Wheels and tyres

In keeping with the philosophy that the road and rally cars should be as closely related as possible, the Audi Quattro started its international rally career using a choice of either Fuchs 5-spoke or Ronal 17-spoke forged alloy wheels. The Fuchs wheels were used for gravel and snow, while the Ronals were held back for pure asphalt surfaces.

In 1981-83 the wheel sizes of 6j x 15 for snow, 7j x 15 for gravel and 10j x 15 for the asphalt were retained for the Group 4 cars and the Group B Audi Quattro A1. When the more evolved Audi Quattro A2 appeared with its smaller capacity engine, this meant that wheel width would have to be reduced by an inch, taking two inches off the breadth of the Quattro’s footprint – at which point the

Fuchs and Ronal wheels were replaced for something lighter.

On asphalt, therefore, BBS was called upon to provide the Quattro’s footwear, with its natty line in finned, brake-cooling discs (as also seen on Porsche’s Le Mans-winning 956). On gravel, Audi elected to use the Minilite wheels that were first popularised by the BMW Mini-Cooper and had been seen on every successful Ford and Talbot through the seventies.

This combination would be retained until the start of the 1984 season, when Speedline’s 5-spoke wheels would be employed on all surfaces. From the 1984 Acropolis Rally onwards, there was a significant change to the snow/gravel wheel as a disc was built in to the wheel design behind the spokes to deflect rocks and the build-up of snow that might otherwise wreak havoc on the brakes and moving parts.

When it came to the tyres, Audi’s first two seasons in the world championship were spent on rubber from French manufacturer Kleber which, like Boge, had no competition pedigree. Audi stated quite vehemently that its four-wheel drive would more than compensate for any deficit in tyre performance to the Pirellis and Michelins that were in use by the other teams (and that a higher degree of confidentiality could be assured).

Kleber paid a large amount of money to Audi for the association and opportunities to showcase its products through Audi’s competition success, which helped the team’s rising budgets. But part of the showcase involved using tyres that used the same construction as the customer product and this hurt performance relative to the bespoke competition rubber fitted to the Opels and Lancias, for example. The only exception to this was when Audi was running on snow in Sweden and Monte Carlo, when studded Timi remoulds of Michelin pattern were purchased – although contractually the Klebers had to go back on for the road sections between stages.

The Kleber deal was done in the days of Walter Treser. When Roland Gumpert took over the running of the technical side, he and Reinhard Rode were quick to use the national rally programmes being set up by national markets for the purposes of evaluating different types of rubber.

David Sutton built the British and Italian championship cars and fitted them with Pirelli rubber, while the Swedish championship car of Stig Blomqvist ran on Michelins. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, BF Goodrich enrolled John Buffum’s Audi USA team into its bigspending motor sport programme, once again demanding that the tyres on the rally car should have the same construction as its road tyres, just like Kleber.

Having been able to assess the qualities of all the various suppliers, Gumpert chose not to renew with Kleber in 1983 and went instead to Michelin, which would provide the works Quattros with rubber for the remainder of its front-line competition career.

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