Forty years of quattro
The game-changing Audi quattro made its UK debut in London in 1980. Here, five former members of the Audi UK Rally Team recall how it changed the world, and we take a look back at the numerous iterations of the quattro rally car.
Harald Demuth – Rally driver
Two-time German Rally Champion Harald Demuth helped develop the quattro, campaigned Group B and 80 versions in the UK and drove an Audi 100 quattro up a snow-covered Finnish ski jump in the famous 1986 Audi television advert.
‘I was driving for Toyota in the German Rally Championship when I had the choice to sign for Audi or Volkswagen for the 1979 season. Volkswagen had an excellent record with the Golf, but Audi had no presence in rallying. However, there was a lot of whispering behind hands that Audi had something special waiting in the bush, as we say.
To gain experience of the sport, Audi began rallying a front-wheel-drive 80. We were telling everyone how good that car was, but what we couldn’t say was that we were developing the quattro, which was just light years ahead of the 80. We tested an early quattro all-wheel-drive system in an 80 bodyshell.
On the 1982 RAC Rally, I was lying behind Hannu Mikkola in a quattro. OK, the gap was quite big, but I was on course to finish second.
Then I had an off on the last day and ended up fifth. David Sutton, who was running the Audi UK rally team, came over and asked me if I would drive for him.
Over the years I drove the Group B quattro and the 80 quattro in the UK. There was a massive difference in the performance, of course. But the handling and the feeling in the corners was very similar thanks to the all-wheel-drive system.
I also won the German Rally Championship twice in a Group B quattro. I called my car Christine – after the Stephen King book and film of the same name about the 1958 Plymouth Fury that just kept rebuilding itself and could never be stopped. I’d spin off the track and go through a ditch, there’d be a big bang, and I’d think, “This is it – I’ve done it this time!” But my quattro would just keep going, and later when I had a look in the service halt, there would only be a little scratch.’
David Ingram – Marketing and Public Relations Executive
When the Audi quattro arrived in 1980, it made a huge impression on David Ingram, who had joined the company two years earlier.
‘I remember first reading about the quattro in the motoring press – this 200-horsepower, turbocharged, five-cylinder, four-wheel-drive coupé – and I thought wow, this sounds like something else. Then I saw the pictures from Geneva – I was too junior at that time to go out to the motor show. However, I was put in charge of supervising the UK launch, which involved hoisting the car 100 feet up in the air to the top of Kensington Roof Gardens in London.
The first time I got to drive the quattro was amazing. The characteristics of that five-cylinder engine as the turbocharger came in, and the burble as you came off the accelerator – it was just so exciting.
And then the rally car arrived. I remember watching it on the 1981 RAC Rally – Hannu Mikkola rolling on the first night and then tearing through the forests to win by 11 minutes. Such powerful images come back to me. The following year, when we started our own Audi UK rally team with David Sutton, was like a dream.
Suddenly I was working with all my heroes, like Stig Blomqvist, who won the British Rally Championship in a quattro in 1982. It makes me misty-eyed now just thinking about those days.
It was a spectacular era for Audi, and it enabled the company to emerge from relative obscurity in the UK. Plus, it coincided with us starting to work with BBH, the Bartle Bogle Hegarty advertising agency, and adopting the Vorsprung durch Technik slogan.
The quattro was an awesome road car and an all-conquering competition car. It was a powerful statement, and there’s no doubt it contributed significantly to making Audi what it is today.’
Phil Short – Co-driver
Yorkshire-born co-driver Phil Short was the first Briton to compete and win in a rally quattro.
‘Björn Waldegård and I won the Welsh Rally in the Audi UK team in the first-generation Group 4 quattro in 1982. It was unbelievable to sit in that car. In those days we were used to Ford Escorts, Vauxhall Chevettes and Talbot Sunbeams with 240PS and rear-wheel drive. Suddenly we had 330PS with four-wheel drive – and the most staggering performance.
By the time I co-drove Hannu Mikkola on the 1984 Scottish Rally in a Group B A2 quattro, we were up to 400PS. The car was so good. It was an incredible feeling to sit on the start line and know that, unless something went wrong, you were probably going to win. Which we did, by six minutes.
I don’t know how much power the short-wheelbase Sport S1 E2 had when I co-drove Walter Röhrl on the 1985 RAC. I did ask, but the engine guy wouldn’t tell me. It was well over 500PS, anyway. It was Formula 1 technology in the forest. When that thing left the start line, it was like a rocket ship. It made your head spin until you got used to the way the forces were working on your body. It was frightening at times. We crashed out, 80 metres down a Welsh mountain, and I remember thinking that the cars cannot go on like this.
With the switch to more production-like Group A cars in 1987, David Llewellin and I joined the Audi UK team to campaign the normally aspirated Coupé quattro. Suddenly we were back down to 190PS.
On the first test, we looked at each other and laughed because it felt so slow after Group B. But it got better. We had some great times in it, winning the Scottish and Cyprus rallies.’