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It was the car that changed the face of rallying as we know it, and was the catalyst for every other four-wheel drive rally car since. Quite simply, the Audi Quattro changed rallying forever. The Quattro won a World Championship rally on its second attempt, a mere six weeks after it had been homologated, but its revolutionary four-wheel drive transmission was the butt of many jokes when the car was first announced. Few believed that a four-wheel drive car could compete successfully in rallies. But already, the world’s motoring journalists were being left dumbfounded by the car’s capabilities. “I was on ordinary summer tyres, but the car stormed up the steep snowbound slopes on full throttle, then slowed swiftly in a straight line as hard braking pinned it down,” wrote Autocar’s Gordon Wilkins. Hannu Mikkola too, the man signed to drive the Quattro in its first year, was quickly won over by the car, despite initial concerns. In an interview I did with Mikkola in 2003, he commented: “I could drive it faster than the Escort immediately on the wide roads. The first stage I did in the car was uphill, I think 24 kays or something, and we knew our times from the last year. “We went up the stage and we were one minute faster than in the Escort. We knew then that it was a good car, and it was quite easy to drive, so I could see that maybe this was the way to go.”

Hannu Mikkola driving his works Quattro on the 1981 Swedish Rally. Photo: Martin Holmes

The rest, as they say, is history. The Quattro redefined what was required to be successful in rallying, and every World Rally Championship (for Makes) since 1982 has been won by a four-wheel drive, turbocharged car. Australia never saw a works Quattro driven in anger. The works Audis ran in the WRC from 1981 until 1986, stopping competition at the end of the Group B era, three years before Rally Australia was added to the championship. The cars did, however, contest the Rally of New Zealand on several occasions. Melbourne’s Rob Garnsworthy now does selected events in a Quattro that he imported from the UK and has built himself, with the assistance of Motorsport Engineering and Promech. It’s a car that has no works history whatsoever, but it’s a Quattro, and to any rallying tragic, that’s all that matters. Garnsworthy imported a left-hand drive Quattro shell into Australia in 2000 and immediately began a painstaking build of the car. The car was converted to right-hand drive, was seam welded and had a comprehensive roll cage fitted. Power comes by way of the incredible five-cylinder Quattro motor which really does have a sound of its own. Anyone who’s heard a Quattro at full noise in the forest, or who’s seen any of the Quattro rally footage on YouTube, will know exactly what I mean. Garnsworthy’s example has had the engine tuned to race spec, which included modifying the head, piston, camshafts and exhaust, adding a second turbocharger intercooler, and installing an aluminium radiator to help keep the car cool. One of the most amazing aspects about the Quattro is that the entire engine (mounted north/south) sits forward of the front axle. This made the Quattro’s handling characteristics “interesting” to say the least. Hannu Mikkola remarked in our interview that in a rally you needed to allow a metre either side of the car for safety, because you never really knew which direction the car would go under power! Fortunately things have improved dramatically over the years with suspension technology and the like. With the engine so far forward, this makes the car very vulnerable in a front-on collision, and with the second intercooler added to Rob’s car, it only accentuates the problem. The easy fix here is not to crash. In the trim that we tested the Quattro it was producing about 280 horsepower, “but you can increase that by around 50bhp simply by inserting the Allen key,” Garnsworthy grins, referring to increasing the amount of turbo boost being produced by the turbocharger. “The major problem is that nobody really knows a lot about the Quattro in Australia,” Garnsworthy says. The standard Hitachi engine management system and transmission are still being utilised, while Pedders have taken care of the suspension to make the car useable both on the track and in tarmac rallies. The front brakes were upgraded with slotted AP rotors and calipers fitted, while on the rear, 1989 Quattro discs and calipers have been fitted. All in all the car is a near perfect example of a rallying Quattro. Painted in the original works colours of the Audi World Championship team, it turns heads wherever it goes, although it’s fair to say that 95% of people who see the car not only wouldn’t know what it was, but wouldn’t know the history behind the Quattro. But it’s rally fans who are the real winners. Seeing a piece of rallying history on the stages, and hearing that unique turbo wastegate chatter is enough to make the hair on the back of any real rally fan’s neck stand on end. TECH SPEC BODY Brought into Australia as a bare shell in 2000 to be built up as a tarmac rally car. Converted from LHD to RHD. Seam welded with full roll cage and side impact protection. ENGINE 2.2 litre in-line 5 cylinder turbocharged race engine. Modified head, pistons, camshaft, exhaust, twin intercoolers, aluminium radiator, recalibrated fuel head. Running standard Hitachi engine management system. TRANSMISSION Standard other than 4.1:1 final drive (standard was 3.9). SUSPENSION Pedders suspension but set with sufficient give for tarmac rallies and track work. Front pick-up points moved 20mm. BRAKES Front: AP slotted rotors and calipers. Rear: 1989 Quattro 20V. WHEELS & TYRES 8x15” all round.

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

Like most people, I have a list of things I’d like to achieve in my working career. As a rallying journalist/photographer, I’ve been lucky enough to tick many of the boxes, and I was able to tick the box that I thought would probably never be possible, when I drove a rally prepared Audi Quattro. Growing up, the Quattro was the first rally car that really caught my imagination. My hero was Hannu Mikkola and at the time he was dominating the World Championship in a Quattro. Years on, I finally got the chance to sit behind the wheel of Rob Garnsworthy’s car, and it’s fair to say I wasn’t disappointed. My short drive in the Quattro only last around 10 minutes, but it was more than enough to satisfy my desire. Driving gently out of town past the 100km/h sign, I put the foot down and from there until the drive ended I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The power was incredible, but it was more the sound of the Quattro engine and the wastegate chatter when you changed gear that made the experience so memorable. Against today’s standards, the four-wheel drive technology may have been archaic, but that mattered not. For 10 brief minutes I was Hannu Mikkola on the 1983 Tour de Corse Rally, but all too soon it was back to reality as I vacated the driver’s seat and handed the keys back to the relieved owner.

More Audi Quattro:

https://rallysportmag.com/in-the-beginning-39-years-of-the-audi-quattro/ https://rallysportmag.com/feature-audi-quattro-s1-replica/    
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