Audi under cover: the top secret Group S prototype
There’s no doubt that Audi’s quattro technology changed the face of rallying in the 1980s, however the brand also struggled to stay ahead despite the advantages on loose surfaces. Mid-engine rivals such as the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 and Lancia’s Delta S4 were a serious threat; the problem with the quattro technology was that the five-cylinder up-front engines were a lot more susceptible to understeer than the mid-mounted engines of the competition. But Audi had a little something extra up their sleeves.
Developed in complete secret, and kept even from the top Audi bosses, the Audi Group S Prototype offered a mind-boggling 1000bhp from its mid-mounted engine and promised to knock the competition out of the park. The entire thing was so secretive that the engineers even moved the project from Ingolstadt to a facility in Desna in the Czech Republic. The prototypes were shipped in anonymous containers and testing was even moved to public roads for one drive because photographers had heard about the pre-booked track.
Walter Röhrl, the driver on the road test, was, not surprisingly, stopped by the police, and he agreed to demonstrate a full race start if they didn’t take any pictures. Photos did eventually leak out however, and that spelled the end for this racing wonder; once the Audi bosses saw the photos, they demanded that all prototypes were destroyed in front of them.
The only car that survived was an off-the-books prototype that then remained hidden until this year’s Eifel Rallye Festival, where it completed a few runs with Walter Röhrl, behind the wheel.
This truly one-of-a-kind machine is the foundation of powerhouse cars such as the Audi R8 and TT RS, both of which are available from the incredible range at Jardine Motors Audi.