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25 years quattro - quattro in Motorsport
quattro is a superior drive system. Very superior. In touring car motorsport, in fact, quattro is so superior that officials had no choice but to consider whether quattro should be burdened by handicaps or even banned! And in this order, this is precisely what major motorsport organisations did - and without undue delay.

After all, they did not want Audi quattro to "do its own thing", and leave all the others trailing in its wake. Rather, they wanted a genuine "show" keeping fans and television excited. And keeping sponsors interested in the sport. They wanted close races for the lead - door to door, wheel to wheel, with just split-seconds in it. One car or brand dominating the others, however, has no place in the "show". Especially as battles further down the field are not shown on TV anyway.

The first measure taken against the quattro's superiority was weight penalties which hindered Audi's touring cars. Extra weight means more tyre wear, greater forces acting on the brakes, more fuel consumption, and of course slower acceleration. And with a view to maintaining safety for the drivers, officials, and spectators alike, various components on the chassis and suspension had to be reinforced. Clearly, this deprived Audi of the advantage the brand had achieved. At least on the race track and in rallies.

Fast and efficiently operating all-wheel drive is naturally good for all motorists, not just in winter or on wet roads. Precisely this was the point people realised when the Audi quattro demonstrated its first success in motorsport. When held the very first time in 1979, the adventurous rally from Paris to Dakar bore the name Rally Oasis. And just one year later, Freddy Graf Kottulinsky won this endurance test for man and machine in the car category. With maximum output of 130 bhp, his Iltis offroader developed by Audi was certainly under-powered, but nevertheless sprinted smoothly and in superior style across the dunes, over gravel and the roughest tracks, leaving all other four-wheeled vehicles far behind.

Freddy Graf Kottulinsky and the men around Roland Gumpert, who was in charge of the team and crossed the finish line in his Iltis in 9th position, all agreed that this drive system was also perfectly suited for asphalt roads, for the most splendid boulevards, and for the race track alike.

The first challenge, however, was to present Audi's revolutionary, high-speed all-wheel-drive system in truly spectacular style. And what could have been a better venue to do this than the World Rally Championship?

After barely 30 minutes test-driving the car, the Finnish rally star Hannu Mikkola was convinced: "I have just experienced a convincing view of the future. quattro will change the rally scene once and for all."

Hannu therefore promptly signed a one-year contract, making his Audi debut in 1981 and joining forces with his co-pilot of many years, Arne Hertz. Together with Michèle Mouton and Fabrizia Pons, Audi's new rally team was all set and for the 1981 season.

The Monte Carlo Rally, by tradition the first race each year for the World Rally Championship, gave the expectant Audi team both good and bad news: Michèle Mouton only covered a few hundred metres before pulling out. The problem was water that had got into the fuel - a handicap not even the quattro's five-cylinder was able to handle.

The good news was the outstanding result achieved by Mikkola/Hertz in the very first stage of the race, leaving behind the competition by almost six minutes. Literally stunned by this kind of superiority, Audi's competitors simply could not believe the supreme performance of the new No 1 in rally racing.

Despite this wonderful start, Hannu Mikkola was not able to convert this lead into overall victory. After hitting obstacles at the side of the road quite severely a number of times, he lost his lead and the status quo was reinstated - but only in terms of the result, not in terms of the quattro's actual supremacy. Because only a bit later, German rally master Walter Röhrl, definitely no pessimist, made a clear statement on Audi's new car in front of the television camera: "What we are seeing here is the introduction of innovative technology clearly superior to everything we have experienced so far. I believe that I will also lose to the Audi quattro, they're simply that much better"

In the very first year, seen and announced as a year of testing for future plans and activities, Mikkola/Hertz won the national rallies in both Sweden and Great Britain.

The real sensation of the season, however, came from the female team Michèle Mouton and Fabrizia Pons: Driving like wildfire, the two ladies left all their male competitors far behind in the San Remo Rally, becoming the first ladies' team to bring home a World Championship race in genuine style. The other drivers didn't stand a chance, the fans went crazy, and the media waxed lyrical.

Had this remained the only victory for the two speed queens, people might have put it down to coincidence. But mastered by the tender hands of an outstanding female driver, the Rally quattros left the men behind three more times - in Sweden, Greece, and Brazil, all in 1982. And Mikkola/Hertz left the competition trailing no less than four times - enough to secure Audi their first World Championship.

After winning the national rallies in Sweden, Portugal, Argentina, and Finland, Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz brought home the 1983 World Championship and, one year later, the Swedish quattro team Stig Blomqvist and Björn Cederberg clinched a double victory, bringing home the driver's title and, as a result, scoring the manufacturer's title for Audi, with Mikkola/Hertz finishing second.

In 1985, Audi's advantage had been reduced. The competition had gone all-out to challenge Audi's production-based concept by introducing design features and technologies developed and conceived for motorsport alone. In the course of the 1984 season, Audi, in turn, had launched the first evolution model of the Rally quattro, the short Sport quattro promising even better performance.

Then, in late July 1985 on the occasion of the Argentine rally, another evolution model of the Sport quattro boasting a huge front spoiler and an equally impressive rear wing, made its appearance on the track: the quattro S1. This was the kind of car only a small number of particularly talented drivers were able to handle: maximum output was 450 turbocharged horsepower, a brute force which even the very best could only master with difficulty.

Asked by reporters about the S1's infernal acceleration, Hannu Mikkola had a clear answer: "Just image you're waiting patiently at the red traffic lights for green. When the lights turn to yellow, you rev up to 8500 rpm and on green you let go of the clutch. The sudden surge of power is so brutal that you think you've been hit from behind by a five-tonne truck - it's simply staggering!"

Staggering or not, the quattros increasingly fell behind the young generation of special, purpose-built cars designed and developed exclusively for rally racing.

The end of this most spectacular of all rally eras was marked by a tragic accident in the Portuguese Rally: on one of the special stages, local driver Joaquim Santos swerved hard to avoid a pedestrian, lost control of his Ford, and ran right into the crowd of spectators, killing a woman and two children and injuring another 30 onlookers.

This accident marked the end of Group B cars, the 1987 season once again being dedicated to production-based Group A cars: Driving an Audi 200 quattro, the all-Bavarian team Röhrl/Geistdörfer put up a remarkable show, exerting a lot of pressure on the competition with their agile four-wheel-drive models, even though they were "only" driving a modified grand touring saloon. And in the Kenya Safari Rally, Audi's team finally bowed out from international rally racing in genuine style: two Audi 200 quattros entered, two finished; Röhrl/Geistdörfer came first, followed by Mikkola/Hertz.

Now the time had come to once again activate the S1: Pikes Peak in Colorado is 4,301 metres high. American racing drivers had been tearing up the 20-kilometre gravel track from down in the valley until just below the peak ever since 1916. And nobody had ever been faster than 11 minutes. This barrier was broken in 1987, Walter Röhrl setting a new benchmark in 10:47.85 minutes in the 600-bhp quattro S1 prepared especially for this mountain race.

Thrilled by the media response to this record achievement, Audi's management decided to aim for new horizons in motorsport. The TransAm Series offered the right setting for demonstrating the superiority of quattro drive, Audi thus entering this racing scene on the other side of the Atlantic in 1988. Three Audi 200 quattros were prepared and modified for the TransAm Series in accordance with current regulations, engine output of 530 bhp being matched against vehicle weight of 1100 kg. Hurley Haywood, the local Audi Dealer in Jacksonville, Florida, entered the Series 14 times and brought home the title in truly supreme style, assisted in some races by his German colleagues Hans-Joachim Stuck and Walter Röhrl.

Scoring seven wins in an appropriately prepared Audi 90 quattro, Stuck finished third in 1989 in the US IMSA/GTO Series.

While this made the tall young man from Bavaria the most successful driver in this fiercely contested championship, he missed out on the title all the same, since Audi's Racing Team had not been able to participate in the first two long-distance races in the Series.

The following season saw Hans-Joachim Stuck back performing in front of his fans in Germany, driving an Audi V8 quattro in the German Touring Car Championship and winning the title convincingly for both Audi and himself.

Entering four V8 quattros and with additional drivers Frank Biela, Frank Jelinski, and Hubert Haupt at the wheel, Audi subsequently set out to defend the title. And this attempt proved successful for the first time in the history of the German Motor Racing Championship, despite the significant extra weight the quattros had to carry on account of their superiority. Frank Biela, the shooting star of the season, thus brought home the German Touring Car Championship in 1991.

In the following year Audi's race-proven quattros ran into hard times in the DTM German Touring Masters. The difficulty they experienced was not on the track, however, but rather at the conference table when the OMS Motorsport Authority claimed that the new crankshaft in Audi's eight-cylinder was not in line with regulations, although two preceding tests had confirmed that the crankshaft was perfectly legal. As a result, Audi pulled out of national racing and concentrated on racing series outside of Germany.

Racing the Audi A4 Supertouring, the Company once again achieved a unique story of success in 1996, winning not only the prestigious D1 ADAC Super Touring Car Cup, but also, with the help of the respective importers, six national championships - in Italy, Great Britain, Belgium, Spain, South Africa, and Australia.

Once again, the sports authorities responded, burdening racing cars with four-wheel drive by additional weight of up to 95 kg in order to prevent further victories of this kind. And just one year later the FIA Motorsport Authority put an end to quattro technology in motor racing once and for all. Meaning that from now on Audi quattro has been able to show its merits "only" in road traffic - but all year round!

Poprzedni: Audi quattro - the early years - The Beginnings
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