Before the days of Audi domination in Sportscars, the German manufacture had a similar dominance in Touring car racings, otherwise known as ‘tin-tops’.
Some of Audi’s greatest successes were in the Supertouring era of the 80s and 90’s. Supertouring was a 2 litre based European Touring car Formulae which most national championships followed.
However, Audi had previously taken part in touring car racing. In 1980, Audi UK fielded a couple of Audi 80’s for Stiring Moss and Martin Brundle, four years before he entered Formula 1.
Move forward a few years…. Audi has fantastic successes in the Trans-Am series with a wide bodied Audi 200 and in the IMSA ‘GTO’ championship with the wide bodied ‘B3’90 racecar. It was no surprise to see Audi Rally style liveries on these race cars given their then-recent dominance in World Rallying.
Audi were unable to win the championship, partly due to their decision to skip the long distance races. The German manufacture retreated back home to the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) championship with their new Audi V8 quattro.
Back in the 90’s DTM cars were Group-A based tin-tops, unlike their modern day carbon fibre missiles. They won the 1990 championship with Hans Stuck (above)….
… and Frank Biela in 1991. Stuck, piuctured above. The first year, the new Red and Silver livery appeared. All was not well. ADAC had announced new rules based on FIA’s Class1 regulations for the 1993 Championship. Audi, along with BMW were not in agreement, and departed.
Meanwhile, the French importer of VAG products was already racing in the 1990 French Supertursime championship, taking the title with driver, Xavier Lapeyre. They look like mini-IMSA GTO’s!
A new set of regulations were introduced by the FFSA in 1992. A new, lower-cost 2 litre formula, which would become the basis for the ‘Supertouring’ formula used around the world. Ironically, the series would later change to a silhouette formula just as Supertouring was taking off in the rest of Europe.
With increased support, Audi France entered new Audi 80 quattro’s and took the title again in 1992 with Mark Sourd….
and in 1993 when Frank Biela won the title. Biela, the only non-French driver to win the championship.
The 80 quattro was also entered into other National series. Success followed with a championship in Italy in 1994 for Emanuele Pirro.
Audi also competed in the new German ‘STW’ championship, for Super touring cars.
1995 saw the introduction of the new Audi A4 and with this, Audi Sport ramped up their programme across Europe.
The new A4 was much lower, with the tyres squeezed inside the flared wheelarches. Audi Sport Italia continued in their national with the new A4 taking another title. For a short period, a Touring Car World Cup took place. Biela won this event in his Audi A4 quattro, beating the best in the world.
In 1996, Audi entered into the British Touring Car Championship, one of the most successful in Europe. Two A4 quattros under the Audi Sport UK banner were entered for Frank Biela and British racer, John Bintcliffe. Audi had stiff completion from works BMW, Vauxhall, Ford and Renault teams.
Audi Sport UK would dominate the series, thanks to their four wheel drive A4 quattro. The extra traction gave them more grip, in the dry, on the wet and on the grass!
Audi won the first four races easily, before ToCA introduced a weight penalty to off-set the quattro advantage.
Biela took the championship with ease, beating Alain Menu by almost 100 points.
Audi also won Tin-top championships around the world. National titles in Australia, Germany (above), Belgium, Sweden, Spain and Africa, although a hat-trick of Italian championships eluded them.
The following year should have been a repeat of the previous year, but Alain Menu beat Biela to the title. Biela had a number of retirements during the year and returned to Audi competition in Germany the following year.
Biela was replaced by Yvan Muller. A relative unknown to the BTCC crowd, Muller had previously won the British Formula 2 championship and had been racing the A4 quattro in the German STW series. Muller continues to win Championships in Volkswagen group Product today with SEAT in the WTCC.
Muller and Bintcliffe’s task was made harder now that the Quattro four wheel drive system had been outlawed (notice ‘quattro’ crossed out on the windscreen strip!). It was a tough season with no wins. Muller was 6th and Bintcliffe down in 15th.
Audi Germany made sure the buying public knew their quattro system was outlawed and thus, they were compromised with this cool advertisement.
Audi left the BTCC at the end of the seaso, but remained in other National series, before re-grouping ready to re-enter the DTM (and sportscars) a number of years later with customer team Abt Sportsline. These were no longer tin-tops.
Tomorrow we will take a look at one of Volkswagen’s latest tin-top Championship winning weapons, the SEAT Leon S2000 racecar.
– Andy Blackmore
Images: Audi, Peter Still Photographic/BTCC, Pirro.com