Audi Quattro makes unofficial return to the World Rally Championship

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Audi Sport competes in various racing categories, including GT2, but has not competed in the World Rally Championship (WRC) for years. It’s not planning a comeback either, so a Swedish team is bringing the Quattro name back to the grid with a bespoke, rally-ready evolution of the pocket-sized Audi A1 hatchback.

Swedish pilot Mattias Ekström launched the project on behalf of the EKS JC racing team he recently formed. He started with an A1, a four-door city car that was largely developed for the European market. To prepare it for international rallies, the interior had to be stripped, a full roll cage added and sports seats for the front passengers installed. The pilot faces a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and a screen that provides information about the car and its surroundings, while the door panels are made of carbon fiber. Obviously this is a free build.

Outside, almost every body panel has been redesigned with racing in mind. The front bumper is specific to the rally car, the fenders and side panels are punched and the roof gets an air intake. The white, yellow, red, gray and black livery pays homage to the original Quattro race cars that dominated the rally world in the 1980s. We think the A1 carries this look well, especially since the three vents above the grille are inspired by those of the Quattro Coupé.

The hatchback sounds as mean as it looks thanks to a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine tuned to develop 263 horsepower. It sends power to all four wheels via a sequential five-speed gearbox and, of course, Audi’s proven Quattro four-wheel drive. South Africa-based Rally Technic took part in the development.

Building a rally car from scratch is a huge undertaking and the A1 Quattro is not quite ready for its competitive debut. It still needs to be adjusted, first on snow, then on gravel and finally on asphalt. Emil Bergkvist, a 26-year-old Swedish driver who is a former FIA Junior WRC Champion, has been selected as the car’s development driver.

When fully dialed in, the Ekström A1 is eligible to compete in the WRC2 and WRC3 classes, which are support categories where emerging young drivers can gain experience before progressing to the top class in WRC. It complies with FIA standards, so it can be introduced at other events as well. It will start racing in 2021.

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