1985 Paris-Dakar Quattro
Among endurance rallies, the historic Paris-Dakar rally holds a strong name. The contestants starts off the new year in Paris, travel across the Sahara, and turn into West-Africa, with the majority of entrants being privateers racing their motor bikes, cars and utility vehicles. No wonder such diversity drew an incredible 80 000 spectators to the Paris start in Eiffel surroundings.
Back in the year of 1985 – when even Porsche went under the radar with their surfacing 959s under the ‘Jacky Ickx racing team’ entry – Audi was more officially involved, as Concessionaires VAG (VAG France) entered three former works Quattros into the run; No. 199, 200 and 201. These were raced by Darniche & Mahé, Lapeyre & Lourseau, Rigal & Dery respectively.
At the time group B was at its full rage with the short Quattro, making any long wheelbase Quattro considered “obsolete” and more or less destined for the privateering market. This was also the case for the scrambled Paris-Dakar entries, although one of the Quattros was already revised into newer Group B specifications as it had competed with Bernard Darniche in French rounds throughout the 1984 season.
Fred Stalder of ROC in France were given the task to prepare the cars, a company of which should be familiar to anyone gawking at light weight body parts found on the A4 Supertourers, or knowing their ways with French high grade Audi racers of the 80s and early 90s. Keeping with the long wheelbase was perfect due the focus on high speeds over agility, but some adaptions took place as a unique creation by ROC.
Seating were elevated for improved visibility, giving the cars a rather noticeable roof silhouette with an extended C-pillar and a massive air-duct. On the right hand side, a shortened side window made room for a panel with a fuel-filler cap, to feed fuel into the capacity increased 340 litres split by three tanks.
As with any rallying Quattro, the far-forward centric engines and intercoolers were a concern, so proper skid plates and cow-bar extensions – alike a loose translation of Safari Quattros – were fitted as a preventive measure. The bonnets featured hot air extract routing to the sides, and the front were made “snub nosed” alike the Group B Sport Quattro, reducing the front bumper to a minimum.
Mechanically, they featured newer Quattro A1/Quattro A2 style components, which is reasonably to see as evolved features accompaying the sourced cars. The 10V engines were claimed at “lesser” 330 hp by running 1.2 BAR boost, managed by the usual works dual (for backup) style Bosch motorsport Motronic ECUs. Such setups also contains a manual boost regulator, alike certain Porsches. I wonder if more conventional cast-iron blocks could have been used (together with the reduced boost level) for durability, as more recent setups from Lehmann were in the 420-450 hp range at the time – but these are only my own speculations.
Where the innovative 959s stole the press’ early attention, their issues combined with the ever-shifting top of contenders, took some of the focus over to the French Quattros. Even Darniche was in first position after the prologue. Rallying a Quattro by occupation had left him as the mentor of familiarizing the other members on the handling characteristics, even with a test outing in Algerie. Skills and experiences aside though, not unlike other works engagements for the Quattro, also the African campaigners encountered transmission issues.
At the end of the rally, the results were a 17th position to Lapeyre/Lourseau, and a 37th to Rigal/Dery. The promising efforts of Darniche sadly ended, first halted by a gearbox issue, as his Quattro later caught fire and fell victim to the desert. The remaining two Quattros were taken back to France, and some entries in ice-circuit racing took place in Chamonix. Since then, their whereabouts remain a mystery.