In the short span of six years, Audi changed the WRC landscape with the Sport Quattro S1 and its determination to hire the best drivers.
Audi unleashed two forces in WRC during the 1980s and changed everything. One was Audi’s follow-up to the Ur-Quattro. Known as the Sport Quattro S1, it was designed for one purpose – to dominate Group B and win a World Rally Championship. The other was a driver with a natural talent for rallying. Known as the Black Volcano, she proved every bit as fast, and even faster, than many men in the sport.
The Audi Sport Quattro S1
The Audi Sport Quattro S1 was, and is, a force of nature in WRC. It’s not an evolution of the Ur-Quattro but a purpose-built supercar intended to dominate Group B rallying. Introduced for the 1984 season, the S1 was smaller with wider wheel arches to accommodate 9-inch wide wheels. It was almost a foot shorter than the original car, with a wheelbase to match. The carbon-kevlar body shell shaved over 300 pounds off the weight.
Michele Mouton had the talent and skill to compete as a champion driver. But as a woman, she had to overcome sexism from critics who saw rallying as a man’s sport. Nicknamed “the Black Volcano” by the German press for her hair and fiery temperament, she silenced most of her critics by winning the 1981 Rallye Sanremo in Italy. In 1982, she followed that up by winning the International Rally Driver of the Year award, helping Audi win its first manufacturer’s world title and finishing second in the driver’s standings.
Audi Sport Quattro RS 002, which showed promise. However, the cancellation of Group B affected Group S as well, and the program was shelved.
Mouton went on to become the first president of the FIA’s Women & Motor Sport Commission and FIA’s manager in the World Rally Championship. She was also inducted into the Rally Hall of Fame in 2012. Audi ended its involvement in WRC after 1986, shifting its focus to touring car racing and eventually Le Mans.
Even though Audi’s rally program occupied a short period in its history, it made a lasting impact on the sport. The company’s purpose-built Sport Quattro rally cars served as the template for all the cars that followed. And by hiring Michelle Mouton to its factory team, Audi opened the door for other women race drivers to follow.
Photos: Audi Heritage