1985 Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 Group B
- Audi Sport Works test car for Rally Finland in 1985
- Raced by World Rally Champion Hannu Mikkola to victory in the 1985 Mantta 200 Rally
- Used by Audi Sport for testing and promotional purposes
- Has formed part of two Finnish World Rally Champions’ collections: Hannu Mikkola and Juha Kankkunen
- The most iconic World Rally car of all time, Powered by Audi’s formidable 550 bhp, turbo charged, 2,121cc, five-cylinder engine
The Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2
For many, the car that best embodies the sheer lunacy of Group B rallying is the Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2, the bewinged, flame-belching, 550HP snow plough which struck equal measures awe and fear into the steely drivers who strapped in and, for want of a better phrase, held on.
Audi didn’t just vanquish the opposition with its four-wheel-drive Quattro – it ripped the rulebook to shreds and heralded a new era for the sport of rallying. “This is the car we’ve forgotten to build,” remarked Lancia’s motorsport head honcho Cesare Fiorio when he first witnessed the Quattro in action, prompting him to initiate development of the Delta S4 as a result. He wasn’t alone in his sentiments – everybody was forced to play catch-up.
In a bid to remain firmly at the front, Audi’s engineers – working under the secret directions of Ferdinand Piech – began work on the more extreme Sport Quattro ahead of the 1984 season. Nicknamed ‘Shorty’ thanks to its significantly shorter wheelbase (320mm!), the purpose-built Sport Quattro boasted a featherlight carbon-Kevlar bodyshell and an all-aluminium five-cylinder engine producing a punchy 450HP.
“Bends which are actually nice and good and harmless suddenly loom up to terrify you out of your mind,” commented Walter Röhrl’s co-driver Christian Geistdörfer of the Sport Quattro S1, telling of the new car’s devastating pace. “You just don’t recognise them anymore, they’ve become so mean and nasty.” Yikes.
Such was the rate at which Peugeot and Lancia had caught up with Audi, another even more extreme variant of the Sport Quattro was introduced in August of 1985: the E2. All bells and whistles – has there ever been a car more worthy of being described as such? The S1 E2’s aggressive aerodynamic makeover was predominantly to reduce lift over jumps, although that huge rear wing also serves to cool an assortment of radiators, which had been moved into the boot to improve weight distribution.
The weight was reduced further (after a little development, the E2 tipped the scales at just 1,100kg) and, you guessed it, power was upped once again. With a dizzying 550HP now on tap, the E2 both accelerated and sounded as bonkers as it appeared. “Like a big bang,” is how Walter Röhrl described the thrust with which the E2 launched from a standstill.
Just 20 were built for use by the Works, but while they showed great promise, the writing was already on the wall for Group B. Crucially, it’s believed that as few as 15 of these Group B legends remain in existence today.
The German author Herbert Volker sums up the appeal, mystique and sheer audacity of the Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 in his definitive book on the model. “Developed to an extreme, this car simply had to get to your heart one way or another – and it did,” he says. “In its greatest moments it even took a chosen few to the very limits of unprecedented physical extremes and unknown excitement; but often enough it also gave them the feeling that they had sold their soul to the devil.”
This Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2
This Sport Quattro S1 E2, which was internally codenamed RE 09, was the ninth of just 20 cars produced by Audi in 1985 and ’86. It was registered by the Works in Ingolstadt on 30 July 1985 and assigned with plates bearing the number ‘IN-NY 31’.
RE 09’s first and only competitive outing came just 11 days later, when the 1983 World Rally Champion Hannu Mikkola drove it in the Mantta 200 Rally in Finland. The low-key national event was frequently used as a dress rehearsal for the 1000 Lakes Rally, as was the case here. Mikkola immediately bonded with the mighty Quattro – which was painted white – and proceeded to win outright.
Equally significant was the fact that Mikkola and Arne Hertz then used RE 09 – still in its blank white livery, as the regulations dictated – as their recce car for the 1000 Lakes Rally, capitalising on their first-hand experience with the car in order to nail their pace notes for the notoriously difficult special stages.
While RE 09 was subsequently used by Audi Sport’s factory drivers for rigidity tests, it never saw combat again. Instead, the car was dressed in the Works’ HB Cigarettes-sponsored livery and used by Audi for promotional purposes.
It wasn’t until 1988 that Audi parted with RE 09, selling the car to David Sutton Motorsport UK, which, incidentally, was Audi’s chosen Works-backed outfit in the UK. The Quattro remained in the expert care of David Sutton until 1994, when it was bought by none other than Hannu Mikkola, its former pilot.
In 1996, Mikkola kindly lent RE 09 to his fellow Finn and four-times World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen, who’d opened a private car museum in Laukaa. Seven years later, reportedly after much persuasion, Mikkola agreed to sell the car to Kankkunen. And it remained in his impressive museum, leaving only for the odd demonstration event in Finland, until December 2020, when we negotiated its sale to its current fiercely passionate owner.
RE 09’s fleeting period competition career has resulted in a car that, today, is widely considered to be among the most original Quattro S1 E2 in existence, retaining its original body panels and stickers. During its time in the possession of its second World Rally Champion owner, the car was expertly maintained and serviced by Kari Makela of Makela Auto Tuning in Finland.
We can’t wait to see this beautifully brutal Group B beast at many events in the future. The most iconic rally car of all time? We wouldn’t bet against it.
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