The idea of a rally car was every bit as old as the concept for the production car at Audi, originating in 1977. The Audi Sport Department was established the following year and became involved in rally racing with the front-wheel drive Audi 80. The Rally quattro used the same five-cylinder turbo as the production car; the 10-cylinder engine developed a hearty 230 kW (roughly 310 hp) from 2.1 liters of displacement and 1.6 bar of boost. Lightweight body components limited its weight to around 1,200 kilograms (2,645.55 lb), roughly 100 kilograms (220.46 lb) less than the production car. Depending on the final drive ratio, the Rally quattro accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 62.14 mph) in around 5.2 seconds on a dry surface. The first quattro ran as a course car in the European Championship series race in Portugal. In early 1981, the quattro cars swept over the rally scene like a force of nature. Local driver Franz Wittmann won the Janner Rally in Austria, which was not a World Championship race, in a Rally quattro with a lead of more than 20 minutes over the second-place car.
At its World Championship debut in the Monte Carlo Rally, the quattro again demonstrated its superiority. Ten kilometers into the first stage, Hannu Mikkola passed a Lancia Stratos in the snow that had started one minute before him; only an accident was able to slow the Finn. Then, in the Swedish Rally, he clinched the first win. The French driver Michèle Mouton became the first woman to win a World Championship race in San Remo, and Mikkola emerged victorious again in the RAC Rally. At the end of the Audi model’s first year in action, it was placed third in the drivers’ standings. By 1982, the quattro was already virtually unbeatable anywhere in the world; Audi easily captured the Manufacturers’ Trophy with seven victories. Mouton won in Portugal, Greece and Brazil; only a breakdown in the penultimate race in the Ivory Coast cost her the drivers’ title. However, Mikkola became champion in 1983 after winning in Finland, Sweden, Argentina and Portugal.
Audi introduced two evolutions of the competition car in quick succession during this season. The second version with the internal designation A2 ultimately developed as much as 295 kW (a good 400 hp). The weight was reduced to less than 1,100 kilograms (2,425.08 lb), in part due to an aluminum cylinder block. 1984 Audi Rallye quattro A2 was a further development of the previous year’s car with which Hannu Mikkola became world champion. Audi opened the 1984 season with a bang when the team with the four rings landed a triple victory at the Monte Carlo Rally. Walter Röhrl, who had just joined Audi Sport, triumphed in his first appearance – but the season was to be shaped by someone else. The Swede Stig Blomqvist already won the next world championship race in Sweden and finished the season as the world champion driver. Audi also became the brand world champion.
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