The history of the Audi Quattro begins in 1975 with the mission on the part of its team of engineers to develop a car with 4-wheel drive that works on the road as a utility vehicle but also as a competition vehicle, the model chosen was the humble Audi 80, equipped with the powerful 160 hp turbo engine of the Audi 200 and two years later, in 1980, the famous Audi Quattro was born to the world.
Before the entry into the competition of the Audi Quattro, the brand still had to grapple with the problem of restricting vehicles with all-wheel drive in the rallies that prevailed at the end of the 70s, however, the other brands when questioned about it saw no problem and accepted the change.
The Audi Quattro had its official debut in competitive races in 1981 at the Monte Carlo Rally by the hand of Hannu Mikkola and despite not having won its first race, the signs were already very promising, when in the first stage only it took 10 km to overtake Bernard Darniche’s Lancia Stratos, which had started 2 minutes ahead and had already won 16 times the World Rally Championship and weighed just 960 kg against the 1,150 kg of Audi, which had a V6 2.418cc (240hp) engine against the Quattro V20 5-cylinder inline 2.133cc (302hp) turbo engine that had rear-wheel drive against Audi’s all-wheel drive. Its first victory happened in the second race at the Rally Sweden and in that debut year it only managed one more victory, but in 1982 in its second year, it would win seven in twelve races, in 1983 it obtained exactly the same number of victories as its great rival, the Lancia 037 Rally.
The Audi Quattro throughout its history of competition knew several versions, after the base version, in 1983 the Quattro A1 appeared, having in that same year the A2, an 100 kg lighter version, however, the car began to feel the threat of rivals Peugeot and Lancia that produced custom-made competition cars, it was then necessary to reduce the long wheelbase of the Audi Quattro, also undergoing a diet by replacing (where possible) steel panels with lighter materials such as aluminium fibreglass and even carbon Kevlar composites and in 1984 the Quattro S1 appears a shorter and more powerful version, the efforts of the Audi engineers, however, do not stop there and continue to improve the Audi Quattro and thus in 1985 the latest version appeared, the S1 E2, which debuted in the Argentine Rally.
The most spectacular version of the Audi Quattro was undoubtedly the last, the S1 E2, easily recognized by its large wings and huge side air intakes, these changes that were initially rejected by FISA, later on being accepted as they made the car safer, it was not just a matter of aesthetic details but of aerodynamic technical changes, the weight distribution of the car became more balanced from the previous 58/42 to a more balanced 52/48, with the passage of the radiators to the rear of the car whose cooling was helped by the aforementioned huge side air intakes, these changes also made it possible together with the big wings gave up to half a ton of downforce since in previous versions it was usual to see it jump more and with these alterations allowed the nose of the Audi to not rise so high in the heels and thus land faster. But what was surprising even in this Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 was its incredible performance, despite having less engine capacity it only needed 2.6 seconds to reach 100 km/h and 10 seconds to reach 200 km/h.
The Audi Quattro S1, despite being the most spectacular and balanced, only managed to win a single rally, the Sanremo 1985, after that several technical problem, some accidents and the improvement of competition, namely the appearance of the no less spectacular Lancia Delta S4, would mark the end of a beautiful dream. The final goodbye was in 1986 at the Rally of Portugal on the Sintra stage, the only Audi Quattro S1 E2 in the race was driven by Walter Rohrl and was in third with a considerable distance from the first two, ahead of him followed Timo Salonen in a Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 Evo2 that runs over a foreign cameraman breaking his leg, but the worst was yet to come when Portuguese driver Joaquim Santos in a Ford RS 200 crashes and runs over the crowd causing 3 deaths and several injured, in what will have had the greatest assistance ever seen at a World Rally Championship, it is estimated that half a million people would be watching. In that year, the tragedy would happen again almost two months after the Rally Portugal, with the death of Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto in the Corse Rally, on May 2, 1986, it was the end of Group B, certainly, the most spectacular and that that will always be remembered as the golden age of rallies with some of the fastest, most powerful and sophisticated rally cars ever built.
For the history of Audi Quattro, there is an incredible recording of victories, 23 stages and 4 championship titles, 2 for drives and 2 for manufactures.
Photo credits from Audi Media Center.