Rally racing is one of the most exciting iterations of motorsport to watch, combining the elements of speed and danger – and if you think modern WRC is crazy, you’ve clearly never heard of the Group B World Rally Championship. This racing scene only existed for about 4 years between 1982 and 1986, it was inevitably discontinued due to the endless number of accidents and lives lost – drivers and spectators alike.
There is one important fact that sets Group B cars apart from everything else in the world, and that is the fact that their brands did not have to produce a massive amount of production cars based on their rally cars to meet homologation standards – only 200 homologation cars, in fact had to be built, which was tiny compared to the other divisions like Group A. The icing on the cake though, since they weren’t strictly limited to performance claims either, gave birth to crazy cars like the Ford RS200 and Peugeot 205 T16, as well as today’s hero car, the Audi Sport Quattro S1. Let’s dive into what made it so special.
10 It walked so others could walk
Contrary to popular belief, Audi wasn’t the first company to put all-wheel drive in a road car, but it was the first company to successfully implement it in a rally car. Most cars back then used rear-wheel drive, but when Audi’s Quattro came onto the field, it showed everyone how superior an all-wheel drive system was.
As a result, it decimated the competition early on, but unfortunately did not remain unstoppable as other brands took inspiration from Audi and incorporated similar powertrains into their rally cars. Obviously, this prompted brands like Lancia to conceive the Delta S4, which ultimately beat the Quattro in Group B.
9 Two generations of rallies, one more ridiculous than the other
Let’s start with the basics, what was this Audi? As we said in our introduction, the Audi Sport Quattro S1 was a Group B rally racing car and it had two different variants, the Evolution 1 (E1) – pictured above, and the Evolution 2 (E2) – pictured below.
Both cars sported similar 2.1-liter turbocharged five-cylinder all-aluminum engines under their hoods, but with vastly different performance and visual appearances. Of course, both iterations featured Audi’s Quattro all-wheel-drive system, but the E2’s wheelbase was even shorter than the original E1’s at just 2.2 meters (86.8 inches) to reduce the original S1’s understeer.
8th If Overpowered was a car, this would be it
There comes a point when we have to ask ourselves what is too much of Energy? Audi didn’t fit their Sport Quattro rally car with an ordinary Turbo Five, it produced far too much power if you ask us, even compared to today’s RS models. The first-gen powertrain produced a whopping 444 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, but when the second-gen arrived it received a slightly tuned inline-five and a completely redesigned turbocharger that allowed the engine to pump out nearly 600 hp in its own right liveliest state.
It was not only strong but also light. The Sport Quattro’s body has been crafted from a mix of carbon fiber and Kevlar to ensure it’s light but also stiff. Somehow, even with the big bodysuit, this Group B Audi only weighed 1,100 kg. The best? It could reach 60 mph from a stop in just…more on that later.
7 A homologated version with road approval was devised
As we said earlier, Group B rally cars were not allowed to race unless they followed homologation rules. So in 1980 Audi created a street-legal variant, often referred to as the Ur-Quattro – the “Ur” is German for “original”. It too used different engines and exterior appearances, with the first Euro-spec cars boasting a 2.1 -liter turbo-five that produced 197 hp and 210 lb-ft of torque
North America, on the other hand, received roughly the same powertrain, but its power was watered down to 160 hp. It’s not entirely clear how many Audi Quattro cars were built, but the required quantity of 200 units was far exceeded, and all of course featured Audi’s Quattro four-wheel drive system, as well as a 5-speed manual gearbox.
6 One of the most valuable Audis there is
With the Audi Sport Quattro being such a rare creature and with a rich racing history tied to its name, you can imagine it’s worth a monumental amount of money. But how much? To find out, we need to look at both the rally car and the street version.
The last Audi Sport Quattro S1 auctioned off was a 1988 model which was sold at Artcurial Motorcars in early 2021 for a staggering €2,016,600 ($2,066,188), while street-legal counterparts sell for a lot less. The most expensive Audi Ur-Quattro ever sold was auctioned off last year at Silverstone Auction, where it fetched a staggering £163,125 ($196,131)..
5 Amazing acceleration
We’ve posted some amazing performance figures there, as well as curb weight figures, so it’s time to see how all of this performs in the real world. Let’s start with the tamest Quattro, the regular street legal Quattro. This ’80s legend had some tough competition, like the BMW E30 3 Series, but it was no match for Audi’s all-wheel-drive acceleration, which allowed it to sprint to 60mph from a standstill in just 7.1 seconds reach.
The Quattro Sport S1 was a different creature altogether… Even in this day and age, the S1 rivals, if not beats, supercars. This insane Group B rally car accelerates from 0 to 60 in an incredible 3.2 seconds – that’s faster than a Nissan GT-R.
4 Was once the Pikes Peak champion
When it comes to iconic tracks in the world, there are usually three that eclipse the rest. In terms of road cars, the Nurburgring is where debates are settled, if you want all eyes on you regardless of legal requirements, the Goodwood Festival of Speed is where you will thrive, and if you If you want to show off acceleration and the ability to effortlessly drive through a scenic route, Pikes Peak is the place to be.
After Group B was cancelled, Audi wasn’t quite done with its Quattro S1, so they revised its ergonomics, put it on a diet and reworked it to achieve a perfect 50/50 weight distribution. According to Walter Röhrl, the man behind the wheel, the engine produced a whopping 750 hp, and with so much power at his disposal, Röhrl had to break the record around Pikes Peak. Not only did he set a new record in 1987, he also became the first person to set a time under 11 minutes with a time of 10:47.85
As you’ve noticed in this article, the Quattro S1 was fitted with some lavish exterior modifications, particularly on the Evolution 2, but it wasn’t all for show. Its double-decker wing, wide fenders and gigantic fixed front splitter provided immense downforce.
Not only downforce, but it allowed air to flow into the engine bay to keep the high-performance five-cylinder engine cool enough, and its extended fenders allowed for beefier wheels to be fitted, as well as allowing air to flow through the body. Sometimes looking cool can also contribute to performance.
2 The very first real automatic transmission
The road version of the Sport Quattro featured a stick shift, as did most Group B rally cars, but some of the E2 models had a revolutionary powershift transmission that paved the way for modern car boxes in high-end sports cars.
It was the forerunner of modern transmissions like Porsche’s PDK and BMW’s DCT, which are essentially automatic transmissions that let you shift between gears manually, allowing for lightning-fast upshifts and downshifts.
1 His legendary name still lives on today
The Quattro name can still be seen on many cars built by Audi today, although they’re not solemnly tied to a name, it’s basically a way of saying that a particular model uses Audi’s impeccable four-wheel drive system.
A notable fact, however, is that the Quattro badges have not been capitalized on any Audi since the original Quattro S1, instead they are all capitalized, paying homage to the superior Sport Quattro. The picture you see above is the Audi TT RS 40 Years of Quattro, it was an anniversary present Audi gave itself to celebrate – well the name speaks for itself.