words: Bill, photos: RM Sotheby’s
Whoa…this could be the Find of the Year. This is a legit Audi Sport 80 quattro rally car. It is thought to be one of just four Works 80 quattros built. Originally a Group B car, it was converted to Safari-spec…even cooler. Here’s the ad:
- Known history from new, first registered in 1983 by VAG UK in Milton Keynes
- Thought to be one of just four Works Audi 80 quattros built at Ingolstadt
- Originally built by Audi Sport Germany
- Fielded by Audi Sport UK and David Sutton Motorsport in the 1983 British Open Rally Championship in Group B
- Converted by Audi Sport in 1984 to “Safari-spec”, and entered in the 1984 WRC Safari Rally, where it finished 1st in class, and 10th overall in Group A
- Fielded in the 1985 WRC Safari Rally, where it retired whilst leading its class
- Purchased by the consignor in 2014; restored to an extremely high standard from 2015 to 2016
- Participated at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2017 and 2018, as well as Speed Machine in 2019
- Highly eligible for historic rally events including the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Rally Legends, and Slowly Sideways
- Accompanied by an impressive history file including FIA homologation papers and period photos, 1990 RAC Rally Pass, and restoration invoices
Announced in September 1978, the redesigned Audi 80 saloon began to reach European customers by October of that year. Based on the Volkswagen B2 platform, the body was penned by legendary automotive designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, who had previously designed cars such as the Alfa Romeo Alfasud, the De Tomaso Mangusta, and the Lotus Esprit. As part of a concerted effort to move upmarket, Audi intended for the 80 to compete directly with the BMW 3 Series in the compact executive saloon class.
Soon after the launch, Audi’s motorsport engineers turned their attention to the 80 platform, with a view to increasing performance and handling in order to participate in competition. Having already released the mesmerising four-wheel-drive Audi quattro B2—the all-conquering “Ur-quattro”, which shared the body shell and multiple components from the Coupé version of the Audi 80— the 80 line up became the first to receive Audi’s innovative four-wheel-drive technology. In 1983, Audi offered the 80 saloon in quattro specification, the top-of-the-range model further embellished by twin headlamps, a front spoiler with integrated fog lamps, a body-coloured rear spoiler, “quattro” script on the boot lid, and a twin-pipe exhaust.
On 2 March 1983, Audi Sport UK, in partnership with David Sutton Motorsport of Acton, London, announced that the Audi quattro and Audi 80 quattro would be entered in all rounds of the 1983 British Open Rally Championship. A copy of this press release is on file, with an image depicting three quattros and one quattro 80. The car offered here, chassis number 85DA126497, is the very example pictured in this 1983 Audi Sport press release.
Manufactured at the beginning of 1983, chassis 85DA126497 was assembled at Audi’s Ingolstadt factory with the assistance of David Sutton Motorsport. It should be noted, that as an Audi Sport Works car, Matter-built bodies with significant reinforcements over a standard shell were supplied. In addition to the specialist body, the car featured a four-cylinder, 2.1-litre Group A quattro engine, further to suspension and other mechanical components—specifically made for Works cars—designated as Group B parts. The use of both Group A and B mechanicals resulted in the accompanying homologation papers classifying this example as “Group A/B”. The vehicle was purchased new by VAG UK of Milton Keynes, and first registered in early 1983 by Sutton Motorsport with the Isle of Man registration number “VMN 44”.
Shortly after its arrival in the United Kingdom, VMN 44 was entered into the Mintex International Rally in York, England. Numbered “6” and driven by Harald Demuth and Mike Greasley, the Audi 80 quattro performed well on its debut, finishing 5th overall and 4th in class B. Two months later, on 1 April 1983, the Audi made its way across the Irish sea to race at the Rothmans Circuit of Ireland. Driven again by Demuth and Greasley, the pair worked their way up from 10th to 6th overall by the fourth leg of the five-day rally. Unfortunately, towards the end of the fourth leg, at 27 km, the pair crashed at Taylors Hill, resulting in an early retirement.
Repaired after the incident in Ireland, the 80 quattro returned to Great Britain, ahead of being entered in the Castrol International Welsh Rally from 6 to 8 May 1983, racing at Builth & Llandrindod Wells on gravel and asphalt surfaces. Wearing number “15”, this Audi featured a revised driver line up, with Darryl Weidner replacing Demuth, sitting alongside Greasley. The duo fared well over the three days, moving up the table from 19th to 11th overall, finishing 5th in Group B. Demuth returned as the main driver for the Ulster Rally on 29 July 1983 for what would be the penultimate outing in of the year, though he and co-driver Arwed Fischer were unable to continue the Audi’s run of form, with an engine failure resulting in early retirement. The car was later registered in the United Kingdom by VAG UK, being issued with the registration number “A180 UNH” on 14 October 1983.
The final rally of 1983 was at the Audi Sport National Rally in Aberystwyth, Wales, on 15 October, an event that highlighted the competitive nature of the 80 quattro. Piloted by Francis Tuthill and Roger Freeman, the pair stormed their way up the rankings, charging from 25th in the first stage to 13th overall, ultimately finishing 1st in Class 3. Digitised period footage from the 1983 season can be found on file.
For 1984, the story of this rare Audi 80 quattro takes an interesting turn. Prepared either by Sutton Motorsport or Audi Sport Germany, the car was converted to “Safari-spec”, before entered in the 1984 Safari Rally. Piloted by Basil Critcos, alongside co-driver John Rose, the Audi was campaigned wearing the Kenyan registration plate “KWD 473”. After leasing the car from VAG UK, Critcos became the second owner of the 80 quattro. He received factory support from Audi while he raced in Kenya, as it was an official Audi Sport entry.
This Audi made its African debut in Nairobi, Kenya at the 1984 Marlboro Safari Rally on 19 April. Assigned race number “28”, Critcos and Rose campaigned hard in the only Audi 80 in a competitive class. After five intense days, the duo’s hard work and determination had paid off, with the car coming home 10th overall and 1st in the A8 class. Relative to its peers, the 80 quattro proved a hardy and consistent competitor, finishing 13 places ahead of the vehicle that finished 2nd in the A8 class.
Disappointingly, the duo’s success wasn’t to be repeated, with an abortive attempt at the 1985 Safari Rally resulting in early retirement. After the dust had settled, Critcos sent the Audi from Kenya back to the Audi UK to be re-prepared by Paul Ridgeway, a mechanic recommended to Critcos, used by both Audi UK and Sutton Motorsport. On 13 February 1986, Ridgeway registered the car in his name. He kept the Audi for three years, before it was bought by Chris Collins with the intention of contesting the 1989 Mintex Rally, as he had crashed his car in previous event. Following the rally, Collins sold the car to its fourth owner, Roy Gillingham of PIM Racing, on 26 May 1989. While uncovering the history of this vehicle, the current owner met Collins, who stated that the car performed exceptionally well in rough and slippery rally stages.
Gillingham’s first event in the 80 quattro was at the 1989 Shell Oils Cumbria Rally on 2 September 1989, which he entered with co-driver Stuart Larbey. Starting in 56th place, the duo climbed up the rankings over 120 km of loose surface stages to finish 48th overall, and 9th in the A8 Class. The car’s next outing was at the 1989 Lombard RAC Rally in Nottingham, England. Starting on 19 November, the punishing five-leg rally covered a total distance of 3,082 km. Gillingham and Larbey began the race in 52nd position, finishing 45th overall, and 20th in the A8 Class.
Following the end of the 1989 season, Gillingham decided to update the car by removing front and rear sections, replacing them with updated Audi 90 panels while the rest of the exterior was painted in white with red, grey and black. After completion, Gillingham registered the Audi with the RAC Motor Sports Association and applied for a Rally Special Stage Vehicle Log Book, which is included in the history file. Issued on 24 January 1990, this car was officially recognised as an Audi 90 quattro and entered its first and final event of that year—the 115 km Mazda Winter Rally. Numbered “57”, Gillingham and Stuart finished 26th overall, and 13th in their class. After the rally, Gillingham decided to field another one of his vehicles in future events, and placed the 80 quattro into long-term storage.
In 2014, while at a track day event, the current owner was informed of an ex-Works Audi 80 quattro that had remained in storage for 25 years. At the time it was thought that no ex-Works cars remained in the public sphere, but the soon-to-be owner went down to inspect Gillingham’s car and discovered that it in fact was a long-lost ex-Works Audi 80 quattro. Passionate about rally cars, he decided to purchase this rare Audi, knowing nothing about its past, but understanding that this vehicle was equipped with a significant number of rare Audi Sport Group A/B components found only on ex-Works vehicles. Discovering an example that retained so many of its Works components is highly unusual due to their rarity and value. So, Gillingham set about saving a piece of British motorsport history. The owner carried out extensive research of this ex-Works car over several years, discovering that it had in fact competed in both the 1984 and 1985 Safari Rally, as well as being the ex-Audi Sport UK and Sutton Motorsport Works car. Details of this storied history are documented in the accompanying file, with fascinating correspondence between the owner and previous drivers and historians. With its provenance confirmed, the owner sent this Audi to marque specialist AM Cars, in Ilminster, Somerset, which in 2015 began a full restoration with the aim of preserving the originality of the car and retaining the all-important Audi Works components with which it was originally equipped.
AM Cars began by stripping the car back to a bare shell, which was then steam-cleaned before being soda-blasted and thoroughly coated with zinc primer. Following this process, the owner set about returning the quattro back to its original Audi 80 specification. He purchased two standard donor Audi 80s, before removing the Audi 90 front and rear ends that this car wore, so to reverse the conversion work that Gillingham had done back in 1990. In addition to this work, AM Cars carried out welding and rust repairs to the shell, which had suffered after siting dormant in a barn for two decades. Invoices on file show that over £5,000 was spent to ensure the structural integrity of the car. Following completion of the repairs, AM Cars painted the 80 quattro in its original white colour, finishing the colour scheme in the period Audi Works livery that the car wore from 1983 to 1985.
In addition to the structural and cosmetic work, all mechanical components were either refurbished or replaced as part of this thorough restoration. With the old fuel cell needing replacement, a one-off copy was fabricated by ATL Ltd of Milton Keynes at a cost of £1,641. The brake callipers and master cylinder were refurbished by Questmead Ltd of Rochdale, totalling £886. Both subframes were powder coated and suspension rubbers were replaced, while the rare Audi Works parts—including the shock absorbers, uprights, wishbones, anti-roll bars—were rebuilt by Cornering Force Ltd, of Harrogate. The Works engine, meanwhile, was rebuilt by AM Cars, invoices on file highlighting how the bores were honed, with the camshaft, bearings, piston rings, and various other components replaced in order to breathe new life into the 2.1-litre quattro engine.
Following an exhaustive 12-month restoration—the total cost of which is estimated by the current owner to be at least £50,000—the Audi made its return to the special stage, taking part in a number of historic motorsport events including the 2017 and 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed, and Speed Machine in 2019.
This remarkable survivor presents a wonderfully rare opportunity to acquire an ex-Works Audi 80 quattro that competed during the heyday of British rallying. Not only was this highly competitive 80 quattro campaigned as an Audi-backed Works car, but it also raced twice in the Safari Rally, before returning to the UK to continue its competition career. Thought lost for 25 years, this important piece of Audi Motorsport history has enjoyed a thorough restoration, finished to a high standard and retaining all of the rare and desirable Audi Works components that make it such a unique vehicle. It must be noted that other than the engine, all the mechanical parts found on this example are Audi Sport Group B components.
Immaculately finished in white complemented by Audi’s eye-catching 1980s livery, this presents an unmissable opportunity to own a bona fide ex-Works 80 quattro that is highly eligible to compete in historic Group A/B rallying, and a golden ticket to events such as the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Rally Legends and Slowly Sideways.
Something about seeing a quad of lights on the front of an Audi just stirs emotions but add another pair? Group B may be more well known of the rallies but the safari circuit is equally as cool. This 80 competed in both. It has documentation out of this world . Lost for 25 years, it was put through an extensive restoration. Offered at £150,000 ($180,828), it seems to me to be a bargain especially after upwards of £50,000 worth of restoration. After all, there aren’t too many Works cars out there in private hands. If you want this one in your hands, you can find it on the RM Sotheby’s site HERE.