The traditional season opener has, as expected, brought many celebrated cars, such as the Renault 5 Turbo, Talbor Sunbeam Lotus, Opel Ascona 400, spear Stratos HF, Fiat 131 Abarth, Ford Escort RS 1800, Porsche 911 SC and many others. As every year, the list of favorites was short - by that time Lancia and Fiat had won six of the eight driving championships, but it was expected that Ford and Renault could surprise that year. Among the competitors was the new Audi Quattro, and despite the recent victory in the lower class rally of Austria, almost no one paid too much attention to it. The Quattro had the latest technology that rivals did not, and that is all-wheel drive, which many considered too heavy to leave a significant mark. And then, after the first stage, Audi driver Hanna Mikkola asked his co-driver Arne Hertz how far behind the fastest time. Hertz just looked at him and said "the best rival time is ten seconds behind us".
From that moment on, a new star was born. Over the next few years, Quattro left a deep mark on the rally championship until it was worn by the standards, but that was enough time to gain legendary status and make history as one of the best cars in this competition. In order to qualify for the rally championship, the German vehicle manufacturer had to make a sufficient number of serial copies, giving birth to another legend that will dominate the asphalt for a long time. The history of the Audi Quattro traces its origins back to the mid-1970s when one of the team's engineers, Jorg Bensinger, tested the Volkswagen Iltis in harsh winter conditions in Scandinavia. Bensinger noted that the four-wheel-drive of this military vehicle manages to cope with all weather conditions, from snow, mud to gravel itself. Even the best all-terrain cars of the time mentioned failed to cope with the terrain with such ease, so the choice was mostly down to some proven SUV, such as a Land Rover or Jeep CJ.
Bensinger came up with the idea that all-wheel drive would really differentiate Audi from the competition and in his spare time started working on a similar system on his private Audi 80. The idea was, during 1977, introduced by Dr. Ferdinand Piechu, then the company's technical director, The first prototype was made on the aforementioned Audi 80, and provided an I5 engine with 170 hp. Although solidly done, the aforementioned 80 was left without much effort in the mud of difficult terrain in Sweden behind the Iltis, which had only 75 hp. Although the power proved high enough, rear-wheel drive was not ideal for difficult terrain. Piech soon gathered a team of young engineers around him and the project received more attention under the "Development Order 262" label, although many called it the A1 or allrad (all-wheel drive). The team also included Walker Treser project manager and chief engineer Jorg Bensinger.
The team did not have a large budget, as few people in the company expected greater success, and the greatest attention was paid to the turbo engine, which was to be placed under the hood of the new Audi 200 in the near future. For this reason, the team had to use already existing parts from many Volkswagen and Audi models, so the suspension and transmission were taken from the Audi 100, the shell from the Audi 80, and the I5 turbo engine from the future Audi 80 Coupe. The first fully completed prototype was unveiled to company executives in September 1977, and soon Volkswagen gave the green light for mass production. To persuade President Volkswagen to approve the project, Piech took to the mountains of Austria Ernst Fial, Volkswagen's director of new vehicles, first letting it transport a standard Audi 80, and then a prototype four-wheel drive version. Fiala kept the car over the weekend and then allowed his wife to drive it. After minimal modifications, Fiala decided to approve the project.
All that was left to decide was the name. An early favorite for the name was Carat, but the marketing team had a far better idea and decided to name a new Quattro, an Italian word for all-wheel drive. The official presentation followed at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1980, and the audience was delighted to see this car. In front of them stood a beautiful coupe, which was based on the new Audi 80 Coupe, also introduced the same year with a length of 4,404 mm. Although touted as one of the first all-wheel-drive cars to be manufactured in larger numbers, Quatto was not the first and the AMC Eagle had the honor. However, while this small American company provided a model of rather dull design and inefficient engines, the Quattro was still a significantly more modern car. Under the hood was a new 2.2L I5 engine that, with the help of a turbo, was developing 200 hp and 285 Nm of torque. With a weight of just 1.3 tonnes, acceleration to 100 km / h was seven seconds with a top speed of 220 km / h.
The high starting price of 49,900 marks also marked great exclusivity and only wealthy buyers were able to afford Quattro. Production began in late 1980 at a small factory in Germany where all models were assembled by hand, and as Audi already had big plans for auto sports, it was known that at least 400 copies would be produced for homologation. Although Quattro has gained cult status on asphalt throughout its history, its legend was nevertheless born in the World Rally Championship or WRC. Back in the 1977 season, Audi tried out in this competition with the Model 80, which provided front-wheel drive, but failed to achieve significant success. Early Quattro models competed in local competitions and the first major test followed in 1981 at the Austrian Rally. This rally was not scored in the WRC Championship, and for him the engine power was increased to 310 hp. Local hero Franz Wittmann easily won his first race with over 20 minutes of lead over his nearest rival.
A few months later in 1981, the season officially opened with the Monte Carlo Rally, perhaps the biggest race of the competition, and it started in the best way possible. Hannu Mikkola beat the first six rivals mostly in snowy conditions but had to give up after the collision. However, in the second race of the season in Sweden, Quattro recorded his first victory with the famous Finnish driver. In the 12 races of that season, this car won three and finished third in the constructors' general standings, and perhaps the biggest success came in the Italian rally won by Michele Mouton, becoming the first woman to accomplish this feat. At the beginning of the 1982 season, it became clear that Quattro was on the roof of the world. Audi has won seven of its 12 driving races and won the constructor title. Mikkola has won in Finland, Sweden, Argentina and Portugal while Mouton has added wins in Portugal, Greece and Brazil and only a breakdown in Côte d'Ivoire has prevented her from winning the championship.
For the 1983 season, Audi gets new competition and the sight of the more powerful Lancia Stratos, but even that didn't stop it, so Mikkola brought Quattro his first championship title. While the serial model continued to be sold in limited numbers in Europe, in 1983 sales were expanded to North America, where it remained for only four years and during that period only 664 copies found customers. Although the Quattro was an impressive car, its starting price seemed too high compared to celebrated sports cars such as Porsche 911 and the Chevrolet Corvette, and when added that the models for this market were developing 160 hp due to the exhaust standards, it becomes clear why success was still lacking. The 1984 season will remain remembered as a turning point for the WRC. The newly formed Group B has forced many teams to experiment with a centrally mounted engine, and even though Audi considered the option and even made a prototype, this idea was still bypassed.
The German giant's latest vehicle was the Sport Quattro, which had a shortened chassis of only 2,224 mm in order to be lighter and better in curves. Audi won seven of its 12 races during the 1984 season and won the driver and constructor title again, but at the end of the season the first trouble in the form of Peugeot reached. Specifically, Peugeot debuted the 205 Turbo, which, due to its small size, easily overcame all obstacles and managed to win three of the last four races. For the 1985 season, Audi decided to increase its power to an impressive 476 hp, though by some estimates it exceeded 500 hp. Weighing just 1,090 kg, the Quattro was now able to accelerate to 100 km / h in three seconds and up to 200 km / h in 11 seconds. Many will agree that the rivalry of the Audi and Peugeot during the 1985 season may be the greatest in the history of this auto sport, but the number of victories does not reflect the real situation on the field. Specifically, during the 1985 season, Peugeot won seven races compared to just one Audi and walked to the title.
In the same period, Group B began to receive major criticism that it was dangerous. Much has changed in the Portuguese Rally which will play a key role in the decision to shut down Group B. Portuguese driver Joaquim Santos behind the wheel of a Ford RS200 lost control of the vehicle in one turn and hit an audience watching the race. Three people were killed and another 31 injured, and after that rally, all the best teams withdrew and the future of Group B was considered. Shortly thereafter, a crucial detail in Group B history at the Italian Rally occurs. Henry Toivonen led the championship in the Championship and when the Rally in Corsica began, Toivonen stood out among the favorites to win. In 18 stages Toivonen crashed and his Lancia burst. Smoke could be seen at the finish and the organizers immediately realized that something was wrong. Half an hour later, when the rescue crew arrived at the scene of the collision, they found only the burned car and the charred bodies of the Finnish driver and his co-driver Sergio Cresto.
There was no witness so it is only to this day that one can speculate exactly what happened. Some say Toivenenen was sick, others that the cause of the collision was a mechanical problem, and there are some who claim to be a driver's fault, since Toivonen has had strange collisions throughout his career at a time when he had high leadership. At the Italian Rally, Toivonen had a great lead and it was hard to expect anyone to have a better time. This collision came a year after Attilio Bettega, behind the wheel of a Lancia 037, also died in this same rally. The rough terrain was regarded as his death as an accident, as his co-driver Maurizio Perissinot went unharmed. After the rally in Korsica, Audi was automatically exited from Group B, and after another crash of F1 driver Marc Surer in the RS200, in which his passenger died, the FIA automatically suspended Group B. Although Audi continued to compete in the rally, after Group B his success was limited, with the exception of 1987 when Hannu Mikkola won the rally in Kenya.
The German team also turned to turn to other models, such as the 90 and 200, but that was not the end of the legendary Quattro. Specifically, mountain racing in the US state of Colorado, called Pikes Peak, began to gain in popularity. The specially equipped Quattro at 600 kg debuted during the 1987 season with the legendary Walter Rohrl, who not only won the race for a long time and held the record on this track. The victories were later achieved with two other drivers (Michele Mouton and Bobby Unser), and to this day Quattro is considered one of the legends of this competition. Success on American soil later continued in the Trans Am series, where Audi won eight of 13 races and won the constructor title in the 1988 season, developing these models as much as 720 hp. Success later continued in the German Touring Car Series (DTM), where Quattro won the championship title in the 1990 season and won half the races in the 1990 and 1991 seasons before debuting the all-new Audi A4 Quattro Supertouring.
In any case, after much interest from the audience during the early years of production, the demand for the civilian Quattro dropped sharply in the mid-1980s, and many see the German vehicle manufacturer as the culprit. Specifically, the four-wheel drive debuted five more company models during the period, which were significantly cheaper, and the end of the original Quattro arrived in 1991 when it was replaced by the S2. Over the 11 years of production, Audi has produced a total of 11,452 Quattro, largely without major changes, which gives this car great exclusivity today. Many of the copies produced survived, and if the British TV show Wheeler Dealers showed us something, some models could be found for under € 5,000. However, if you want a more well-preserved model, be prepared to stand out significantly more, which is certainly not a high figure when one knows what a revolution Quattro has brought not only in auto sport but also amongst production cars.
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