words: Tim Enders, photos: Si Gray
With that one word early on in the 2008 documentary film “Truth in 24,” the world was introduced to race engineer Howden Haynes, one of the men behind the scenes of much of Audi’s domination in endurance racing with their legendary Le Mans prototype cars.
When we first see him on screen, Howden, better known as “H” to his friends, is obsessively clicking a stopwatch over and over, clipboard in hand. He carefully logs times, recording his team’s methodical rehearsal of the most miniscule elements of the pit stop process or repairing a top-flight LMP1 prototype race car for 24 hours.
Haynes was, before departing from Audi, the chief race engineer for Audi Sport Team Joest’s most-winning driver team of Kristensen, Capello and McNish. In as much, H was kind of ombudsman, a do-some-of-everything combination of coach, mentor, director, head technician, and human computer. A chief engineer needs to be able to tell the drivers what to do at one second, give direction to the pit crews and plan strategies the next, and read and interpret streams of raw data like a machine for hours on end. In a 24-hour race, drivers may find time to sleep… not so the chief engineer.
To be successful at the top of the field requires the most particular attention to even the tiniest details, and Howden Haynes was very, very good at his job. All told, he guided his teams to multiple victories at the 24 Hours of LeMans, the 12 Hours of Sebring, and was part of more than a hundred races in total over his career.
Howden is a bit of a fixture when it comes to Audi, so when we heard that he had picked up a Sport quattro replica for his new daily driver and pet project car, we knew that it would turn out to be something very, very special indeed. You see, though Haynes departed Audi Sport several years ago and is now managing one of the largest private car collections in the world, he’s still very much a race engineer at heart and the Four Rings are still his brand of choice. When we asked him what he’s been up to since leaving Audi Sport, while he mentioned the team of technicians that he manages. He mentioned the huge collection of incredible cars that they maintain, restore, and modify. Beyond all that though, he was most excited to tell us about the ex-Veloqx R8 LMP900 race car that’s part of that collection, and how he finally got to drive it himself after coaching others who piloted them in races for all of those years. He also bemoaned the fact that Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello weren’t there to be part of the role reversal.
The car that Haynes bought, though it looks like a Sport quattro, is actually a replica. It’s a conversion from a 1986 Coupe quattro donor – equivalent to an American Coupe GT, but with quattro… only in this case, carefully kitted out to look like one of the limited production, hand built Gruppe B homologation Sport quattros.
So why this car? Why would a race engineer who spent his career elbows deep in the most technologically advanced race cars on the planet buy a 32-year old highly modified Coupe quattro for his personal car?
Haynes had always loved the ur-quattro, and more importantly, the sound of the 5-cylinder turbo engine. He had wanted a personal project for a while, and in fact had purchased a red 1984 Ur-quattro with a few bonus extras, including a Heuer Audi Sport watch, a Certina quattro watch, and various other accessories. At some point during the process, though, he came to a realization – being the kind of guy he is, with the resources at his disposal, he would want to go all in on a project car and make it something really out of the ordinary. The trouble was that he couldn’t bring himself to chop up an ur-quattro, much less one of the original Sport quattros.
He had seen a white car floating around on various UK classified sites for some time and that appeared to be just the thing. He followed it for over a year, watching it move from Ireland to the UK, and through repeated listings on eBay. Finally, he pulled the trigger and bought the car.
Having already undergone some serious modification, it was the perfect candidate for his project. It had existed its first 11 years in its original stock form. At that time, it was damaged in an accident and was written off by its insurers. Purchased back from the insurance company at that point, it was converted to a replica of a 1984 Sport quattro S1, sans racing livery, complete with a shortened wheelbase, widened box fenders, and other Sport quattro specific parts.
The seller had claimed that the engine made 420 hp, and while it has the full suite of modifications, including a 20-valve AAN turbo engine complete with upgraded turbo and fueling and an RS2 six speed gearbox, Haynes doesn’t feel that figure is quite being reached… or at least not yet.
To compliment the engine, the previous owner had also fitted the car with upgraded Porsche front brakes, a half roll cage, and four point racing harnesses. It also has the requisite Hella rally lights, a sump guard and rear wing with under-slung cooler. The car retains the full black OEM interior, with the addition of some deep bolstered Recaro seats.
The Sport quattro came to him rolling on white Azev wheels, and given his appreciation of Michelin tires earned at Le Mans and locked into history thanks to the Truth in 24documentary, Howden even fitted it with the French tire manufacturer’s latest rubber. White Michelin logos were also affixed as well in a further nod to both Audi’s and Howden’s own racing pedigrees.
“It has been done very tastefully and that’s why it will make a great base for what I have planned,” says Haynes, and oh, does he have a plan. So far, in the several weeks he’s had the car, he’s given it over to the experts at APS Independent European Specialists for some basic servicing – something he usually does himself, but he’s quite busy these days. Things are about to get a lot more interesting, though.
There is already a new EMU Black ECU from ECU Master waiting in the wings, because when you’re an ex-Audi race engineer, well, you write the software and engine maps for your car yourself. “I’ll remap the engine,” says Haynes, “and will add electronic boost control, whilst still retaining that iconic sound of the 80’s Gruppe B era. I can then easily add anti-lag, traction control, auto downshift blips, etc. Essentially tapping into my LMP knowledge but bringing that down to my own daily driver. I have visions of driving home from work, downloading the data and then setting about remapping before the return journey to work in the morning! The main goal here is not stupid amounts of power, but around 400-500 hp and to make sure it is smooth and useable. We’ll see where this ends up.”
A monster engine isn’t the only thing he has planned. He’s currently in the middle of building himself a fairly serious 5-bay garage setup at home. While he wants to keep the car on the road and being driven for now, he has some more serious things planned for the coupe once the garage is ready. “I will then set about a full rebuild and restoration of the car. Back to bare shell and a full “H”-spec rebuild from the ground up! Then I can really put my mark on the car. I plan to rewire the complete car in full LMP1 / F1 spec level of wiring harness and will do that myself. I’ve also got a friend and colleague of mine working on ideas for a livery. We are not decided which direction it will go yet but I love the Stormtrooper idea. I’m also inspired by one of my favorite Audis of all time, the Audi 90 IMSA GTO and its color scheme as well as the 1987 Pikes Peak S1 color scheme. We may even take a more modern livery from my time at Audi Sport such as the 2014 R18 liveries and do some sort of interpretation of that. I’m not sure yet, but we’ll see what seems to fit. I just don’t necessarily want to take the original HB livery from a 1984 S1 as I want this to end up with a bit more of a modern twist rather than a true replica.”
In the meantime, though, he’s using the car for daily transport to and from work which itself says something about his love for the car, as his personal fleet also contains a 2011 R8 V10, a 2008 Bentley GT Speed, that aforementioned red ur-quattro, and a Ferrari 348 TB. “Four out of my five cars are essentially based on quattro technology,” says Haynes. “It just goes to show that the four rings run deep in this engineer!”
We ask him about the reaction that the car gets when he’s commuting in it, and he replies, “It’s amazing how much interest it got from every other road user on my way home from buying it. It was only an hour and a half away but everyone was turning heads to look at it! It gets photographed even when filling up with fuel at the petrol station. I have to say, even though I am quite a reserved and quiet person, the Stormtrooper quattro is certainly not inconspicuous at all.”
Even as involved as the plans he’s mentioned so far will be, if there’s anyone who can pull something this complex off, it is most certainly Howden Haynes. Of course, he then dangles one last tidbit in front of us in parting. “I am even toying with the idea of fitting a 2018 TT RS engine into it to really mix a bit of old with new,” he says. “Watch this space.” We definitely will.