The competition programme for the Audi Quattro was defined by the rallies of Monte Carlo, the Acropolis, the 1,000 Lakes and the RAC, upon which millions of spectators converged to glimpse the biggest stars and the wildest cars ever seen in the sport’s history. From 1981 to 1986 the tempo of rallying rose to dizzying levels, as did the budgets and the hysteria – and Audi was right in the thick of it all throughout.
The 1981 World Rally Championship
Cinotto took the lead but then it was his job tc do the sweeping and, in frustration, he began to get a bit wild in front of such a passionate home crowd. He crashed. Twice. Cinotto’s dramas allowed Michele Mouton to the fore, who was revelling in the performance of her revised Quattrc and pulling away from Vatanen, Rohrl, Mikkola and all the rest. As she crossed the line on the final stage she etched her name in the history books for all time as the first woman ever to win г world championship event in any branch of motor sport… and the crowd went wild.
Audi missed the Ivory Coast Rally and so only the final round of the season remained: Britain’s RAC Rally, where Hannu Mikkola was traditionally on sublime form. There was no hope of winning the championships – the drivers’ title race was between Vatanen in David Sutton’s Ford Escort and Guy Frequelin in the works Talbot Sunbeam Lotus. It would take a strong finish from Frequelin and misfortune for Vatanen to deny the Finn, but with reliability Talbot could beat Datsun to the manufacturers’ crown.
None of this mattered to Mikkola, who simply drove away from everyone. Such was his urgency to end the season on a high that the Finn rolled his car in Grizedale forest and temporarily allowed home-grown hero Tony Pond through to lead. The damage was only cosmetic, however, and Mikkola soon regained his stride in the taped-together Quattro to win by 11 minutes from new drivers’ champion Vatanen, while Saab refugee Stig Blomqvist took third for Talbot and sealed its manufacturers’ championship win.