RAC­ING LEGENDS

Audi 90 quat­tro IMSA GTO

Top Gear (UK) - - DATA - WORDS: JA­SON BAR­LOW

When Trans-Am banned 4WD just af­ter the Audi 200 won the 1988 sea­son, Audi switched to the IMSA se­ries and set about creat­ing an all-new tubu­lar steel space­frame, clothed in a body that re­sem­bled the 90 quat­tro but only if you’d con­sumed your body weight in strong liquor. We like the fact that it efec­tively shoe­horned the giz­zards of the highly successful world rally car – and Wal­ter Röhrl’s Pikes Peak ’87 record-set­ting mon­ster – into a sil­hou­ette track car. Re­mem­ber, then, Audi was still some­thing of a niche con­cern, for whom the en­durance rac­ing and Le Manss­lay­ing dream was still a decade or more away.

The 20v, 5cyl 2.2-litre had a mas­sive KKK turbo bolted onto it, and now made about 720bhp. Most of the en­gine was sited ahead of the front axle. The ex­haust ex­ited, in hugely un­sub­tle fash­ion, through what would have been the pas­sen­ger door on the road car; the only thing car­ried over from the re­al­world 90 was its roof. Var­i­ous car­bon com­pos­ites were used in the body, and a lot of wind tun­nel efort was ex­pended on the air dam and large rear wing. The sus­pen­sion used double wish­bones and coil springs, with ven­ti­lated discs all round.

Audi of Amer­ica ran the IMSA cam­paign it­self. With the Trans-Am champ Hur­ley Haywood re­tained, along­side the mighty Hans-Joachim Stuck, the team won seven of the se­ries’ 13 races, but was beaten to the punch by the Mer­cury Cougars be­ing run by Roush Rac­ing.

Elect­ing to miss both that year’s Day­tona and Se­bring races, as the car was still be­ing tweaked, the mad Audi de­buted in Miami, where gear­box prob­lems dis­tracted from its pace, a glitch swiftly over­come. Stuck and Haywood scored a one-two at Sum­mit Point; in May 1989, Stuck won again in Mid-Ohio, then again in Topeka, at Sears Point, at Watkins Glen, Lime Rock, and at La­guna Seca. He fnished third over­all, while Audi was run­ner-up in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship. If they’d raced at Day­tona and Se­bring, they’d have won both.

De­spite this strong show­ing, Audi’s Ger­man bosses pre­ferred to fo­cus its mo­tor­sport eforts on the do­mes­tic DTM se­ries, pulling the plug on the US ex­ploits af­ter just one glo­ri­ous sea­son. This brevity is an­other rea­son the 90 quat­tro lingers long in the mem­ory. “When we came to the States with this car,” Stuck re­mem­bered 20-odd years later, “no­body can be­lieve what we can achieve… small en­gine, fve cylin­der, it’s a Ger­man sa­loon car! We could use a later brak­ing point, and prac­ti­cally any line we wanted. When I crossed the fnish line, I started yo­delling!”

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