From street to track: Legend of Audi Quattro

From street to track: Legend of Audi Quattro

Audi Quattro A2 rally car. Picture credit: Tony Harrison

It’s gentle on the streets of the city but turns to a brute the moment it hits the rally track. Many street cars have done well in motorsport, but the one that stands out is the Audi Quattro.

The original idea of building the Quattro was to have a high-performance and four wheel drive car that would be good to use on snow. The car did well as a commuter vehicle, but it also gained fame in the World Rally Championship (WRC).

The Quattro made its debut in competition in 1980. It was the manufacturer champion on debut in the 1982 season of the WRC. Finn Hannu Mikkola won the driver title in a Quattro in 1983 and Swede Stig Blomqvist bagged the title in 84. The Quattro was the manufacturer champion in 1984 too.

The two-door coupe was produced from 1980 to 1991. It had a 2.1 litre engine with a Single OverHead Camshaft (SOHC) from 80 to 87. The engine capacity was increased to 2.2 litre for two years but still with an SOHC. But for the last three years of its production, the same 2.2 litre engine was used but with a Double OverHead Camshaft (DOHC). This meant better airflow into the valves and hence more power.

The first engine (turbocharged) could churn out 197 hp and had a top speed of 220 Kmph. The second engine (also turbocharged) could put out 217 hp with a top speed of 230 Kmph. This and the availability of the four-wheel drive in the Quattro made it a great rally car. Quattro is Italian for the number four and the name was given due to this being a four wheel drive car.

The car was known as Ur-Quattro. Ur means original in German and it was the brainchild of Audi designer and engineer Jorg Bensinger.

The Audi Sport team was formed and entered the WRC in 1982 in the newly-formed Group B class. In this class, virtually any amount of modification (on engine and body design) was allowed on the cars and the power output often went up to 500 hp.

The others that entered this class in 82 were Opel Ascona 400, Ferrari 308 GTB, Porsche 911 SC, Renault 5 Turbo, Citroen Visa, Mitsubishi Lancer 2000 Turbo, Ford Escort RS 1800, Toyota Celica 2000 GT, Nissan Violet GTS, Lancia Rally 037 and Vauxhall Chevette 2300 HSR.

Variations of the Quattro in the WRC included the A1 and A2 (about 350 hp), Sport Quattro S1 (444 hp) and Sport Quattro S1 E2 (500 hp). A Sport Quattro RS 002, which put out 690 hp, was built and tested, but never used in competition.

These WRC cars were insanely powerful. This made them dangerous and there were several accidents that saw the International Automobile Federation (FIA) stop Group B at the end of the 1986 season.

Even after new regulations came in and the Quattro quit the WRC, Audi sold it as regular street cars. A total of 11,452 units were sold from 1980 to 1991. Audi brought out the Quattro concept in 2010 and Sport Quattro concept in 2013.

Picture credit: Ultegra

Legend has it that Audi planned to build just enough for the cars to be homologated for the WRC (about 400). But the demand for the cars was so good that the German automaker put it into regular production.

Its appearance in the WRC was short and was eventually defeated by Peugeot 205 Turbo. But despite this, the success in Group B of the WRC saw the car attain legendary fame. Mention Quattro to any motorsport or car enthusiast, it is sure to bring a smile on the face. It is a legend.