TRANS-AM AUDI 200 QUATTRO
For Audi of America, racing in the 1988 Trans-Am series
with the all-wheel drive 200 was a chance to rebuild a
tarnished reputation by kicking some all-American V8 butt.
f necessity is the mother of invention,
then adversity deserves the credit for
birthing a pair of flame-spitting, wastegate-chirping siblings that set North America
alight for two unforgettable seasons.
Faced with a public relations disaster
that threatened its future in the U.S., Audi
chose a daring path in the late 1980s by
commissioning a motorsports program to
provide the kind of PR salvation that
carefully crafted words could not.
Audi had become the face of “unintended
acceleration,” a scary phenomenon that
plagued a number of manufacturers in that
era. Accused of building demon-possessed
cars that took off on their own, lawsuits
flew, panic set in, and Audi’s reputation
went from quirky offshoot of the Porsche/
VW group to maker of boxy death sedans.
A perception-altering cure came in the
form of rally tech wrapped in an ingenious
road-racing package devised by Audi of
America and built by Audi Sport in Ingolstadt,
Germany. Led by AoA’s Jo Hoppen, the
undercover program had an early supporter
in sports car legend Hurley Haywood.
“Jo called me in ’ 87 to come and run a
six-hour race at Road Atlanta,” he recalls. “I
assumed it was with a Porsche and he said,
‘No, we’re running an Audi 200.’ I said, ‘The
sedan?’ He said, ‘Yes, it’s an all-wheel drive
and I want to get your opinion on what it’s
like to drive.’ It was practically a bone stock
200 with safety equipment added. The
weather was bad and we were trouncing
the competition in the wet. Afterward he
said, ‘I’m working on something…I’ll get
back to you in a couple of months.’”
That exploratory run confirmed the
potential of Audi’s famed AWD system in
road racing. Selecting a series was next,
and the SCCA’s popular Trans-Am was
chosen as the perfect platform to shift the
conversation toward intended acceleration.
Finding a team to run the cars was next.
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TRACTION IN CONTROL
All three of Audi’s
scored race wins in
the 1988 season.
Haywood backed up
his two victories, in
Dallas and Detroit,
with four other
Unlike the silhouette-over-tubeframe
cars it competed against, the Audi 200
was based on a shell straight from the
production line in Ingolstadt, Germany.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER OFF THE LINE
WORDS Marshall Pruett
MAIN IMAGE Brian S. Murphy/LAT