If anyone moves the PANTHER like no one else, it's test driver Franz Mittermayr.
He has this mischievous smile on his face whenever the subject of the PANTHER comes up. It's a smile that characterizes people who can't let anything get them down in their profession, because they've already experienced everything possible and impossible in the course of their career and, in this specific case, during thousands of test and special drives. Franz Mittermayr is the PANTHER expert par excellence, experienced, level-headed, and a true vehicle whisperer. No one knows the Rosenbauer flagship better than he does, no one is more familiar with this vehicle. He has driven them all, chased every prototype of a new generation over test tracks and airports until the performance and quality were right, and taken every new variant under his wing before it was allowed to be released for the market. His expertise carries weight, both with Rosenbauer's development engineers and with suppliers and customers around the world.
Above all, it is his virtuoso handling of the PANTHER that captivates anyone who has ever had the chance to see Mittermayr in action with it. Just watching him, you can imagine the forces acting on the vehicle, which weighs tons, and its occupants when he sends it into a rapid lane change. If you get the chance to experience a ride in the passenger seat, you feel the extreme load changes deep in your stomach, a feeling between queasy and fascinating, with a slightly euphoric note - simply everyday life for a professional like Franz Mittermayr.
Everything that counts
Test driver of special fire-fighting vehicles, this profession cannot be learned, it has to be "experienced"! Mile after mile, that's all that counts. And Franz Mittermayr has plenty of experience. He has been driving for Rosenbauer since 1973, delivering chassis, testing prototypes, helping out with internal transport logistics, and delivering customer vehicles, even over thousands of kilometers if necessary. In almost 50 years of working life, he has already circumnavigated the globe once or twice. When the PANTHER was developed in the early 1990s and the first test drives were made, Mittermayr was already set for the job. He has long since proven that he has a special talent for dealing with firefighting vehicles and a great understanding of their specific driving behavior, and he is now developing this together with the PANTHER to "production readiness".
What distinguishes Mittermayr, like any good test driver, is his "sensory" intuition, which, beyond all measurement technology, provides important insights into a vehicle under development. Mittermayr literally listens to the vehicle when he takes a prototype for a test drive and can tell if something is wrong just by listening to the sounds of the transmission, engine or brakes. He also apparently has a feeling in his extended back that Formula One legend Niki Lauda called a "popometer" and a crucial skill for a car racer: "You use this mental and physical sensor to feel how a vehicle behaves at what speed in a variety of situations, and the more you're able to use this sensor, the faster you become."
It's clear that the PANTHER is no Formula 1 bolide, but the forces it develops at maximum acceleration and in rapid cornering are not to be underestimated. That's why Franz Mittermayr doesn't think the comparison with Formula 1 is so far-fetched: "We may drive much slower, but we have to push our vehicles just as close to their load limits and master them at the limits of physics, just in different dimensions. We know that three kilometers per hour too much is already enough to flip a PANTHER in a fast corner."
Although it wouldn't be a shame, this has never happened to him, but it has to one or the other rendition partner and customer. This is one of the reasons why Rosenbauer has developed appropriate safety features for the PANTHER to prevent drivers from getting into such dangerous situations in the first place: an electronic warning system (Driver Warning Device) against excessive side slopes and electronic stability control.
Test driver and co-developer
Not only for new vehicle generations, but also for every further technical development, the expertise of the test driver is in demand, because the perfect functioning of new components must always be proven in the complete vehicle with the corresponding load and in interaction with all other systems. For example, every tightening of emissions standards over the past 30 years has triggered corresponding new developments in the PANTHER with subsequent test campaigns. Even though many things can now be simulated and thus tested virtually, test drives under real conditions, on different surfaces and in a wide variety of weather conditions are still necessary. It's good when there is at least one reliable constant in the process: Franz Mittermayr.
He understands like no other how to move the special fire-fighting vehicles, which weigh up to 52 tons, quickly and safely over any terrain in extreme areas. And he is known for his tenacity when it comes to naming mistakes and eliminating problems - who should know better? Only in one situation does slight nervousness give way to a sovereign calmness in Franz Mittermayr's face: when he has to take a seat at the co-driver's seat ...
For decades a proven team.
Franz is always on top of things.
Franz looks good with the PANTHER on any surface.
Franz and his PANTHER.
Always in the middle of the action.
Franz makes the wheels smoke.
Franz raises dust.