In mid 1984, Audi’s dominance became strongly challenged by the smaller, nimbler, mid-engined, and four wheel driven Peugeot 205 T16. The quattro was larger, front heavy, and suffered from crippling understeer in many driving situations. Audi soon realized that they would not be able to rely solely on their traction advantage and overwhelming horsepower to win rallies for much longer. To fix this, most of the engineers proposed that they should design and build a totally new Group B car from scratch. However, Audi’s top brass was not keen to the idea since it would have given bad press to their now very popular quattro. The car had to be “fixed”, improved substantially, but not replaced.
The engineers then proposed to drastically shorten the quattro’s wheelbase by 320 mm (12.6″) to greatly enhance turn-in capabilities and also reducing weight in the process (which meant overall better performance). The project was approved and the Sport quattro was born. The drivers had also complained of glare in the windshield of the original quattro so the engineers took the opportunity of the car’s redesign to address the problem with a very original solution: since the chassis had to be cut in half to shorten the wheelbase, they married the rear section of the quattro with the front section of the Typ-81 (Audi 80/4000) which had the windshield already set at a steeper angle, thus eliminating the glare effect.
Shortening the wheelbase on a car who’s engine sits over or forward of the front axle actually worsens weight bias towards a front heavy vehicle. However, the wheelbase being very short makes for a quicker turn-in and greatly reduces rear stability which, in the Sport quattro’s case, could offset its understeer issue if driven properly. The drivers had to push harder and aggressively “flog” the car through the corners for this to take effect. It was reported that the car still suffered from terminal understeer in low speed corners and/or if driven too cautiously. There was only one good way to drive the Sport Quattro S1: all out.
At 450 HP, even though it was much more powerful than the previous car, the Sport quattro was generally not well received by the Audi drivers; Michèle Mouton and Stig Blomqvist in particular had trouble adapting to the new shorter quattro’s handling which demanded a driving style not quite compatible with their own. In fact, Blomqvist would shun the Sport quattro while he and Hannu Mikkola raked up points with the “long wheelbase” quattro A2. Blomqvist would win the 1984 driver championship with Mikkola finishing second, easily ahead of their competitors. That year, Audi would get the manufacturer championship back from Lancia. However, for Audi, even though the A2 netted them more consistent results, it was decided to exclusively field the Sport quattro from 1985 and on.
For the second half of 1985, in hopes to “tame” their shortened monster and crush the competition, Audi gave the second evolution of the Sport quattro major aerodynamic enhancements and gave it a huge power bump as well: as much as 590 HP was used in that year’s Finland event. It was the first time that rally engineers created a bodywork package aimed directly at gaining more traction with various spoilers and appendages, as opposed to just gaining stability. In doing so, Audi had created an iconic rally machine that came to symbolize the very image of Group B in most people’s minds; the immortal S1 E2:
Rally ace Walter Röhrl, who played an important role in the Sport quattro S1’s testing and development, describes it as one of the most intense machines he ever got to drive which demanded a high level of anticipation: “With this car, you have to think two corners ahead”, he fondly recalls. Röhrl, unlike some of his teammates, was more than willing to adapt his driving to the car’s indomitable demands, and gave the S1 E2 its only WRC win at the 1985 Sanremo rally. This amazing effort has since been immortalized in a well known animated gif:
In contrast, Stig Blomqvist didn’t like where Audi was going with the car and, before the end of the season, he signed up with Peugeot for 1986. That move infamously led to Audi putting him on the sidelines for the rest of the 1985 season. Blomqvist stated years later that his perfect Group B car would have been a “long wheelbase” A2 quattro but with the S1 E2’s very much improved and brutal mechanical components.
It was evident by this time that Audi’s efforts at keeping the quattro a contender for the titles was to be in vain; the Peugeot 205 T16 dominated 1985 and Lancia unleashed the infamous Delta S4 at the end of the season which immediately brought them victories. For 1986, Ford was on its way with the RS200, and the level of competition would show no sign of letting down. Even though Audi was planning a rumored 1,000 HP version of the Sport quattro, all rally insiders agree that no amount of extra horsepower would have made Audi get its domination back. The Sport quattro S1 E2 would participate in only six WRC rallies before Audi decided to pull out of Group B due to the spectator deaths at the 1986 Portugal event. For Audi’s top management, this unfortunate accident gave them a way out of an unsavory future while saving face at the same time.
Although Audi would never admit it publicly, the quattro was a road car that was capable in rallying only due to its four wheel drive traction and power advantage. However, unlike the Peugeot 205 T16 and Lancia Delta S4, the quattro obviously wasn’t a purpose built rally car designed from scratch. The Sport quattro was a somewhat desperate attempt from the engineers to push the platform beyond its natural capabilities. Audi Sport knew this and had secretly started developing a mid-engine “silhouette” version of the quattro. When Audi’s top management found out, they killed the special project because they thought that would have meant that their current road going quattro was not up to the task of winning rallies (in the public’s point of view).
Audi later contended that Peugeot and the others “cheated” the spirit of homologation by building specialized rally cars from scratch rather than using a standard road going model as its base. Basically, call it German pride or ego. However, this does not diminish the importance that the quattro played in shaping the automotive & rallying world. Everyone will forever fondly remember the quattro’s exploits and the unmatched spectacle of the Sport quattro. It may not gave been the fastest around a rally stage but it was certainly the most exciting rally car to see and hear. Group B’s legendary status would be much less today if not for this car.
Audi also built a special version of the Sport quattro based on the S1 E2’s aerodynamics specifically for the 1987 Pikes Peak hill climb event: a gambit to try and make the quattro a winner one final time in the dirt. You can learn about that very special car by clicking HERE.
|Group/Class||B/12||Homologation number: B-264 (click # to view the papers)|
|Type||I-5, DOHC 20v, gas engine||located front longitudinal with 27.5o right inclination|
|Displacement||2134 cc||WRC: x 1.4 = 2988 cc|
|Output power – torque||
|Materials||block: aluminium||cylinder head: aluminium|
|Ignition||electronic / firing order 1-2-4-5-3|
|Cooling system||water-cooled||(E2) radiator moved to trunk area|
|Lubrication system||dry sump with 1 oil cooler|
|Type||four wheel drive||
|Differential ratio||(E1) front and rear:
(E2) front and rear:
|Front suspension||McPherson strut with lower wishbone, coil spring, gas shock absorber and antiroll bar 19-22-25-28mm diameter|
|Rear suspension||McPherson strut with lower wishbone, 1 longitudinal radius arm, coil spring, gas shock absorber and antiroll bar 19-22-25-28mm diameter|
|Steering system||rack and pinion with hydraulic power assistance||12.4:1|
||dual circuit with servo|
|wheelbase: 2224 mm (87.6 in)||front track:
|Rims – tires||front and rear
|Fuel tank||90~120 litres|
Produced at only 214 units, the Sport quattro is one of the most coveted and expensive Audis of all time. It was Audi’s gambit at turning the quattro into a competitive Group B car which resulted in an amazing homologation special. It sported a much shorter wheelbase (12.6″) than the normal quattro plus using the steeper 80/4000 model windshield. Its turbocharged five cylinder behemoth was tuned to produce a hefty 302 HP in street trim which officially makes it the most powerful of all Group B homologation road cars (all others had around 250 HP).
At the time of its production, the Sport quattro was the most expensive Audi model in the dealerships by a very large margin. Yet, it was reported that the car was a handful to drive and suffered from heavy understeer. American rally driver John Buffum, even though he was very familiar with the quattro & Sport quattro, infamously crashed one in a Road & Track special feature.
It is note to mention that the official designation of the homologation model is the “Sport quattro”, while the “S1” actually refers to the rally evolution model itself. For more information about the correct spelling of Audi’s legendary car, CLICK HERE!
|Class||Compact||Four Wheel Drive Coupe|
|Production||1983~1984 (214 units)||Assembly: Ingolstadt, Germany|
|Output power – torque||302 HP @ – rpm||243 lb-ft @ – rpm|
|Materials||Block: N/A||Cylinder Head: Aluminum|
|Ignition||electronic||firing order 1-2-4-5-3|
|Lubrication system||N/A||Capacity N/A|
|Type||four wheel drive||5 speed manual gearbox|
|Differential ratios||N/A||manual locks on center and rear differentials|
|Type||steel monocoque Typ 85 chassis version of VW B2 platform, shortened 320 mm (12.6″)|
|Front suspension||McPherson strut with lower wishbone, coil spring, gas shock absorber and antiroll bar|
|Rear suspension||McPherson strut with lower wishbone, 1 longitudinal radius arm, coil spring, gas shock absorber and antiroll bar|
|Steering system||rack and pinion with hydraulic power assistance||N/A|
|length: 4160 mm (163.8 in)||width: 1860 mm (73.2 in)||height: 1344 mm (52.9 in)|
|wheelbase: 2204 mm (86.8 in)||front track: 1465 mm (57.7 in)||rear track: 1502 mm (59.1 in)|
|Rims – tires||N/A||N/A|
|Curb Weight||1270 kg (2800 lb)||Bias:N/A|
|Weight/power||4.2 kg/HP (9.3 lb/HP)|
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(C) Articles by Jay Auger – website owner & author
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- All homologation papers are the property of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA): SOURCE
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