The beginning: quattro
The rebirth of the Audi brand in 1965 and the merger of Auto Union and NSU in 1969 added new significance to the topic of motorsport. Excluding the era prior to the Second World War, including the legendary Grand Prix cars of Auto Union in the 1930s, Audi’s motor racing heritage began with the quattro.
Audi wins the World Rally Championship
In 1978, the Audi Sport department was set up to prepare for motorsport commitments. Three years later, Audi celebrated a sensational debut at the Monte Carlo Rally: after ten kilometres of the first stage and on a snow-covered track, Hannu Mikkola overtook a Lancia Stratos that had started a minute before him. In the autumn of 1981, a WRC round was won for the first time in history by a female: Michèle Mouton at the San Remo Rally. Dominant victories and two drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles with the ‘Ur-quattro’ in the World Rally Championship between 1982 and 1984 were important factors for the market success of quattro drive.
Record on Pikes Peak
From 1984 to 1987, Audi took part in the famous Pikes Peak Hillclimb with various versions of the quattro – winning three times in succession. Behind the wheel of the Audi Sport quattro S1 in 1987, Walter Röhrl became the first driver to complete the hillclimb under the eleven-minute mark.
Goodbye rallying, hello circuit racing
In 1986, the first six quattro years came to an end. Mouton, Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist and Walter Röhrl had won 23 world championship rallies and taken four titles home to Ingolstadt. With a near-standard Group-A model, Audi even won the gruelling Safari Rally in the transitional year of 1987. This era was a model example for the realisation of real technical advances through motorsport: quattro as a winning idea. After Audi had turned rallying upside down and conquered Pikes Peak (USA) three times in a row in record time with the Sport quattro, the brand then made quattro drive suitable for circuit racing: first with the Audi 200 quattro in 1988 in the Trans-Am Series and the Audi 90 quattro IMSA-GTO in the USA in 1989, then in 1990 and 1991 with two championship titles for the Audi V8 quattro in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM) – and also with the A4 quattro in the Super Touring Cars competition for production-based cars. In 1996, the Audi A4 quattro won the title in seven countries. Between 2012 and 2016, four-wheel drive returned to the racetrack as e-tron quattro in the LMP1 Audi R18 race car.
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