Is it nostalgia that makes the Audi Quattro so iconic, or does it really deserve the frenzied reverence that it seems to inspire?
There’s no question that it began a new technical era for road and rally cars, and maybe that alone is enough to warrant its status, but having recently experienced one of the 1984 Audi A2 Quattro WRC cars in action, it seems to be a lot more than that.
It’s thirty years since the Quattro was launched, and Audi celebrated by providing the Quattro rally car, Walter Röhrl and a section of the famous Col de Turini. That’s a heady mix of legends for any enthusiast to cope with, and you can see Röhrl and the Quattro in action by watching the video.I’m not even going to try to explain what it felt like to get to see Röhrl and the Audi in action first hand from the passenger seat. I ran out of superlatives before I even got in the car. But it is interesting that Röhrl still rates the Quattro as a great driver’s car, even by modern standards.
Given that Röhrl is known for the kind of honesty that journalists love and press officers fear, I don’t think he’s saying that merely because of who pays his wages. He openly admits that Michele Mouton took to the Quattro more easily than he did, and also told a room of reporters (whilst wearing his official Porsche overalls) that the new Ferrari 458 was the first Ferrari he’d ever really wanted.
So what makes the Quattro great? Technically it was a huge achievement and clearly it still has the ability to perform to extreme levels.
But in truth, despite Audi’s undoubted achievements with the Quattro, it’s the history that surrounds the car and its drivers that really inspires enthusiasts today. Going to the place where much of the legendary Group B rallying took place made it obvious how backward-looking the sport is.
Even the hotel we stayed in was plastered in mementos, almost all of which dated back to the 70s and 80s, and the décor seemed to have been frozen in 1980 on purpose to preserve the atmosphere of the time.
There were experienced professional motorsport journalists on the event who looked like they were about to well-up at the sound of the Quattro’s five-pot engine echoing off the mountains.
It’s not about the mechanicals of the car at all. It’s all about the story. And seeing a tiny slice of it recreated in 2010 is not something I will forget any time soon.