As the man who’d
put so much effort
and miles into its
it was only right that
should give the
Quattro a first WRC
drivers’ title in ’ 83.
The Finn’s wins –
and his home 1000
Lakes – were backed
up by runner-up
finishes on Safari, the
Ivory Coast and RAC.
stunning Rallye 037
earned the last WRC
makes’ title to go to a
was coming. Audi entered international
rallies with a largely standard Audi 80 in
1978 and ’ 79, but its lack of success meant
the firm’s profile remained low – exactly as
Piech’s right-hand man and project leader
Jurgen Stockmar wanted. Audi’s learning
curve in rallying was under the radar.
As EA 282 pounded around the
German quarry, Audi happened upon a
rather significant problem: Four-wheel
drive was banned in rallying at the time.
Stockmar discreetly proposed a removal
of this regulation to WRC manufacturers
and the sport’s then-governing body, FISA.
Conveniently, Audi had entered four Iltis
on the 1980 Paris-Dakar Rally and the
other teams in world rallying assumed the
request was something to do with this.
Having seen the angular, awkward-looking
Iltis, with minuscule power and transmission
from a Jeep, the WRC’s powerbrokers were
confident they had nothing to fear. Yes,
four-wheel drive could come. FISA’s 1980
World Rally Championship regulations
were re-written, and the door was ajar...
In March, Audi kicked it open at the
Geneva Motorshow. Quattro had arrived.
(ABoVE) Mikkola was
quickest on 16 of the
first 23 stages of the
1981 New Zealand rally,
before a steering issue
put him out on the
24th. That was the story
of much of the quattro’s
debut season. (LEFT)
Audi mechanics work
on Mikkola’s car on the
’ 81 1000 Lakes rally, the
Finn’s home event. He
was fastest on 29 of the
48 stages, but engine
niggles on the final day
left him third overall.
taken around Europe to test on roads
recently used on rallies. Progress was
encouraging. By October, the car was
ready for a public debut on Portugal’s
Algarve Rally. A recently signed Hannu
Mikkola drove it as a non-competitive
course car and thrashed everybody. Had
he been competing for real, he would have
won by more than 30 minutes.
Mikkola had signed for Audi in late ’ 79,
after a secret test of project EA 282.
“Stockmar took me to the forests,” he
recalls, “and gave me the keys to this car.
He didn’t want to come to the car with me;
he hated being in it. He stood and watched
me come past. I knew it could be a winner.
Audi wanted me to drive a front-wheel-drive
Audi 80 in ’ 80, but I said this would not be
the case. After I thought about it for a night,
I came back and signed to do 60 days
testing in ’ 80 and the championship in ’ 81.”
Nine days after Audi’s Quattro was
homologated in January 1981, it was
competing on the Janner Rallye, a Monte
Carlo-style, snow-ice-asphalt combination
in Austria. Local superstar Franz Wittmann
drove it and was fastest on every one of
the 31 stages, winning by 20 minutes.
Next came the big one, the Monte
itself, and the Quattro’s WRC debut. Audi
entered two Quattros for Mikkola and
French female rising star Michele Mouton.
The rally world held its breath. What could
the car do against serious competition?
Rival team principals had been quick to
scoff at the Quattro’s weight and turbo lag,
but the moment of truth had arrived.