Audi first began hatching plans to enter rally racing back in 1977. In early 1981, the brand got off to a rousing start in the World Rally Championship. Hannu Mikkola of Finland won the first six special trials in the snow at the Monte Carlo Rally. With a lead of nearly six minutes, victory ended up slipping though his fingers due to a minor accident. He recorded his first victory at the next race in Sweden.
The quattro then dominated the tracks in 1982. Audi set a new benchmark with seven victories and easily won the manufacturers’ championship. The following year Mikkola took home the drivers’ title. The 1984 season also started off with a bang – the newly recruited two-time world champion Walter Röhrl won the Monte Carlo Rally ahead of his team colleagues Stig Blomqvist (Sweden) and Hannu Mikkola. At the end of the season, Audi claimed both the manufacturers’ title and the drivers’ title with Blomqvist.
Over 500 hp: the Audi Sport quattro S1
The competition in the world championship got tougher; rivals took advantage of the liberal rules of what at that time was Group B to build entirely new cars, including some with mid-engine designs. Audi deployed the short-wheelbase Sport quattro during the 1984 season, which promised more agile handling. This was followed in 1985 by the Sport quattro S1 with more than 370 kW (500 hp).
In the middle ratio, the 1,090 kilogram (2,403.0 lb) Audi S1 shot from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 3.1 seconds. In the last race of the season, the British RAC Rally, Röhrl used a dual-clutch transmission that was actuated pneumatically – a precursor of today’s S tronic.
1988: shift to circuit racing
In the following years, Audi shifted to racing touring cars. The brand competed in the American TransAm series with the Audi 200 in 1988, winning the manufacturers’ and drivers’ titles that first year. The year after, Audi shined in the IMSA GTO series, for which the rules were even looser.
Audi switched to the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) in 1990. Hans Stuck won the drivers’ title with the big and powerful V8 quattro that first year, followed by Frank Biela in 1991. Before Audi withdrew from the series in 1992 following a technology conflict, the V8 quattro had won 18 of 36 races.
In 1996, the A4 quattro Supertouring, with its two-liter, four-cylinder engine, entered seven national championships on three continents – and won them all.
Two years later, the European rules largely banished all-wheel drive from touring car competition. The quattro balance sheet up to that point read as follows: four titles for Audi in the rally world championships, three victories at Pikes Peak, a championship win in the TransAm, two DTM titles, eleven national touring car championships and a touring car world cup.
2012: all-wheel drive in the Audi R18 e‑tron quattro
It wasn’t until 2012 that an Audi all-wheel drive race car – the Audi R18 e-tron quattro with hybrid drive – once again took to the track for a circuit race. A V6 TDI drove the rear wheels; a flywheel accumulator supplied recuperated energy to two electric motors on the front axle. The energy recovered during braking was used to drive the front wheels when exiting corners. The LMP1 prototype thus had quattro all-wheel drive in certain traction-relevant driving situations. Audi impressively documented the concept’s potential with three overall wins in a row at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The equipment and data specified in this document refer to the model range offered in Germany. Subject to change without notice; errors and omissions excepted.