Audi Rally Quattro

After transforming rallying for good, the Rally Quattro went on to win just about everything - with up to 600bhp under the bonnet

The Audi Quattro didn’t just rewrite the high-performance road car rulebook – it also changed the rallying landscape forever. At the end of the Seventies, rear-wheel-drive cars dominated most events, but Audi realised the gruelling conditions of rally competition would be the perfect proving ground for its new quattro technology.

What could be better for promoting its all-wheel-drive hardware than the rough surfaces and varied climates of the World Rally Championship? Testing began in summer 1980 and the first victory followed in 1981, when Hannu Mikkola used four-wheel-drive traction to win in the snow of the Swedish Rally.

Audi Sport UK built the beautifully restored car in our pictures, and it triumphed on its British Championship debut in the 1982 Mintex Rally. The coupé was such a success that both four-wheel drive and turbo technology rapidly became the norm in rallying, forcing Audi to continually develop the Quattro to keep it ahead of its rivals. The ultimate example was the legendary Sport Quattro, which was built to Group B regulations in 1984.

Even today, the mere mention of its name is enough to quicken the pulse of diehard rally fans. The Sport Quattro sold in limited numbers as a production car and the competition versions initially produced around 350bhp. They’re unmistakable thanks to their 320mm shorter wheelbase and wider track.

This was just the beginning, though, as in 1984 the S1 arrived with 500bhp and even more outrageous aerodynamic wings. Some versions featured the direct forerunner to Audi’s S tronic double clutch gearbox.

With a raucous engine note, these flame-spitting machines competed until Group B rallying was outlawed in 1986. Then rally maestro Walter Rohrl took Audi’s third victory in the Pikes Peak hillclimb in Colorado, USA, behind the wheel of a 600bhp S1.

In all, Audi won two driver and a pair of manufacturer world titles, plus countless other national rally victories, with the Quattro. This success cemented the quattro legend and helped boost sales of the road car. Top-level rallying has been dominated by 4WD cars ever since – testament to its forward-thinking design.

Details

WHY: The original four wheel drive rally car, and the father of modern Audis

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