illustrations: Federico Ciuffolini
Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in the Q3_2021 issue of quattro Magazine. If you would like to subscribe to quattro Magazine, please join Audi Club here.
In 1993, Audi Sport found itself seeking a new direction. It had been nearly a decade since the legendary quattros were pulled from Group B and the factory rallying program shuttered. Several years had passed since one-and-done projects such as the 200 quattro in Trans-Am or the 90 quattro that dominated IMSA’s GTO class. Audis V8 sedan had just begun in DTM, ushering in a new era of touring car racing. But, what if it hadn’t? What if Audi had skipped touring car and gone straight to Le Mans?
It’s not a far stretch to imagine. Though the 90 quattro GTO had skipped Daytona and Sebring during its IMSA season, Audi Sport had proven the ease with which they could approach sportscar, a genre of motorsport that has always embraced experimentation with new technology be that quattro and turbochargers, or eventually TDI and hybrid power.
Back in 1993, the power players in Le Mans were the likes of Peugeot Talbot Sport with their 905 EVO 1B, Toyota with its TS010, plus the swansong for the Porsche 962. Now imagine then, if you would for a moment, Audi Sport had decided it was time to enter the Le Mans, but with a quattro rear drive. Think of it as a design like the six-wheeled Tyrrell P34 F1 car from the 70s…but backwards, or perhaps more akin in power delivery to the tractor pulling the Audi Sport race rig.
Enter project quattro H (quattro hockantrieb or four-wheel, rear wheel drive), a radical design that one can imagine might have changed the future of endurance racing in the early 90s. Envisioned to hold the driver in a floating cockpit and surrounded by a mix of fiberglass, Kevlar, and carbon fiber, it truly may have been ahead of its time.
Working one’s way from the inside out, the driver would have been held in this isolated monocoque, connected to the main chassis via a heavy-duty gasket and its center of gravity being lowered by a ballast in order to naturally align the driver to the twists and turns of the Le Mans circuit and, in essence, minimize the strain on the driver through the seemingly never ending 24 hours. In addition to helping reduce the forces exerted on the drivers, it is theorized this floating monocoque would allow Audi to design the car both lower and stiffer and ultimately improve its handling.
Envisioned powered by the now famous diesel engines would have been the reason for the four-wheel, rear wheel drive – the ability to transfer the massive amounts of torque to the ground. And so elegantly hidden behind side skirts, if you missed the fourth Audi ring being separated from the rest, we wouldn’t blame you. Such a subtle and crafty touch, letting the keen onlookers realize that this is more than just your average Le Mans car.
In order to feed the beasts that were Audis diesel engines, NACA and ram ducts would have been used to efficiently feed the engine, but at the same time ensure that the aerodynamics of this silver arrow remained intact. These give the quattro H a smooth profile that looks as if it would just fly around the track effortlessly while the diesel chugged away beneath this beast.
Whether or not the car would have been too experimental for its own good remained to be seen. Audi had begun producing turbo direct-injection (TDI) I-5 engines by 1989, though common rail technology was still six years away. Inefficiency and weight from the six-wheel setup may have also conspired against the car, but Audi Sport may have been able to offset that with efficiency. When the R10 TDIs eventually appeared in 2006, they would inevitably be performance leveled with ballast and fuel flow in order to curb the advantages of the efficiencies introduced through the use of diesel.
Alas, the quattro H never was, nor was it even envisioned in period. The quattro hockantrieb designed around 1993 Le Mans history is the fourth in a series of fictional prototype racers by designer Federico Ciuffolini’s, embracing a new trend in design centered around historical fiction that makes you imagine “What if?”. The car and the others in the series are created with passion, love, and enthusiasm utilizing Blender, Substance Painter, and lightroom. The quattro H is a captivating creation and truly a work of art that we thank him for letting us share with the Audi world.