Far away from Ingolstadt – AUDI QUATTRO RALLY CAR MANUAL

From 1982 onwards, the Audi Quattro phenomenon began to spread out around the world in hugely successful national and regional rally championship campaigns. In Europe, Schmidt Motor Sport returned to the fold in order to run a team in the FIA European Rally Championship, the German national rally championship and the Austrian series. David Sutton was engaged to prepare entries in the British Open Rally Championship, the Italian Rally Championship and the Finnish Rally Championship.
‘We ran Hannu in the Audi UK car in the 1982 British championship and that took the car from the TV audience for rallying out into the country itself,’ remembered Audi UK marketing chief David Ingram.
‘The philosophy was to develop the car and that markets would then run it in their own championships. They provided the technology and we provided the wherewithal to do it. Audi had already been speaking to David Sutton and so Sutton’s team was entrusted to build a UK car down in Ingolstadt at the end of ’81 and bring it back to the UK and run it in the British championship. We had technical support always from Germany but British guys running it on the events.’
Ingolstadt was nevertheless extremely cautious in where it placed its cars and who would get the opportunity to run them -hence the multiple series in which Schmidt and Sutton would operate. The intellectual property contained within the Quattro was simply too valuable to start throwing around towards teams who may well defect to another manufacturer, taking its secrets with them.
There was also the incentive of keeping a clean balance sheet to think of internally.
‘Ingolstadt was run in such a way that they wouldn’t sell anything to keep money there,’ Allan Durham remembered. ‘When they did their annual audit it looked like they had no end of money. There was a lot of stuff sitting in cages that you could have sold to teams or built a lot of cars out of them and sold them but they just wouldn’t. It would make the figures look bad, so it was just held on there.
‘If you were a privateer team you couldn’t really hope to run the Quattro because Audi wouldn’t release the parts unless you were associated with the brand directly. Sutton had the exclusive rights in the UK so if you wanted a car, like Malcolm Wilson, you’d have to go through him to get everything.’
Going through David Sutton was exactly what Malcolm Wilson chose to do after his employers at Ford cancelled the Escort RS1700T programme. Although he was still part of Ford’s operation, Wilson chafed at the lack of competitive seat time that he was getting at what was a critical juncture in his career – so he decided to take matters into his own hands. After David Sutton had run Hannu Mikkola in 1982 and then dominated the 1983 season with Stig Blomqvist, the talented Cumbrian put everything on the line to get his hands on the German supercar.
‘Okay, I put my life savings to be honest into buying Stig’s British championship winning car from ’83,’ Wilson remembered.
‘I bought the car from Audi Sport UK, which was being run by David Sutton, and in all honesty that is the car that basically reignited my career and put me into the position to get the offers of the factory drives that I had for the 1986 season.’
Until that point, Malcolm Wilson Motorsport had been a team like many others in the domestic British scene, working with the simple and lightweight Ford Escorts that predominated in most events. Even with the support of David Sutton to guide him, the prospect of the Quattro as something to tinker with in the garage was a daunting one:
‘You can imagine all we’d ever done was Mkll Escorts, that was all we’d ever run,’ Wilson said.
‘You’re absolutely right, it was a big technology change from our side and from myself basically going from carburettored engines to Pierburg fuel injection, four-wheel drive… it was a massive step. But I think, in fairness, by the end of ’83 the car had been reasonably reliable – OK, there was a weak link in the transmission and things especially on tarmac – but in all honesty it was a much easier car to run than probably what we envisaged.’
In 1985, another stalwart of the British rally scene, Andy Dawson, also got his hands on a pair of Audis – this time direct from the factory. British American Tobacco was breaking into the vast Chinese market with its 555 cigarette brand. To make a big impression in China, it was going to use motor sport to advertise its products.
‘They said: “We have agreed to sponsor the Hong Kong-Beijing Rally, and the first entries we’ve got are all sponsored by Marlboro. Help! What suggestions do you have to make sure that a 555-sponsored car wins the rally?’”
Dawson was enrolled to help find a solution, and having failed to convince any of the major teams to swap to a 555 sponsorship offer, he knew that a different direction was needed.
‘About the fourth call that I made was to Arwed Fischer, who co-drove for me in the Datsun when I did the German rally championship and he was by now competition manager at Audi. So I explained the situation to him and he thought that the three months that I had to get a solution for BAT was mad. Anyway, he came back with the figures for two cars and for Hannu to drive one of them.’
Dawson presented the figures to BAT and the prospect of having the world-beating Quattro on their side was too good to miss. The budget was high, but the returns of success in the world’s biggest market dwarfed them in comparison. ‘If I remember correctly the money was in my bank account by the time I got home from Weybridge,’ Dawson chuckled – and he headed straight to Ingolstadt to start a ten-day mission to buy and prepare one Quattro for the team’s unveiling.
‘I paid 85,000 quid for it and I had a trailer there the following day to pick it up and bring it back,’ said Dawson.
‘A week later I drove it up to the BRDC suite, painted yellow, to announce to the 555 Rally Team. I drove it up from Competition Coachworks, where it had just been finished off, driving up the lane and there was a big puddle there so I drove it through the puddle with the money man from BAT sitting beside me. We took a picture and that became a poster!’
There were one or two members of the rally community who were taken by surprise when the event sponsor announced that it was going to field Quattros, particularly with one car to be driven by Hannu Mikkola. The Toyota, Opel and Nissan teams had expected to battle for the win between themselves, while closer to home there were also some stern questions asked.
‘I remember David Sutton was livid because we announced the deal at Silverstone and he got on to Audi UK, then Audi UK got on to me and said: “David Sutton has the exclusive rights to rally the Quattro in the UK.” And I said: “Fine, but we’re not going to rally the car in the UK!” ‘Anyway, I explained all this to BAT and they just went: “Well, we’ll buy the cars for you to run them!” So BAT paid for it, I got Audi to rescind my invoice and do up another invoice to their sponsor, HB Cigarettes, which was also a BAT brand, and that sorted all the problems out there and then – job done and thank you, Mr Sutton!”’
The rally was to be a 2,200-mile (3,540km) dash over four days and nights from a ceremonial start in Hong Kong to the finish line in Tiananmen Square. Having committed to sending its Quattros out into the unknown, Audi then weighed in with support to Dawson’s highly skilled but small-scale team, including feeding, clothing and transporting numerous members of its own staff – among them Allan Durham.
‘Before the rally, Andy did a press day in Hong Kong and blew the engine,’ Durham recalled. ‘There wasn’t another engine available in Germany; the only one that was available was a rallycross engine that Lehmann had sitting on his dyno, so they said “it’s that or none.”
‘Everything had already been shipped to China so we got the rallycross engine. We got it about 9pm or 10pm on Saturday night and the rally started at 8am the following morning! So there we were in an underground car park in Hong Kong, in 100% humidity, removing the broken engine and getting the new engine in. We just got it in, finished, up and running and the car went straight from there onto the start, and I think there were 15 minutes to spare.’
All of this meant that Dawson’s introduction to rallying an Audi Quattro was a little less inspiring than he had hoped. ‘My car that I drove was like a Foden tractor in comparison [with Mikkola’s],’ he laughed.
‘Mine had an old turbo with a lot of lag on it and it had the rallycross engine in it so you could never get to use the power anyway. You’d push the accelerator down and by the time that the turbo woke up and did anything it was time to change gear!’
Despite these issues, both of the Quattros made it off into the wilderness of a country that had closed its borders to the West in 1949 and only just opened them a crack for pop band Wham! to play the first pop concert in its history earlier in the year. Rather than being offered the red carpet treatment, however, the rally crews and their entourage would simply have to hurtle along the largely unpaved roads as fast as they could – including Allan Durham.
‘The people, you’d see them out in the sticks and they’d never seen Europeans before,’ he recalled. ‘We were getting prodded and poked. We drove through some villages and people were throwing chickens in the road as we were going by so they dinged off the car. It was weird!
‘The guy I was with was called Simon Everitt, a rally driver, and the idea was that we would go in the chase car. He would be the main driver, I’d co-drive him and we’d be the first on hand when the cars stopped. Anyway, he ate something before we left Hong Kong and the first day out he got really violently ill, and I just strapped him in the passenger seat and I was driving and co-driving and wondering what the hell am I going to do with this poor bloke? I thought he might die on me, and there we were flying through the countryside in the middle of nowhere getting chickens thrown at us!
‘The rally was in sections and they had trucks along the route with fuel. Everybody had to pull up and hand pump the fuel off these trucks and then continue – the timing was running all the time.
‘We left this one place at 8pm and Hannu set off, then I set off and was maybe ten minutes behind him. And we chased the whole night. We stopped at fuel trucks on the way and continued, and we got to the end through control and Hannu was sitting on a grass bank at the side of the road – he’d been sat there over an hour!
‘I only left ten minutes after him and I thought I was pushing hard through the night. We were catching cars and passing cars, everyone was on the same route – service vehicles, chase cars, rally cars – all together. I’ve got no idea how he did the time he did. It made me realise that the rally driving I’d done early in my career was a little bit tame!’
Also keeping the British end up was Andy Dawson, who had by now overcome the less-than-perfect properties of his engine to come bounding up through the field.
‘I will always and forever remember going across the plains in China, and we had got the cars geared up to the highest gearing we could get in them, so 155 mph [250kph], and we were on the rev limiter for miles and miles in fifth,’ he said.
‘I was on one of those straights and remember seeing a jump, a bridge, and I went over it and the damn thing didn’t jump straight because the left-hand track rod and the righthand track rod are different lengths. So they bump-steered differently one side to the other. It was a fast, fast rally that one.’
Eventually, Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz crossed the finish line, just over six-and-a-half minutes in front of the Nissan 240 RS crewed by Lars-Erik Torph and Hans Thorzelius, with Dawson finishing just seconds off the podium in fourth. At dawn on the fourth morning, the convoy passed through the archway in the Great Wall of China into the nation’s capital to park in Tiananmen Square: mission accomplished. Dawson would return in 1986 with his 555 team, with which Stig Blomqvist and Bruno Berglund would take the Quattro’s second and final win in the Chinese marathon.

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