Anyone who thinks that competitions are useless, have the courage to raise your hands!
Take Audi for instance: excluding the legendary Auto Union of the 1930s, the true story of the Audi Sport division began in 1978 with the development of the Quattro to compete in World Rally Championships. Ferdinand Piech, then the CEO of the Ingolstadt company, wanted to make the first mass-produced four-wheel drive car, and needed a stage to prove its potential. After three years of development, the Quattro officially made its debut at the 1981 Monte Carlo Rally, dominating the first six special races. Despite having to withdraw over initial reliability issues, the validity of the idea was clear to all and in the next stage in Sweden, Audi clinched its first world title, marking the beginning of the “Quattro” legend, first as the name of the car, and then to indicate Audi’s all-wheel drive system. The Quattro Sport, a road-legal version made in 224 examples, is now one of the most sought after by collectors. The sound of the 5-cylinder engine remains one of the most loved by enthusiasts still today.
After a six-year career which yielded four World Rally Titles, the sports activity grew in Europe and overseas with the Audi 200 quattro in 1988 in the Trans-AM Championship and the following year with the Audi 90 quattro IMSA-GTO while in 1990, Europe witnessed the debut of the V8 Quattro, competing in the DTM Championship. Success was immediate with Titles in 1990 and 1991. These races were great the brand’s image but also potential business, following the footsteps of Mercedes and BMW.
In 1994, Audi’s leadership took the company down this path in a truly original way: the first car destined to wear the “RS” (RennSport) badge was in fact the 80 Avant (the term used to identify Audi station wagons). A 315hp family car, obviously all-wheel drive, equipped with a 5-cylinder engine capable of pushing it from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.8 seconds, and brakes, suspension and mirrors inherited from the Porsche 911 (membership of the same Group had allowed Audi to involve Porsche in the development), easily found more than 2,000 enthusiastic customers.
The idea was right and in 1999 Audi introduced the RS4, developed in collaboration with Cosworth for the 2.7-litre twin-turbo V6 engine with a power output of 381hp, combined with four-wheel drive. Success was enormous with over 6,000 examples built.
A new direction for the “Audi Sport” treatment came in 2002. Audi introduced the RS6 with a 450hp twin-turbo V8. Here too, traction was all-wheel drive. Against this backdrop of commercial successes, Audi’s policy continues to keep sport at its core: 13 wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans out of 18 contested using sophisticated diesel and hybrid engines.
The magnificent Audis derived from sporting experience at the highest levels continues to this day when, 25 years after the debut of the first RS model, the continuous research and innovation in the most refined mechanics led the Ingolstadt company to concentrate on electric mobility by focusing its motorsport program on Formula E.
Will it be the right choice?