 mph. And beyond. Mit Radio.” To have a car so capable in 1987 was almost incomprehensible, and just to add to its absurdity – it was road-legal. In 1988, Road & Track named the CTR "The Fastest Production Car in the World". Editor Thomas L. Bryant claimed, “In my 16 years of driving other people’s cars I have never come across a car with such stunning performance that could be driven legally on the public roads.” If that doesn’t convince you of the CTRs silliness, I’m not sure what will.

Its canary hue may say otherwise, but the CTR is quite an understated car; compared to the Countach and Testarossa, a tastefully modified 911 doesn’t stand out very much. Aside from the Ruf scripture, custom 17-inch alloys, NACA ducts and subtle bodyworks changes, little would key you into this car’s potential. Thereby lies the beauty of the CTR and of Faszination – here we see a car so seemingly ordinary do something utterly extraordinary. It’s so competent wherever it goes, whether it be on a backroad, on the Ehra-Lessien test track at 211mph, or on the Nürburgring with Roser posting an unofficial lap record of 8:05 minutes.

To see the aptitude of both driver and car in 1989 was the reason for Ruf’s ascension in the public eye. The car became synonymous with the video, and vice versa. Those twenty minutes of suspension of disbelief in this low-budget PR film kickstarted a genre of unfiltered car media and built the Ruf brand into what we know today.

No, Faszination may not have introduced you to Ruf’s wickedly cool wunderkind - perhaps it was a review, or even its appearance in games like Gran Turismo, as it was for me – but I can guarantee it led you back to those blissful Nürburgring laps in 1989. That is why this video is so special; its rapport within the car community (and its eminent re-watchability) makes it special, sacred even. So, it seems only apt that I go and re-watch the Ruf Yellowbird lap the Nürburgring. Again. And again. And maybe once more.

Ruf Yellowbird
Hanging the tail out whilst hanging on for dear life
Ruf Yellowbird
The opposition left trailing at the top speed trials, including Porsche's own 959 supercar
Ruf Yellowbird
Iconic monobloc alloys and huge front discs are required to slow the car safely from 211 mph on the Autobahn
Ruf Yellowbird
Chase helicopter as eye-catching as the outstanding mullets on display

Written by

Finlay Ringer


14 April 2023

Last Updated


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