Petrolicious heads to Thuringia, Germany, to meet Volker Gehrt and his meticulous 1985 Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 replica, a homage to the example driven to victory on the 1985 Sanremo Rally by legend Walter Röhrl
The Audi Quattro S1. Forgive the now clichéd rose-tinted opener, but this hunk of turbocharged brilliance is firmly up there with the Lancia Delta S4 and Peugeot 205 T16 as one of the most legendary machines of rallying’s mental Group B era. Previous drivers to have reigned in its lunacy include Michelle Moutran, Walter Röhrl, Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist, the latter two of which secured back-to-back drivers’ titles in 1983 and 1984 respectively. During its five-year tenure between 1981 and 1986, the Quattro raked in 23 World Rally Championship victories as well as the ’83 Manufacturers’ crown. It was also an utter lunatic to drive, with Röhrl describing the acceleration akin to ‘someone smashing into the rear of your car at 30kph at the red light’. It’s hardly surprising then that the Audi Quattro ’s fandom continues to grow even to this day.
Volker Gehrt though has taken his passion for the Quattro to another level though, the 1985 Audi Sport Quattro S1 E2 that stars in the above Petrolicious video being a perfect, hand-built replica of the real thing. And it all started with a simple die-cast model.
“About 12 years ago,” Volker explains, “I was at a car show with my wife, and we saw a vendor that was selling scale models, so I said to my wife, ‘oh look, there is an S1’. She replied, ‘you know what? Let me get it for you so you can keep it on your desk’
“The model sat on my desk for three years, and from time-to-time I looked at, played with it, thinking to myself how absolutely beautiful the real car was. With time I thought that there must be a way to build the car for real.”
And so began the long process just outside Thuringia in Germany, although a chance encounter with Roland Gumpert – who helped pioneer Audi’s original all-wheel drive system for the rally stages – got the process up and running quickly. Having discussed the possibility of building a replica, the two decided that the most extreme version of Audi’s Quattro S1 would be the muse, the E2 iteration that Röhrl drove to Audi’s first WRC victory, the 1985 Sanremo Rally. Given that Ronald still retained most of his motorsport contacts, sourcing genuine parts proved easier that it may otherwise have been. Every detail is as close to the original – now lost – example as possible, such was the enthusiasm for its build.
One original ‘stock part’ that Volker did not expect was the arrival of Walter Röhrl himself, a la relayed message from Roland. And yes, the ’85 Sanremo Rally winner signed the bodywork:
“I will never forget when he arrived. He stood in front of the car and said, ‘Mr Gehrt, I feel like I am having déjà vu.’ That gave me goose bumps.”
- Cue the shameless plug. You can check out the time we shot a 1986 Audi S1 Quattro in the Middle East HERE