FOR THE LOVE OF THE BOOK:
Quattro – The Race and Rally Story
It was in the late ‘60s when I first became familiar with the Audi brand. My monthly addiction, Road & Track, had been hyping the brand’s positives, slotted – as it was – between the mass appeal of Volkswagen and the snob appeal of Mercedes-Benz. A few weeks spent in Germany in 1969 sealed the deal, with more than a few Audis populating the streets of Schwandorf, Germany, where I had spent most of my time.
Later, Audi would introduce its performance variant of all-wheel drive under the ‘quattro’ umbrella, bringing all-wheel drive to a population familiar with 4WD, but at a relative loss as to what street-oriented AWD systems bring to the table. Rather than introduce its proprietary all-wheel drive technology at the Consumer Electronics Show (as the carmaker would do today) or stream the quattro system’s testing protocols to your laptop, Audi went racing and rallying with its new quattro system. The company and its teams not only lived to tell about the experience, they touted that success from podiums all around the world.
In his QUATTRO – THE RACE AND RALLY STORY 1980-2004, author Jeremy Walton digs deep into the Audi marque, its technical roots and the development of its performance branding through the prism of all-wheel drive. Like many great cars and/or automotive developments, Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive development was led by a singular personality; in this instance it was Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson, Ferdinand Piech.
In his prior gig at Porsche, Piech had been responsible for the development of the Porsche 917, a racecar that dominated endurance events in the ‘70s much like Ford’s GT had dominated those same circuits in the ‘60s. It was that same sort of singular dedication which led to the engineering of Audi’s quattro system and its successes in Euro-specific rallying and American-specific Trans Am.
The highlights attached to those rallies and races are many. In the book’s 300 pages Walton takes us to rallies won by Hannu Mikkola and Arne Hertz, as well as the all-female team of Michele Mouton and Fabrizia Pons. In the U.S., Audi tackled the 1988 Trans Am championship – which included a stop in Dallas – with its 200 quattro; American driver Hurley Haywood took the title while decimating his Detroit-based competition.
And while the emphasis is on competition, Walton does a comprehensive job of documenting the production cars, also. And there were many, from the production intro in 1980 to today’s lineup of A4, A6 and A8, along with the numerous crossovers that share showroom space with the sedans, TTs and R8s.
Forty years after its debut, the Audi brand and its quattro system are inseparable. While electrification will certainly transform the Audi showroom in the years ahead, that same electrification simplifies the delivery of motive power to all four wheels. And when carmakers look to differentiate themselves in their respective competitive segments, few features will work quite as well in that separation than Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive.
And if you can’t spring for an Audi, you can at least spring for the book! It’s available from Quarto Publishing, with a suggested retail of $80.