Great rally cars: 1982 Audi Quattro



A series taken from the 164-page Motor Sport special Great Racing Carswhich is available to buy here

To buy the lead image click here.

From the editor Damien Smith

How would you define a ‘great’ racing car? Race wins and championship titles are an obvious place to start – and admittedly, when we began the process of rounding up the ‘voices’ to fill this special magazine, published by the team behind Motor Sport, we had in mind the likes of the Lotus 72, Ferrari F2004, Porsche 917, Audi R10 and so on.

But as the interviews of familiar racing figures began, we realised greatness is often a very personal thing. Naturally, most – but not all – would pick cars they had experienced first-hand, as a driver, designer, engineer or team boss. And on occasion the cars that stood out in their minds as ‘great’ weren’t necessarily so in the grand scheme of history. That’s why you’ll find a Minardi here among Formula 1 cars from Lotus, Williams and McLaren.

Unexpected? Certainly. Wrong? Not to the man who chose it.

As the interviews accumulated, our magazine took on a life of its own, full of personal anecdotes about the myriad cars that made careers. Some of those we spoke to, such as Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney, couldn’t be tied to a single choice from multi-faceted lives at the wheel. Such heroes have earned the right to choose an F1, sports and Indycar, so we allowed them more than one bite.

Others refused to be confined by category. Hence the short ‘Odd ’n Sods’ chapter on cars that, by and large, are mere footnotes in lower divisions of racing lore.

Thus there is nothing definitive about the selection listed herein. Then again, there’s no claim that this compilation offers the ‘Greatest Racing Cars’ of history. It’s much more personal than that, much more quirky – and all the better for it.

Michèle Mouton
1982 WRC runner-up, FIA Women in Motorsport Commission president

A car for me is like a dress – you like it for different reasons but it’s also important that it gives you confidence. I have driven many great cars: for example I love the Alpine, because it was the very first car I drove and it suited my driving style of not sliding. I also loved the Lancia Stratos, even though I drove it only once. Then there was the Porsche, which I also loved because of the noise.

But the car that gave me the most confidence was the Audi Quattro. I drove Audi Quattros for five years and of course you get used to it and get the confidence. But it was also a fantastic car to drive with the new four-wheel-drive technology.

It wasn’t especially easy to drive at the beginning, and there was a lot more torque in the later Quattros but the car gave you so much confidence that you thought you could fly.

Of course I enjoyed a lot of success driving Quattros so I guess it was a combination of the success and what I felt driving this car.

Jari-Matti Latvala
2010 WRC runner-up

I have to say the Audi Quattro for the feeling when you are changing up through the gears and you hear the turbo spinning and you hear the wastegate going ‘swoooosh’ letting the pressure out when you are changing up through the gears.

It’s hard work with the Audis but the feeling you get back is amazing. I’ve recently bought my own Quattro rally car to go with the road car and converted ones. It’s a Group 4 car from 1981 but with updates to make it a 1982 car.

It’s not the best car for the Tarmac – you want to have a Porsche or something – so it’s a car that really needs to be driven on the gravel. Although we are very busy with the schedule I plan to do one rally on gravel in Finland. While it’s great to have cars on display everybody wants to see the car in life. That brings more emotions than having the car standing there in the garage.

Röhrl back the years
Rally legend Walter Röhrl recalls the 1984 Monte Carlo Rally – and his ultimate test against Stig Blomqvist

A union with Audi seemed unlikely since a tense test in ’80. The relationship had been more than strained, sports boss Walter Treser getting all personal in the press back then. But finally, in ’84, Röhrl and Audi were allied — uneasily at first.

“Stig [Blomqvist] was one of the main reasons I signed the contract,” he says. “Stig was the only one I’d never competed against in the same car. All the rest — Mikkola, Waldegård, Alen, Vatanen — I had been in the same car at the same time. I wanted to know, because everyone said Stig was the fastest man with four-wheel drive, the fastest on snow. It was a big motivation for me. I said to Audi, I will help you and one of your pilots to be World Champion. But in Monte Carlo I want to show who is chief!”

He had won the Monte three times already. But four-wheel drive was a new challenge.

“The first time I drove [the A2] I was shocked because the turn-in was so bad and everybody told me you must play with left-foot braking. I had never done it in my life and I didn’t believe it was necessary. It took me six weeks to understand I had to learn it otherwise it wouldn’t work. In the first few weeks I had many very funny situations…

“The biggest mistake I made was that I was always trying to increase the pressure on the brake pedal. It took me a long time, but I found out you have to put constant, very light pressure on the brake pedal and then you have to play with the throttle. Then it works.

“On the other side, I’d never driven a car with so much traction, because it was 50-50. The grip was unbelievable.”

And so to the Monte. The showdown.

Essential info: Audi Quattro

Entrant: Audi Sport
Notable drivers: Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, Walter Röhrl, Michèle Mouton
Debut: 1981 Monte Carlo Rally
Achievements: 23 wins
Constructors’ Championships: 2 (1982, 1984)
Drivers’ Championships: 2 (1982, 1984)

“Stig had done the tyre testing and I had done suspension testing. At the service the team said OK, the next stage is 80 per cent wet snow. Stig and Hannu said we must use tyre number four. OK, we’ll put all three cars on number four. After the stage, I was thinking I was quick, but Stig was 30 seconds faster. Oh Mamma Mia!

“The second stage was a long one, over three cols — around 50km. The same situation, talking tyres and saying that all three cars would be on the same. And then I said to my co-driver ‘ask on the radio what Stig’s time is’. He was 1min 34sec faster than me. I was thinking I should just stop and kill myself!

“We had a long road section to get to the next service. One of my best friends was spectating on the second stage and he took a more direct route to the service. I got out of the car and he said ‘you are the greatest!’. Yeah, sure — but I’m one and half minutes slower than Stig. He said ‘on the stage, I watched you. You looked so much faster than anybody else’. I said to Christian that something must be wrong. What could it be?

“I had a good connection with one mechanic — because I was new to the team. I said, ‘Hans, if you lie I kill you! What’s happened here?’. He said ‘once you start, the others change tyres’. Before the next stage I said to the team chief [Roland Gumpert], ‘Listen. If this happens once more I’m going to the next ditch and pushing the car into it’. On the next stage I was one minute faster, on the same tyres as the others!”

Röhrl went on to defeat Blomqvist by over a minute. Mission accomplished. The rest of the year was disappointing, a string of retirements blighting his limited programme. But it didn’t really matter to Röhrl. Audi and Blomqvist had their titles and he’d conquered four-wheel drive.

Taken from the June 2010 issue of Motor Sport. To read more click here.

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