The Audi Quattro – A Legendary Car
Audi now make some of the best looking and performing cars on the road. Did you know however that up till the 1980s they were regarded as a fairly boring and safe manufacturer. Well that all changed when they decided to make a car worthy of winning the WRC.
In the 1980s Formula One was eclipsed by another form of car competition. Off road rallying was the most exciting sport of the day. Daring drivers and fearless navigators pushed their vehicles to the limits as they sped round all-terrain tracks. As the sport grew car manufacturers began to produce car models specially designed for these tough events. Cars such as the Ford Escort RS and Lancia Stratos pushed the sport into a new direction. However the car that was to really change the sport forever was the Audi Quattro.
In the late 1970s, Audi started the Quattro. The name is quite interesting as it means four in Spanish, whilst the company is based in Germany. It was the first four wheel drive rally car, and was the brainchild of engineer Jorg Bensinger, who’d noticed that his VW 4×4 jeep could outperform any other car in rough conditions. This led him to believe that a 4×4 car would excel in Rally Racing. Together with another Audi engineer, Ferdinand Piech, they began to develop the idea.
The first Audi Quattro was launched in 1980. It was based on a classic coupé version of one their family road cars. They stripped down the conventional car and installed a turbocharged five cylinder engine, fitted with the famous four wheel drive. Initially the car was banned from the sport as regulations prohibited the use of 4×4 engines, but eventually FISA (the governing body of the sport) accepted that this was a production vehicle. Its engine produced around 300 brake horsepower, making it one of the most powerful on the circuit at the time.
In 1981 Michele Mouton became the first ever female rally driver to win a World Championship Rally. As you’ve probably already guessed she was at the wheel of an Audi Quattro. The car quickly developed a reputation for being unbeatable on the snow, ice, mud and gravel. It evolved into A1 and A2 evolutions and raising the engine power by a further 20%. It was with this version of the vehicle that Hannu Mikola took first place in the WRC in 1983.
The Quattro’s lasting legacy on the WRC perhaps is not a good one. When Audi won the Championship, FISA were forced to allow all manufacturers to enter 4×4 vehicles, such as the Lancia Delta and the Peugeot 205 T16. These cars, which had hugely powerful engines underneath flimsy fibreglass bodies, were accidents waiting to happen. The sport became less safe and tracks that were intended for slower cars became hazardous for drivers and spectators alike. Eventually new regulations were bought in following a number of fatalities and the sport was never the same again.
Since the 1980s Audi have grown into one of the world’s favourite car manufacturers. Nearly all their models are considered to be top of the range vehicles. Amongst our favourites are the Audi TT Roadster, with it’s cool electronically operated roof. The R8 is any child’s fantasy car, giving road users a super-car performance at an affordable price. Just remember the legacy all of these prestige cars owe to the Audi Quattro, one of the greatest racing cars ever created.