Up until 1981, rear-wheel drive cars such as the Ford Escort, the Fiat 131 Abarth and the Lancia Stratos dominated world rallying, but Audi soon changed all that.
An ingenious team of engineers developed and then debuted the car that would change world rallying forever – the Audi Quattro.
A new book, ‘Audi Quattro, The Rally History’, written by the acclaimed John Davenport, and with photographs by legendary lensman, Reinhard Klein, relives the life of the sport’s first four-wheel drive rally car, with an in-depth look at every major event the Quattro contested.

The Quattro idea was born in 1979, and from the moment the car hit the stages, it was absolutely clear that this was the future of the sport.
Even before the car debuted, the impact it had was staggering. Hannu Mikkola, one of Ford’s Flying Finns, was talked in to testing an early Quattro, and according to reports, did so out of politeness rather than expectation.
Mikkola flew to Munich for a road test that was supposed to last 20 minutes. He finally returned the car after five times that long! “I thought he had stolen our car,” Audi’s Jurgen Stockmar remembers.
After he signed on for the 1981 season, Mikkola drove the car on the 1980 Algarve Rally as a zero car – its first competitive test. The car did brilliantly. It won 24 of the 30 stages (only beaten on tarmac), and had it been entered in the rally, the Quattro would have won the rally by a staggering 30 minutes!
When the car made its World Rally Championship debut on the snow and ice of Monte Carlo the following January, it’s performance was even more staggering.
Against a host of top-class rear-wheel drive cars, Mikkola finished the first six stages (totalling 150km) with a lead of five minutes and 54 seconds. While he eventually retired with damaged steering, Mikkola and the Quattro had started a new chapter in rallying history.
The German manufacturer contested the World Rally Championship from 1981 until mid-way through 1986 when Group B was banned, and during that time they enjoyed tremendous success, quickly overtaking Ford as the WRC’s most victorious marqué.
Their commitment to rallying was on a level that hadn’t been seen before, and although the Quattro was often uncompetitive on tarmac, and drivers struggled with the handling and the weight of the car, it was almost always the car to beat.
Audi’s determination and desire to win can be seen from their entry in the 1984 Pikes Peak Hillclimb in America. It was the first time that Audi had entered the event, and they sent Michele Mouton and Fabrizia Pons in a Sport Quattro – the recently released short wheelbase version of the car.
“As newcomers, they tried to make sure that Mouton got the best possible shot at the event,” Davenport writes, “by hiring the hillclimb and the officials a week before the event to get to know the place and to test tyres.”
Their ‘victory at all costs’ attitude was clear to see.
‘Audi Quattro, The Rally History’ details every event the Quattro contested, and what the results were, and also goes into detail about what changes were made to the specifications of the cars at each rally. It is an incredible story that has been brilliantly researched.
The huge book (30cm x 32cm) covers the Quattro’s history in rallying, right up until the end of 2009, and while the later versions of the car certainly don’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it does give you hope that Audi may one day return to full-on WRC competition.
To ensure it covers a broad market, the book is produced with both English and German text, and this leads to quite a few typographical and punctuation errors, although for the average reader this is a minor issue. Overall the book is a great read – one you can read from cover to cover over the timeline of the car, or you can pick out pages that interest you.
With hundreds of colour Quattro photos, most of which we’ve never seen before, Reinhard Klein’s addition to the book makes it well worth the expensive price tag. All photos are well captioned, and in themselves tell the story of each event and of how rallying was in the 1980s.
As a long time Audi Quattro fan I can’t recommend the book highly enough. Rallying’s Group B era was a magical time for the sport, and this book helps to bring it back to life.
If you can see your way past the price tag, it’s certainly a book you’ll be well pleased you purchased.
- Peter Whitten

Order your copy of Audi Quattro, The Rally History HERE

Audi Quattro, The Rally History
Author: John Davenport
Foreword: by Walter Rohrl
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 252
Illustrations: 400 colour images
Dimensions: 30cm x 32cm

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