Three Audi Quattro A2 cars were entered for the 1984 Monte Carlo Rally by the works team for Walter Rohrl/Christian Geistdorfer, Stig Blomqvist/Bjorn Cederberg and Hannu Mikkola/Arne Hertz. All three were resplendent in a new livery after the addition of sponsorship from the HB brand of tobacco. Also joining the squad was the Audi 80 quattro, which would be crewed by Bernard Darniche/Alain Mahe in the hope of winning Group A honours.
The drivers were seeded according to their results the previous year, so Rohrl was number 1, Mikkola number 4 and Blomqvist number 7. For the first time since 1981 the route was blanketed with snow, and the stage seemed set for a Quattro whitewash.
Blomqvist took a good lead early on and, having worked relentlessly to master the Quattro and its preferred left-foot braking technique, Rohrl was infuriated by losing time to the Swede on every stage. Rohrl recalled:
‘Stig had done the tyre testing and I had done suspension testing. At the service the team said: “OK, the next stage is 80% wet snow. Stig and Hannu said we must use tyre number four.” OK, we’ll put all three cars on number four. After the stage, I was thinking I was quick, but Stig was 30 seconds faster. Oh Mamma Mia!
‘The second stage was a long one, over three Cols – around 50km [31 miles]. The same situation, talking tyres and saying that all three cars would be on the same. And then I said to Christian “ask on the radio what Stig’s time is”. He was 1 min 34sec faster than me. I was thinking I should just stop and kill myself!
‘We had a long road section to get to the next service. One of my best friends was spectating on the second stage and he took a more direct route to the service. I got out of the car and he said, “You are the greatest!”
‘Yeah, sure – but I’m one and a half minutes slower than Stig. He said: “On the stage, I watched you. You looked so much faster than anybody else…”
‘I had a good connection with one mechanic
– because I was new to the team. I said: “Hans, if you lie I will kill you! What’s happened here?” He said: “Once you start, the others change tyres.” Before the next stage I said to the team chief: “Listen. If this happens once more I’m going to the next cliff and pushing the car off it.” On the next stage I was one minute faster, on the same tyres as the others!’
With the playing field thus levelled, Rohrl swept past Blomqvist to head an Audi 1 -2-3, which in turn completed a remarkable run of four consecutive Monte Carlo wins in four different cars for the Bavarian. Audi’s joy was completed when Darniche drove into Monaco in seventh place overall to win Group A by more than 25 minutes.
For Walter Rohrl, honour was satisfied. Thus the die was cast: Blomqvist would drive on all events, with the rest of the team acting on a rotation basis to help deliver the manufacturers’ title and support their Swedish colleague’s championship bid.
Audi scored another 1-2-3 in Sweden, with Blomqvist winning from Michele Mouton and guest driver Per Eklund third. A maximum-effort raid on Portugal followed, with Blomqvist, Rohrl and Mikkola being joined by a fourth car for Audi’s South African champion Sarel van der Merwe.
Lanclas held sway on the asphalt stages but then Blomqvist broke a suspension mount and lost nine minutes. In his hurry to regain the time, he crashed out – as did van der Merwe. Rohrl also crashed but continued in order to play a little game with his old teammates at Lancia.
Only Mikkola was in a position to bring home the win, but the Lancias were proving too fast and too reliable to guarantee it. To aid Mikkola’s cause, Rohrl therefore clocked in ahead of his teammate at the start of every stage, allowing Mikkola much better visibility as the dust thrown up by the Lancias had twice as long to settle. After 700 miles (1,126km), Mikkola beat Markku Alen by just 27 seconds.
Rohrl had no interest in the Safari Rally so the old guard of Blomqvist, Mikkola. Mouton and Wittmann set out for Kenya. Blomqvist and Mouton retired with engine problems but Mikkola survived several similar engine scares to finish third, with Wittmann sixth.
Next came the Tour de Corse but for the first time Audi felt a glimmer of hope going into the rally, as this would be the debut of its short wheelbase car, the Audi Sport quattro, complete with the new 20-valve, 420 horsepower engine and a 6-speed gearbox. Alongside it stood the new four-wheel-drive contender from Peugeot: the mid-engined 205 Turbo 16, driven by Ari Vatanen/Terry Harryman in the lead car and supported by Jean-Pierre Nicolas/Charley Pasquier in the second entry.
The Sport quattros made wild progress around the French island, sliding luridly at every opportunity. They were closer to the Lancias than the old long-wheelbase cars had been – but in turn the Lancias were being left for dead by Vatanen’s astonishing now Peugeot. Rohrl went out with engine failure and then Vatanon crashed ferociously, putting the Lancias of Alen and Miki Biasion into the top positions. Blomqvist finished fifth, 21 minutes behind the winner.
After Rohrl had suffered a repeat of their engine problems in the Sport quattro while testing on the Metz Rallye Stein in Germany, Blomqvist elected to drive the old 10-valve Quattro A2 on the Acropolis Rally – as did Hannu Mikkola. The new cars were entered for Rohrl and Michele Mouton, while John Buffum had a Sutton-prepared A2 with Fred Gallagher as his co-driver.
Once again, Vatanen took the early lead but there would be no denying Audi this time. Although both of the Sport quattros retired with mechanical issues, the older cars finished first (Blomqvist), second (Mikkola) and fifth (Buffum).
None of the short wheelbase cars made the long trek to New Zealand. Instead four A2s made the journey for Blomqvist, Mikkola, Rohrl and Wittmann. Blomqvist won once again, with Mikkola rolling and the car catching fire, but it was doused soon enough for him to repair it and continue. Neither Rohrl nor Wittmann had such luck and fell foul of mechanical failures.
The Stig and Hannu show meanwhile arrived in Argentina where they were joined by national rally legend Jorge Recalde and fellow countryman Ruben Luis de Palma. For the third time in the season it was an Audi 1 -2-3 with Mikkola riding shotgun to Blomqvist – although the crowd’s biggest cheers were reserved for Recalde’s fine third place.
Next came the 1,000 Lakes and another three-car squad left Ingolstadt for Jyvaskyla with a 10-valve Quattro A2 for Blomqvist and a brace of 20-valve Audi Sport quattros for Mikkola and Mouton. Both of the short wheelbase cars went out – Mouton crashing heavily and Mikkola breaking the steering on a jump. Blomqvist found that the old engine was at a significant disadvantage and was powerless to hold back the Lancias, which were in turn unable to hold on to Ari Vatanen in the remarkable little Peugeot, who took the victory.
With the drivers’ title almost sealed in his favour, Blomqvist acquiesced and took a Sport quattro to Sanremo, alongside the sister car of Walter Rohrl, after an intensive few weeks of testing for the German. Ferdinand Piech arrived to see how progress was going, and witnessed the Swede’s car blowing its engine early in the running, which at least gave Rohrl the opportunity to go at full tilt, holding the same pace as Vatanen’s Peugeot until a rare error triggered a sizeable accident.
Despite Audi failing to score in Italy, the titles were still all-but out of reach for Lancia and only Audi made the trip to the Ivory Coast out of the major European squads, where Blomqvist’s Audi Sport quattro and Mikkola’s A2 went up against the local specialists of Nissan and Toyota. The pair simply drove away and Blomqvist scored the Sport quattro’s first win to seal both championships. Not only that, but it was Audi’s 22nd world championship win since 1981, making it the most successful manufacturer in history.
It had been Audi’s most convincing season to date: its most co-ordinated and its most successful. Yet for all that, there were still huge reservations about the reliability and handling of the stumpy Sport quattro and its migtity but frail engine. Moreover, the Group B era was really starting to hit its stride and Audi was swimming against the tide of mid-engined thoroughbred competition cars that was rising up to meet them.
Nowhere was Audi’s tenuous grip on the series more evident than on the season-ending RAC Rally. Audi decided to save some money and pulled Stig Blomqvist’s entry shortly before the event got started – although he was in
Chester to flag the event away and drive a Land Rover at improbable speed to entertain the masses. Audi UK decided to capitalise on the most successful season in the sport and funded the appearance of Michele Mouton in an Audi Sport quattro as well as covering Hannu Mikkola’s fee to drive its own David Sutton-built Quattro A2.
After a hugely successful season that included his first European win in Cyprus, John Buffum returned for another RAC while Malcolm Wilson’s ex-Sutton car completed a very strong line-up. Most of the major opposition was two-wheel-drive machinery and the weather had been particularly foul but then there was the solo Peugeot 205 T16 of Ari Vatanen and Terry Harryman – and the little Peugeot simply danced away from the Audis.
Just like Mikkola two years earlier, Vatanen had time enough in hand to crash and repair the car before shooting back into the lead on the final leg. All of the Quattros hit mechanical problems along the way and ran as a pack until Wilson and Buffum both went out. Mikkola finished second and Mouton fourth, but it was very clear that neither of the current Quattros could match the Peugeot on either loose or paved surfaces.
Walter Rohrl cancelled Christmas. He had some testing to do.