When most people think of a legendary rally car with four shiny rings on its front bumper and a Quattro all-wheel drive system, the ’80s Audi Quattro S1 is likely the car that comes to mind first. The Group B rally monster defined the class and the era, and this short clip of it in action makes it easy to see why. Audi had a lot more going on in the ‘80s than its Group B effort, though.
The road-going version of the S1 that was built to satisfy FIA homologation requirements is known as the UrQuattro. Quick German lesson: This isn’t pronounced as “yer-quattro.” Rather, think of the “ur” as any fisherman would pronounce “lure”, and just lob off the “l.” There are some other pronunciation techniques, but that’s the gist of it.
This prefix means “original,” so UrQuattro means the original quattro. Yes, the S1 and its road-going cousin were the first to make a name for Audi’s all-wheel-drive-centric performance activities, but, man, the whole damn era between 1984 and 1994 could be called the original era (“UrZeitraum”), because the Bavarian brand did so much new and cool stuff. The good folks over at Hoonigan recently published a great video that’s an excellent primer for old-school Audi racing history, and it displayed this greatness perfectly:
The video touches on a few of Audi’s important moments in ’80s motorsports, but one of the most crucial, in my opinion, is when it entered a turbocharged inline-5 Audi 200 Quattro in American Trans Am racing and wiped the floor with the field of high-strung naturally aspirated V8s and V6s with rear-wheel drive. A lot of this was demonstrated at Long Beach in 1988, although technical difficulties cut Audi out of winning that particular race. Audi was the first to throw all-wheel drive and inline-5s into the Trans Am mix and saw a lot of success. Marshall Pruett summed it up perfectly for Road & Track:
“The fight, thanks to the SCCA’s allowance of all-wheel-drive, was finally tipped in Audi’s favor with center and rear differentials that handed out power and traction in ways that left the V-8 brigade at a technological standstill. To the delight of Group 44’s (Audi’s team entry into Trans Am -Ed) drivers, Torsen limited-slip diffs, viscous couplings, and torque vectoring units were employed based upon the circuit’s needs. The muscle cars didn’t stand a chance.
“Audi took home eight wins from 13 events as Driver’s champion Haywood, Rohrl, and Hans Stuck—who was pulling double duty with Porsche in its 962 prototypes that season—made permanent impressions on all who saw the boxy brown, orange, and white cars, and heard the unmistakable sounds of emanating from that single, snaking exhaust pipe that wound its way through the passenger-side footwell and out the door.”
Then, right as the sun set on the ‘80s, Audi went racing in DTM during its golden era and proceeded to the V8 Quattro DTM. That was the road-going variant’s name, by the way, the V8. It was based on the Audi 100 and 200 C3 chassis, but it was reformed into the new D1 chassis, which came just before the D2 Audi S8, better known as the sick Audi in Ronin. Its naturally aspirated V8’s displacement was only 3.6 liters and it made around 250 horsepower — usually stuff that’s this small always turns out to be extra-cool in race form.
Back to the motorsports version. The V8 Quattro DTM is what the Hoonigan boys focus on the most in this video, including a proper romp around a track not too far from Audi’s headquarters in Bavaria. This thing was built to rev to 11,500 rpms and sounds absolutely glorious high in the rev range. It’s also good fun to see Ken Block wheel it around, as he lets the all-wheel drive system slide around a bit. A gaggle of these, mixed in with AMG 190 Evo 1s and BMW M3 back in the day, was probably a near-religious experience.
As a sort of fun technological progression, the video then proceeds to the Audi e-tron Vision GT, which is certainly cool as well.
There are heaps of good research cues packed into Hoonigan’s video, as well as the other videos in the series. Such as this one featuring this top-secret, experimental rally car. Who’s H.J. Stuck, the name printed on the V8 Quattro DTM’s rear passenger window? That would be Hans Stuck, one of the most acclaimed racecar drivers of all time. What was that B5 Audi A4-lookin’ race car in Audi Tradition’s badass garage? That was the brand’s entry into Super Touring in the late ’90s which they had to remove the Quattro system from, as they were winning too much.
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