“Jo rang and asked if I’d be interested,”
says Group 44 owner Bob Tullius, who
fielded Jaguar’s Trans-Am and IMSA GTP
cars with great success. “He came to
Winchester, Va., we talked, I showed him
the shop and he said, ‘Good, we’ll do it.’”
But as Tullius soon found out, Hoppen’s
colleagues from Ingolstadt weren’t
interested in working as equals.
“They were going to build cars and send
them with a small staff of specialists to
familiarize our people with them,” Tullius
recalls. “Well, that was fine except the
minute the cars arrived, the Germans sent
about 30 guys, they never left, and they’d
hardly speak to us. Our crew was hardly
allowed to touch the cars. We were hosts.”
The internal discord was kept hidden as
Trans-Am readied to open the 1988 season
on the streets of Long Beach. Populated by
high-powered, lightweight tubeframe cars
from Chevrolet, Ford and Oldsmobile, the
series was a showcase for big V8-engined,
rear-wheel drive machinery.
Compared to a Camaro or Mustang, the
200 looked like a geek. But embracing its
unconventional stance became a point of
pride for Audi as it built its racecars from
shells taken directly from the production
line. If Americans were going to move past
their fear of unintended acceleration, Audi
knew the Trans-Am 200s needed to look
similar to the ones on the showroom floor.
In the hands of Haywood and German
duo Hans-Joachim Stuck and two-time WRC
champ Walter Röhrl, the 200s unleashed
a special kind of hell on Trans-Am.
At 510hp, the Audis were the least
powerful cars in the field – nowhere near the
650hp-plus of the V8s – but with asphalt-
shredding acceleration and cornering, and
unrivalled braking capabilities, street circuits
Compared to the V8,
cars it raced against,
the Trans-Am Audi
200 was a model of
understatement – at
least on the surface.
(MAIN) drove the
to the 1988 title.
and road courses soon revealed AWD was
more valuable than almighty horsepower.
“I remember the look on Scott Pruett
and Willy T. Ribbs’ faces when I went around
them in a corner at Long Beach,” Haywood
chuckles. “I said, ‘Wet or dry, this car is going
to win everywhere. You’re stuck to one line,
but we can go anywhere, and you guys are
history.’ And that’s basically what happened.”
Audis won eight times, including five
straight, from 13 rounds as Haywood
claimed the title with ease. After the finale,
the SCCA’s reward to Audi for dominating
its low-tech series came in the form of a
new rule: AWD systems would be outlawed.
Marketing and PR demanded the use of
the production-based Audi 200 in Trans-Am,
and the ploy worked amazingly well. But
with their pioneering AWD written out of
the series, the only option was a switch to
IMSA’s unfiltered GTO category in ’ 89, and it
meant the gloves would need to come off.
The boys from Ingolstadt were about to
engage in a bare-knuckled fight, and the
Audi 90 was its divine weapon of choice.
(LEFT) The Audi
inline- 5, all-wheel
drive and Bosch
electronics came from
its former World Rally
So did two-time race
winner Walter Rohrl.
“Wet or dry, this car is
going to win everywhere.
You’re stuck to one line,
but we can go anywhere”