To celebrate its centenary, the Audi brand is looking back on an exciting rally era. In a special exhibition entitled “The Cornering Wizards: Group B Rally Cars” from August 12 to October 31, 2009 at the Audi museum mobile in Ingolstadt, Germany, Audi Tradition is displaying no fewer than 12 rally cars from the 1983 to 1986 period – with a collective power output of more than 5,000 bhp.
1983 to 1986 were among the most thrilling years in rallying. The Group B cars in particular have lost nothing of their appeal. The new special exhibition at the Audi museum mobile provides what is probably a unique overview of the cars of this period, with the successful Audi quattro rally cars confronting their rivals of yesteryear.
The so-called “Ur-quattro” is there too: the Audi quattro Rallye A1 Group B (340 bhp) dating from 1983 that created a sensation with super-fast lady Michèle Mouton at the wheel. Hannu Mikkola, the “Flying Finn”, took the world rally champion’s title in the same year with this car. Also on display is the Audi quattro Rallye A2 Group B (360 bhp) from 1984. In this car it was the Swedish driver Stig Blomqvist’s turn to take the world championship in 1984, with the manufacturer’s title going to Audi. Then there is the Audi Sport quattro Rallye Group B (420 bhp) from 1984, affectionately nicknamed “Shorty” on account of its reduced wheelbase. This car suited rally star Walter Röhrl to perfection. And last but not least, this collection of cars would not be complete without the legendary Audi Sport quattro S1 Group B (476 bhp), the ultimate evolutionary version in this group.
Eight competitors’ cars round off the special exhibition, including the Peugeot 205 Turbo and Renault R5 Turbo, an MG Metro 6R4 and Lancia’s Delta S4 and 037 Rallye. Together with photo documentation and film material, they provide a picture of that dramatic period in which rally cars learned to fly.
A change in the rules of rallying in 1983 led to a downright explosion in Group B cars’ power outputs. The new ruling allowed manufacturers of these rally cars more design freedom than ever before. And they didn’t need asking twice: highly tuned engines developing well over 500 bhp soon appeared, and were capable of accelerating the cars from a standing start to 100 km/h in scarcely three seconds. The drivers at the wheel of these potent packages, which needed extensive spoilers to keep them from taking off altogether, seemed to have no problems in taming them. Not surprisingly, the 1983 to 1986 seasons were the most exciting era ever encountered in rally car racing.
Rally entrants had to cope with difficult terrain and extremes of weather: icy temperatures in Sweden, heat and dust in Kenya, rough, loose-surfaced tracks in Greece. Fans trekked by the hundred thousand to the rally routes, for an opportunity to hear the incredible sound of the engines and to stand in the clouds of dust thrown up by the cars as they hurtled past, often only a few centimetres away. Spectators could scarcely have wished for closer contact with their motor-sport heroes. But all too often, limits are there to be infringed. The power race indulged in by the manufacturers and inadequate awareness of accident risks on the part of the rally organisers resulted before long in tragic accidents. In 1986, Group B was replaced for safety reasons by a new ruling, and an epoch that had influenced the sport of rallying more than any other was over.