Audi Quattro Coupe

Back in the 1980's, the 4-wheel drive Audi Quattro Coupe changed the face of world rallying. The impact was so great that other manufacturers such as Peugoet, Lancia, Ford and Austin-Rover had to go back to the drawing board and develop their own 4-wheel drive cars just to remain competitive.

Audi's 5-cylinder turbocharged supercar had been unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1980. It was the first high-performance road car to use a permanent 4-wheel drive system, and it was not long before the Audi engineers at Ingolstadt were looking seriously at a motorsport campaign. In 1979, the FIA had conveniently changed the rule that previously restricted International rallying to 2-wheel drive cars. So after a Summer of development, the competition debut for the Quattro came in the Algarve in the Autumn of 1980. Although the car was blisteringly quick, world rally wins had to wait until the following year.

Public reaction was divided, as the Audi Quattro did not display the spectacular sideways style of the 2-wheel drive rallycars. But vastly better traction and improved predictability under braking meant that from now on the Quattro was going to be the car to beat.
Alongside great Scandinavian drivers such as Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist, Audi also recruited the French driver Michele Mouton, who became the first woman to win a round of the World Rally Championship (WRC). By the end of 1982 the Audi team had become World Champions; Mikkola went on to win the Driver's World Championship in 1983, followed by Blomqvist in 1984.

All the time both the car and its 5-cylinder turbocharged engine were the subject of continuous development. Pure power peaked with Audi's short wheelbase Sport S1, a dramatic Kevlar-bodied car with over 500 bhp. In 1987, Walter Rohrl took a very special version (with 598 bhp) to a record-breaking victory in the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in Colorado's Rocky Mountains.

A fatal accident in Portugal in 1988 obliged the FIA to take measures to halt the ever increasing speed of rallycars, and so the World Rally Championship became restricted to more production-based cars. Audi Motorsport then moved its interests on to circuit racing, but the impact that Quattro technology had on the rally scene will never be forgotten.

The Cars:
Audi Quattro 360 bhp
Audi Sport Quattro 400 bhp
Audi Sport Quattro S1 450 bhp
Audi Sport Quattro S1 "Pikes Peak" 598 bhp

Postscript: At the H&H Buxton auction in December 2003, an ex-Mikkola Audi Sport Quattro was sold for £90,000.

C. J. Clark


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