I have fond memories of freezing half to death in Welsh forests in the mid-’80s, getting covered in mud and gravel as the fire-spitting Group B cars powered past. Thirty year later, now an auto journalist, I’ve had the opportunities to play with some of the cars I had posters of in my bedroom and meet the men (and one woman) who drove them. Nothing though could prepare me for the mental dissonance and excitement as the trailer I just happened to be standing next to opened to reveal… this.
Seeing a classic car driven for the very first time is a pretty unique experience, especially a prototype for a class of rallying that never ran (the evolution of the legendary Group B cars, no less), and a few years ago at the Eifel Rallye Festival I had the chance to see just that.
Audi had pulled out of rallying after Portugal in 1986 citing safety concerns in regards to both the cars and spectator control, but the rumor was that it also had a lot to do with the S2’s competitiveness against its new mid-engined rivals. With the domination of Peugeot’s 205 T16, Lancia’s S4, plus the impression that the Ford RS200 made in the three rallies it did, it was obvious that a mid-engine configuration was what was needed, and the Group S rules—mooted for 1987—would have allowed that, with possibly less than just twenty cars needing to be made for homologation.
However, the director of the VW group, Dr. Carl Hahn, thought that attempting a similar concept would have been an admission that their front-engined road cars were less than optimal, and that would have had a detrimental effect on Audi’s public perception. Apparently.