The 1980’s was Rally’s most insane years. Manufactures wanted more freedom to build faster more race focused machines. They wanted to move away from the production based cars to pure bred, stage destroying monsters. The end result was Group B. Group B saw the most insane cars ever to race in World Rally. Little more than a tube frame, an immensely powerful engine and 4 wheels Group B cars were amazing. There is a fantastic documentary on this era entitled: Madness on Wheels – Rallying’s Craziest Years. I highly recommend you check it out.
Audi revolutionized the sport with their Quattro. The first car to utilize 4 wheel drive, it dominated the competition. Not ones to like having their noses kicked in Peugeot and Lancia took where the Quattro started and with help from the open rulebook, created some of the most famous Rally cars ever created. Peugeot’s 206 T16 and Lancia’s Delta S4 were mid-engined rockets that left the front engine Quattro S1 in their dust. They were better balanced, less prone to the S1’s understeer. Audi Sport was not pleased and set off on a top-secret program, designed to take it to Peugeot and Lancia and reclaim the top step on the podium.
Audi Sport’s program was so top-secret that even the top brass back at Audi’s world headquarters didn’t know about it. To keep any prying eyes from noticing the prototype Audi Sport left Germany in favor of Desna in the Czech Republic to develop the program. The new cars would boast 1000 horsepower from a mid-mounted, turbocharged 5 cylinder. The cars were shipped in anonymous containers. Rally God Walter Röhrl was given the task of testing the new machines. When the local race track was booked Röhrl was forced to test the car on public roads, which must have been quite the sight to the locals. Inevitably he attracted the attention of local law enforcement. Röhrl convinced the police officer who pulled him over not to take any pictures of the car in exchange he would do a full race start for the officer’s amusement.
By this point it all sounds like something out of a movie, top secrecy, 1000 horsepower, testing on public roads, it would have made for an epic race machine. So why was it never raced? Group B cars were epic, they were fantastic to watch, listen to and they had to be seen to be believed. The problem was they were also lethal. The cars were too powerful, the stages too long and the death toll for driver’s and spectators was beginning to mount. In one incident at the 1986 Rally Portugal 3 spectators were killed and over 30 injured. This proved to be too much and in 1987 Group B cars were no more.
This was undoubtedly the correct decision, however it deprived us the chance to see Audi’s 1000 horsepower beast run in competition. For now we just have to sit back and enjoy this short video and imagine what could have been.