‘Race For Glory: Audi vs. Lancia’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: What Happens To Walter Röhrl?

You would expect fireworks from a racing film based on true events that has Daniel Brühl in the cast, right? Sure, every single film is different, but expecting good things from Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia is understandable enough, with a very compelling story of David triumphing over Goliath and, of course, Brühl’s association with it. Given the actor’s most popular role till date is playing the legendary Austrian F1 driver Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s Rush, easily one of the greatest racing films ever made.

Sadly though, Brühl is pretty much wasted in Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia, where he bats for the Goliaths by playing Ronald Gumpert, the engineer and manager of the Audi racing team who revolutionized sports car-making by inventing four-wheel-drive vehicles. As big as Gumpert was in real life, his role in this film is pretty much that of a minor supporting character. This story is rather about Lancia racing team manager Cesare Fiorio and their unpredictable but extremely talented driver Walter Röhrl. Unfortunately, the film never really soars thanks to its very underwhelming writing and lack of any directorial vision. It keeps oscillating between a compelling racing thriller and an authentic docu-drama but ends up being neither here nor there. You don’t get invested as most of the characters are half-baked, and director Stefano Mordini doesn’t explain the motives behind their actions. The most confusing thing is obviously the character of Walter, who does a lot of inexplicable things, including one particular thing during the climax. We’re going to try to analyze that mainly in this article, but I must warn you, a lot of it is going to be my own interpretation.

Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Movie?

A lot of Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia feels like a dramatization of Wikipedia entries with zero cinematic flair to it. It’s watchable thanks to actor Riccardo Scamarcio’s earnest portrayal of Fiorio. Back in the eighties, car companies had to depend on these rallies to sell their sports cars, and German car manufacturer Audi always used to have the upper hand in those rallies. The Italian company Lancia, backed by Fiat, was always the challenger, but they could never top Audi when it came to the finishing line. For Fiorio, doing the unthinkable was the whole point of life.


What Does Fiorio Do To Win The 83’ Championship?

Fiorio’s main challenges lie in convincing Lancia to fund the rallies even after losing at them every year and finding a driver who has it in him to do the unimaginable. Once he gets the Lancia bosses on board, he gives it his all to hire Walter, who appears to be uninterested in racing and also very interested in beekeeping. It’s not entirely clear why Walter is not too keen on racing for Fiorio, but he does accept the offer to join eventually. In fact, Lancia named their new sports car “037”, after Walter casually made a record-breaking 37-second finish, while testing the vehicle. Walter has certain conditions, though, like participating in only some races throughout the season, and Fiorio has no choice but to accept them. Given that the film says by the end that it’s a fictional account and shouldn’t be considered a faithful adaptation, I think it’s futile to look into the real Walter Röhrl, who was one of the greatest rally drivers of the era.


How Does The Season Go For Team Lancia?

It’s mostly a mixed bag for them, as they win some and lose some. The film focuses on both the ups and downs and culminates with Lancia’s emphatic win at the Sanremo rally. It does acknowledge that Audi’s Hannu Mikkola still finished the whole season with the most points, meaning Audi won this time around as well. But for Lancia, this was still a huge thing, and the credit for that goes to both Fiorio and Walter, who shared a very strange relationship. The film would have been a lot better if that relationship was explored further, like how James Mangold’s fantastic Ford vs. Ferrari benefited a lot from the whole relationship between Carol Shelby and Ken Miles.

Anyway, things start really well for Lancia as Fiorio manages to trick Gumpert in Monte Carlo into believing there was a lot of snow on the track, which eventually helps Walter do what he does best. Audi expectedly objects, but Fiorio gets away with it as his activities are well within the rules. However, things don’t go well for Lancia after that, as they don’t go to Sweden thanks to Walter choosing to opt out, and in Portugal, they have it too hard against Audi. They bounce back after Walter helps them clinch both the rallies in Corsica and Greece, before he suddenly decides not to race in Finland, which creates a rift between Fiorio and him, leading Fiorio to fire his champion driver.


What Happens In Finland?

It can be said that the events in Finland really are the turning point of Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia and pretty much set up the climax. In the absence of Walter, Lancia has to rely on young and inexperienced Vudo Kurt, who suffers this tragic accident and ends up in a coma. Walter witnesses it as a spectator and probably ends up feeling guilty. I am using the term “probably” here because I am not sure what he was doing in Finland in the first place, when he said that he had no intention of going there. The only possible explanation would be that after getting fired by Fiorio, he just felt bad for the team and wanted to see how things went for Lancia and Kurt, whom he admired. He could have just apologized to Fiorio, who would have taken him back in no time, but men have had a tendency to do things that don’t make any sense ever since the dawn of this planet.


Why Did Walter Choose To Give Up On Individual Glory In The Sanremo Rally?

In no way does Race for Glory: Audi vs. Lancia qualify as a good film, but it does leave us at a place where we might keep pondering over this one question. That only happens because of the film’s own inability to explain its most fascinating character, i.e., Walter. Referencing Ford vs. Ferrari again, that film worked really hard on establishing the psyche of Ken Miles’ character, which made his actions during the climax understandable to the audience. But here, that’s clearly not the case, as this film never makes any attempt to explore things from Walters’ perspective. I would say it wasted too much time by focusing on rather unnecessary aspects like this banter between Fiorio and Gumpert and the relationship between Fiorio and Jane. The latter had a romantic vibe, which felt very forced and utterly pointless. Jane being the daughter of a former driver who died in a freak accident didn’t particularly add any value to this already wobbly narrative.

Coming back to Walter, he obviously came back to racing for Lancia and does everything to make sure his team wins. Lancia suffers a hiccup during the race with Walters’ car, but they manage to fix the issue. Luck clearly favors them as Audi’s car, driven by Mikkola, catches fire, and Walter manages to make up for all the lost time that happened during his car mishap. However, he slows down during the finish line, which allows the other Lancia driver, Markku Alén, to clinch the title. Walter’s decision surprises everyone, including Alén, who even asks Walter the reason while driving past his car.

What I believe is that, as much as Walter loved racing, he never really cared about winning. He was never in it for the glory; in fact, he pretty much hated all the attention and fame. Fiorio, on the other hand, wanted nothing but to win, as that was the only goal in his life. He was genuinely passionate about racing, as he keeps saying in the candid interview, which keeps intercutting with the narrative of the movie. By the end of the movie, both Fiorio and Walter had gotten what they wanted. Lancia won the Sanremo rally, but Walter didn’t have a podium finish. Of course, it’s evident that Walter is the reason for Lancia’s glory, which, I suppose, was the whole point of Race for Glory film. Surely the film version of Walter Röhrl would like to do some beekeeping way more than participate in sports car rallies, after Sanremo.


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Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra Majumdar
Rohitavra likes to talk about movies, music, photography, food, and football. He has a government job to get by, but all those other things are what keep him going.

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