Monday, October 31, 2011

For the love of A: The Legendary Audi Sport Quattro S1

With all of the great road-going and track-only sports cars Audi has in its current portfolio, remembering their past technical exercises is a must. In order to do so, we have to go back to when Audi first introduced Quattro for use in motorsport. Quattro, or the all-wheel drive system created for military use under Volkswagen A.G.'s umbrella through the 1970's, is based around a longitudinally positioned engine/transmission with torque distributed between front and rear axles via a center mechanical differential.

In 1980 Audi debuted it's road going Audi Quattro coupe to the European public via the Geneva Motorshow and afterwards a competition version of this car was being run on a developmental basis much like the 911 GT3 Hybrid. Once this development evolved into early Quattro cars competing in motorsport, with the rule change in Rally allowing all-wheel drive, the game would forever change. The early Audi Quattro competition cars (A1 and A2) made about 300hp and topped out at ~350hp with the Group B Rally rule implementation of 1982.

Audi Sport Quattro (road car) on display at the Audi Museum in Ingolstadt.

The original Quattro competition car was replaced by the Audi Sport Quattro in 1984, along with a limited production homologation of road cars sharing the same name. This new animal put out ~300hp for the street version and ~450hp in competition trim. Visually, the differences between the Audi Sport Quattro and Quattro A1/A2 competition cars were minor, but the list of revisions were substantial; carbon-kevlar widebody and paneling, a 20v all aluminum I-5 with ~50% highter power output, wider arches and wheels and most notably the wheelbase was shortened by over a foot.

Audi Sport Quattro S1 on display at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart.

The pinnacle of this early, turbo, all-wheel drive racing development was the Audi Sport Quattro S1. After the 1984 Rally season, Audi made even more significant changes to improve performance. You can recognize an S1 anywhere on earth, mainly because of its aero kit created to help with downforce. Outside of its crazy shape, it also had some serious powertrain upgrades. The aluminum 20v heart received a trick recirculating turbocharger setup to reduce lag and made peak power at 8000rpm (480bhp early production & 591bhp(!) late). Combined with a fighting weight of ~2400lbs, it isn't not hard to understand why the Audi Sport Quattro S1's short list of talented pilots, including the likes of Walter Röhrl and Michèle Mouton, are still legends to this day.

Video courtesy of enniovernengo. Here's more great footage of the Audi Sport Quattro in its hay day.

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