With Audi looking to push its
high-tech credentials in the
U.S. car market, the muscle-bound world of late 1980s
Trans-Am wasn’t perhaps an
obvious destination – which
is precisely why Audi chose it.
The series was dominated
by 600hp-plus, rear-wheel
drive pony cars until Audi’s
entry in 1988 with its
2.1-liter, five-cylinder 200
Quattro sedan (BELOW).
Despite giving away some
100hp, the superior traction
and reduced tire wear of the
Bob Tullius-run machines
made it a rout, with Audi
DIFFERENT STAGES After quitting rallying, Audi took its Quattro philosophy to the race track.
By the mid 1980s, Group B rallying had
become an out-of-control arms race run
on people-lined roads. After an accident in
the ’ 86 Rally of Portugal involving a Ford
RS200 left three spectators dead, Audi
pulled the plug on its factory WRC efforts.
But that wasn’t the end of the Quattro
concept in motorsport. The Sport Quattro
S1 won the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in 1986 and
’ 87, with Bobby Unser and Walter Rohrl,
respectively, and a limousine-like Audi 200
Quattro, competing in the less extreme
Group A (Group B having been banned at
the end of ’ 86) wafted its way to a win on
the ’ 87 Safari Rally with Hannu Mikkola.
(ABOVE) The Audi V8
Quattro sedan took
Hans-Joachim Stuck and
Frank Biela to consecutive
DTM titles in 1990 and ’ 91.
(BELOW) The R18 e-tron
quattro is all-wheel drive for
part of every lap at Le Mans.
Awe-inspiring as it was, Audi’s domination of prototype sports car racing in the 21st century felt like it was missing something – the company’s all-wheel-drive DNA, to be precise. But that changed when the R18 e-tron quattro was unveiled in 2012. Not a Quattro in the purest sense, the R18 (RIGHT) is a diesel-hybrid that harvests braking energy from its front axles and stores it in a flywheel. Yet, thanks to some fairly arbitrary rules, it can only release the stored energy through the front axles at speeds above 120km/h (75mph) – making it an all-wheel-drive car just for those parts of a lap. So, the 2012 and ’ 13 Le Mans winner is a Quattro...but only when it’s allowed to be.
QUATTRO... WHEN IT’S ALLOWED TO BE
winning eight of 13 races
and Hurley Haywood
breezing the title. Trans-Am
banned all-wheel drive with
immediate effect – publicity
Audi’s marketing people
could only have dreamed of.
For ’ 89, Audi switched to
IMSA GTO, with factory-run,
space-frame 90 Quattros
(BELOW). Despite missing the
early-season enduros at
Daytona and Sebring, Hans
Stuck went on to win seven
sprint races and finished third
in drivers’ points, but the
American adventure was
over and DTM now beckoned.
Just in case anybody thinks Audi invented
all-wheel-drive, it didn’t. And it wasn’t the first
to race with it, either. The principles of AWD
were laid down well before the invention of
the internal-combustion engine, and car
makers were experimenting with it from
the dawn of the 20th century. AWD even
went to the moon in 1971, on the Apollo
program’s Lunar Roving Vehicle (RIGHT).
The first AWD racecar was 1903’s Spyker
PERFECTING, NOT INVENTING
60 HP. The first to race at Indy was the ’ 38 Miller Gulf Special, and others followed, yet he advent of downforce-producing wings meant its traction benefits were never really in demand for open-wheel racing. Audi’s genius was in recognizing AWD’s potential for rallying, then relentlessly working to ptimize those benefits, while reducing the nergy loss and reliability issues inherent with its more complex drivetrain layout.
Drive 4 x 0.25hp
DC motors (one per
wheel); 2 x 0.1hp
incl. two astronauts
Top speed 11.2mph
LRV TECH SPECS