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Audi Sport Quattro on Pikes Peak: The 156 hottest corners

Reinhard Schmid
Audi Sport Quattro at Pikes Peak
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The red needle in the tour counter vibrates towards the 4,000 mark. Then that thrust sets in that is typical of old-style turbo engines - breathtaking, brutal and elemental. The Audi Sport Quattro gets down to business vehemently; In the tight, unpaved curves up to Pikes Peak, stones splash up. The stern waggles like a startled alligator, and in the rearview mirror the minibus just passed disappears in the blink of an eye, its occupants staring after the wild four-wheel drive.

Audi triple: 1985-87 victories in a row

We are on our way to Pikes Peak, one of the highest mountains in the USA. An extremely tough hill climb has been held there every year since 1916. In the mid-eighties, sophisticated rally cars from what was then Group B came from Europe to the 'Pikes Peak International Hill Climb'. Audi dominated the action three times: in 1985 Michèle Mouton won, in 1986 Bobby Unser repeated the victory. And in 1987 Walter Röhrl triumphed in a 600 hp, 1,000 kilogram light Sport Quattro S1 with a short wheelbase and huge wings.

The Bavarian drove the route eight times in a rental car and dictated the 'prayer book' to his wife. On race day, within ten minutes, 47 seconds and 85 hundredths of a second, he whizzed past the abyss to the summit 19.9 kilometers away - with top speeds of over 200 km /h. 'If you get too far outside, you simply fall from the edge, 500 meters deep,' he remembers in his book 'Aufschrift': 'Many curves lead over elongated humps, I didn't see the curve exit, only the sky. Like a trip into the blue. '

Only a dozen Audi Sport Quattros in America

In the following year, Audi was no longer there, and Peugeot became a huge winner. The New Zealander Rod Millen held the track record from 1994 with an all-wheel drive Toyota Celica with 850 hp. In addition, every year over 100 motorcycles, 50 racing cars and a handful of trucks start their race against the clock - cheered on by 4,000 to 5,000 visitors. In 2007 and 2008, Nobushiro Tajama's magical ten minutes on a 1,000 hp Suzuki SUV were almost undercut. He wants to try again on July 19, 2009. Race organizer Bob Gillies hopes that European rally cars will come to Colorado again in the future - he would establish a class of their own for them.

Audi has been considered to have been since the record drives in the USA in the 1980sparticularly sporty brand. Only a dozen civilian Sport Quattro came into the country at that time, the majority of the 220 units stayed in Europe. Our car comes from the first series from 1984. In Germany it cost 195,000, later even 203,500 marks. We're moving one of those rare US exports, in traditional red with white 15-cup rims and semi-slicks. On the four unpaved sections of the 22-kilometer runway, they struggle to convert the five-cylinder's 306 turbo hp into traction. The mountain top is reached quickly.

Rangers check the temperature of the brake discs

At the same time, the rail bus arrives that had started an hour and a half earlier in Manitou Springs. The passengers torment their way out, breathing hard, the air is very thin up here. A clever businessman offers cans of oxygen. Strengthened this way, the impressive panorama of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains can be enjoyed much better. When we go down, we take it easy - especially because of the brake test station. Because halfway there is a man in uniform who measures the temperature on the steel discs - if they are too hot, you have to pause. You used to check with your thumb, laughs Ranger Steve, who as a young man showed Peugeot driver Ari Vatanen the runway. Then suddenly an angry colleague is on the spot: there have been complaints about our hasty cornering, he has to take us to the sheriff. It's got style, it goes through my head, after all, speed driver Michèle Mouton also had to go to the police station 20 years ago.

But it all turns out well when we promise, the journey 'very, very slowly '. Correspondingly well-behaved, we roll to the destinations in the surrounding area. There is the Garden of the Gods, a wild rock landscape with strikingly shaped stones. Right around the corner we go to Manitou Springs, where an ancient Indian settlement has been rebuilt in miniature format.

Operating instructions warn: 'The Quattro is not an all-terrain vehicle' - we know better

There is next door There is also an abandoned gold mine (Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine): This is where the valuable metal was mined around 1890 - and often enough liquefied in nasty taverns. Colorado Springs, the cozy town at the foot of Pikes Peak, is also worth a longer stay. We experience the annual large Farmer's Breakfast under the open sky at half past five. Then we complete a gravel road that is incorrectly noted on the map. We would never have expected it from the oldie, but we can no longer afford a detour. 'The Quattro is not an off-road vehicle,' warns the owner's manual, 'its ground clearance is too low for that.' But the aged car is doing well. After all, we had almost 400 miles behind us when the racer was loaded. Hopefully they'll let him out into the fresh air soon. Best up to Pikes Peak.


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