Car in the Lobby: 1984 Audi Sport Quattro Group B rally car

Friday 30 June 2023

June’s Car in the Lobby was a throwback to the halcyon days of rallying: the notorious and controversial Group B era, which was as spectacular as it was dangerous. Commonly referred to as the ‘golden era of rallying’, these regulations were introduced in 1982 and allowed for monstrous machinery to be designed, such as this 1984 ’44 WMN’ Audi Sport Quattro kindly provided by Bonhams before it goes to auction at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on 14 July.

This model, on show at Motorsport UK’s Bicester headquarters, was driven to victory in the 1986 Welsh International & National Breakdown Rally by the late Hannu Mikkola (1983 World Rally champion) alongside co-driver Arne Hertz.

Mikkola also set the Shelsley Walsh Hillclimb record for closed-wheel cars in the same year, but his 29.51-second run could have been ever quicker had the team known it was a tarmac course and not gravel; the car was set-up for the loose stuff instead!

The legend, and demise, of Group B

With no restrictions on boost, Group B machinery was arguably sometimes too fast for the stages they were taking to, and at least two of the turbocharged leviathans were pushing out over 500 horsepower come 1986. The likes of MG, Mazda, Lancia, Ford and Citroen all joined Audi in producing machinery for the regulations, and many followed in the German marque’s footsteps by implementing four-wheel-drive.

The Quattro was a force to be reckoned with right from the start, resulting in Audi securing World Rally Championship manufacturer titles in 1982 and ’84 and Mikkola taking the ’83 drivers’ championship. Stig Blomqvist repeated that feat the following year.

By the time 1985 rolled around – unbeknownst to anybody, the penultimate year of Group B – some other brands had got their four-wheel-drive systems working well and took the fight to Audi. Peugeot were the first to usurp them as Timo Salonen dominated on the world stage in the French manufacturer’s turbocharged 205.

The 1986 WRC season looked to be the most competitive in years as Lancia, MG, Audi and Peugeot were all in the mix early on. However, the third round in Portugal marked the beginning of the end for Group B as a fatal accident occurred involving a group of spectators and the top teams all withdrew from the event immediately. The death of Lancia star Henri Toivonen and co-driver Sergio Cresto at the Tour de Corse two rounds later confirmed its demise.

The Audi Quattro: synonymous with rallying

Since its reveal in 1980, the Quattro has become an icon both in rallying and on the road. The original competition car was based around the bodyshell of the road equivalent, but nothing much else was the same. It had success even before the Group B era as Michele Mouton steered it to victory in Rallye Sanremo and became the first female winner of a World Championship rally.

When the Group B regulations were introduced in 1982, Audi evolved the model into what was dubbed the ‘A1’ variant – the main difference being a major increase in power. Alongside its Group B successes, the Sport Quattro S1 model won the famous Pikes Peak Hillclimb in 1985 with Mouton at the wheel, and further evolutions would follow until the end of the category one year later.

The final specification, dubbed the Sport Quattro S1 E2, was distinctive with its aggressive aerodynamic parts (wings, spoilers) and produced in excess of 493 horsepower. Walter Rohrl steered Audi to another Pikes Peak success with the car in 1987.


Suspension: MacPherson strut with lower steel/aluminium wishbone on the front and rear

Engine: Audi R5T 20V KW straight 5-cylinder, 4 stroke petrol engine

Transmission: Four-wheel drive, 5 or 6-speed power shifted or manual gearbox, single disk clutch

Power: 450bhp/7500rpm