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It’s really hard to get across just what a revolution Audi’s quattro drive system was. In hindsight, it seems so simple and like such an easy solution, but at the time, it was as if Audi set off a literal bomb in the rally paddocks of the world. From this point forward, nothingwould be the same. quattro: The Race and Rally Story: 1980-2004 engagingly written by Jeremy Walton tells the story of when Audi showed up one day and said, “No, this is how you build a rally car.”
One Brilliant Idea
I remember when this happened. At the time, Audi was this kind of obscure German car brand. Part of the Porsche group, gearheads such as myself would notice the “Porsche+Audi” emblazoned on the rockers of Porsche’s fearsome CanAm cars. Indeed, the guy behind the Porsche 917, Ferdinand Piech, was the same half-lunatic behind quattro (all lower case!) and Audi’s decision to go rallying with it.
In a lot of ways, Audi showing up with an all-wheel drive car to rallying was sort of like Jim Hall showing up to a sports car race with a huge inverted wing or Andy Granatelli turning up at Indy with a friggin’ turbine. On the one hand, you’re saying, “Are you kidding me?!” but just as fast, you’re saying, “What a brilliant idea! Why didn’t someone else think of that?”
Getting a Grip
Rallying is, in addition to being highly entertaining to watch and participate in (along with being near suicidal a lot of the time), is about as low grip as a racing genre can get. Rally cars can and will race on tarmac, snow, ice, gravel, rocks, and sand. Sometimes all on the same stage. No matter what, you neverhave enough grip. And up until Ferdinand got his brainwave, it’s as if everybody else in rallying said, “Yeah, ya got no grip. Whataya gonna do?” Sort of like surfers getting wet or rugby players getting muddy, rally people took it as a natural condition of the sport.
This is what Mr. Walton explains and shows us in more than 300 pages, and with more than 300 fantastic photos in his book, quattro: The Race and Rally Story. Walton’s “quattro book” takes us from rally stages to race tracks, from pine-fringed ice trails during a European winter to the shimmering heat and melting asphalt of Texas street racing. There is never a dull moment.
quattro: The Race and Rally Story
The book starts with a little bit of the Audi backstory. About how they used to be Auto Union, with their crazy, V16 twin-supercharged Grand Prix cars (designed by this up-and-coming engineer named Porsche), and the company’s struggles with relevance through the 60s and 70s. That all sets the stage for the meat of this book, which is Audi’s development of its all-wheel drive system. First, they raised the bar in rallies, then later in IMSA racing, and finally brought quattro to circuits.
Throughout all this, Walton’s writing is nice, crisp, and tight. The guy knows what he is talking about, and it shows. This is not Walton’s first go-round, either. It turns out he’s written over 30 books, and this is his fourth book about Audi alone.
Walton’s book is for more than just Audi fans, but for anybody who likes racing, engineering, rally cars, or is just a gearhead in general. It’s filled with stunning photos and informative technical drawings. If you are into cars at all, this one needs to be on your bookshelf. As of this writing, you can grab a hardcover edition of quattro: The Race and Rally Story for about 55 bones on Amazon. It’s worth every penny.
Longtime Automoblog writer Tony Borroz has worked on popular driving games as a content expert, in addition to working for aerospace companies, software giants, and as a movie stuntman. He lives in the northeast corner of the northwestern-most part of the Pacific Northwest.
quattro: The Race and Rally Story Gallery
quattro: The Race and Rally Story Info
Hardcover: 304 pages
Item Weight: 3.7 lbs.
Dimensions: 9.5 x 1 x 11.38 inches
Publisher: Evro Publishing Limited
About The Author
Jeremy Walton is an award-winning author of more than 30 motoring books and one racing-themed novel. All matters Audi are an area of special expertise, and his earlier books about the marque are regarded as benchmark works. He has worked for Motoring News (weekly newspaper) and Motor Sport (monthly magazine) as well as Ford Motor Company’s Competition and Advanced Vehicle Operations. Besides writing, his motoring activities have included TV advertising, automotive consultancy, and race driving in touring cars. He lives in Wiltshire in South West England.