Two Generations of quattro: Interview with Stig Blomqvist and Mattias Ekström

source: Audi AG

Stig Blomqvist and Mattias Ekström are both world champions. One in 1984, the other in 2016. Both in an Audi quattro. With the e-tron S, Audi is now presenting the first electric car with the legendary all-wheel drive. The two racing drivers talk about the quattro revolution in motorsport and who would win a race with the original quattro.

The Audi Driving Experience Center in Neuburg an der Donau. The tires squeak on the test track, and an e-tron S drifts through the corners at crazy speed. At the wheel is a gentleman with white hair and a friendly smile. Allow: Stig “Mäster” Blomqvist, participant in 122 World Championship rallies, 11 victories, 1 World Rally Championship title. And he still has his foot on the accelerator. When he gets out, he greets Mattias Ekström, 30 years his junior – long-time DTM driver and World Rallycross champion. The two meet for the 40th anniversary of the quattro – and have a few anecdotes about the legendary all-wheel drive ready:

When is your first time in an Audi with quattro drive?
 That was in 1982 and it was also my first time at Audi in Ingolstadt. At that time, the Audi site was a bit smaller [laughs]. Freddy Kottulinsky [racing driver and Dakar winner (1932-2010); Note d. Ed.] Took me to the Ur-quattro [Audi A2 quattro; Note d. Ed.] And I drove the car there for the first time. It was a whole new feeling to feel the four-wheel drive. I loved the power of the car from the start.

Ekström:  The first time I sat in a quattro was in the early 1990s. I was 14 or 15 years old and went with my sister’s boyfriend at the time. He had bought the broken Ur-quattro from my father and restored it. I can still remember: The acceleration was absolutely crazy and the sound was simply overwhelming!

I drove for the first time in the Audi A4 quattro at the Swedish Touring Car Championship (STCC) in 1999. It was really fun. The car was wild, had a lot of grip and accelerated incredibly fast. I felt braver and better at quattro than I was then.

Which events do you remember best in an all-wheel drive Audi? What is your very special quattro moment?
Blomqvist: That was definitely the Monte Carlo race in 1984. It had been snowing and the road was smooth and slippery. And I like my team colleagues Walter Röhrl and Hannu Mikkola in the Ur-quattro – at that time the only car with all-wheel drive. The other drivers had enormous problems. They slid and it carried them partly out of the curves. We have a triple victory [Röhrl before Blomqvist and Mikkola; Note d. Earned the achievement with a 25 minute lead over the fourth. Nobody could beat the quattro in such circumstances! It was a really great time back then and I became world champion. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. I established a real connection with the Ur-quattro.

World Rally Championship 1984

Ekström: My strongest connection is with the Audi S1 ​​EKS RX quattro, with which I became World Rallycross Champion in 2016. That was the best quattro I’ve ever driven. I also helped develop the racing car myself. It was a lot of fun. I sold the original car. But I know the owner and drove it again last year. Maybe I’ll buy it back in a few years. [laughs]

World Rallycross Championship 2016

The new Audi e-tron S also has a quattro drive. How does that feel in an electric car?
 It’s fantastic. I never thought that the e-tron S would feel like a quattro. But otherwise, combustion engines and electric cars are very different. The e-tron S is much smoother and much easier to drive than the quattro models from back then with an internal combustion engine. And of course quieter. [smiles]

Ekström:  This is a world difference between a combustion engine and an electric car. For example, electric cars are significantly heavier. As a racing driver, I always say: The lighter, the more fun driving is! But there will certainly be a lot going on in battery development in the coming years. I also grew up with the five-cylinder engine, so I lack the sound. But maybe I’ll get a playlist of 5-cylinder sound that I hear while driving. [laughs]

The e-tron S has the dynamic torque distribution between the two electric motors on the rear axle – the new torque vectoring. What distinguishes it?
 Torque vectoring is fantastic. The handling is perfect and the car remains stable in the corners. You are always in control. The car transmits all driving maneuvers very quickly. There is power immediately! In summary: The feeling of a sports car packed in an SUV.

Ekström:I absolutely agree with you, Stig. It’s hard to imagine, but you can feel the balance between the wheels. The software [The torque vectoring combines cross lock and sport differential in one system with software-based control without mechanical connection; Note d. Red.] Does something magical with the car. You hardly feel the higher weight of the electric car because the implementation is so perfect.

You’ve known each other for a few decades now. What connects you?
 We are both from Sweden and we are both World Rally Champions. [grins]

Stig is a kind of role model for me. He is a living racing driver legend; and I saw him driving on television as a child. When I saw Stig drifting through the curves today, I thought to myself: Hopefully I can still do that at his age. [laughs]

Back to the beginnings of all-wheel drive: Which of you two would win a fictional race in the Ur-quattro?
 Once we even met in a race. But we both retired in an accident. [laughs] But Mattias would definitely win. He is so talented and also knows the cars perfectly technically.

Ekström: [laughs] In his prime, I wouldn’t have had a chance against Stig. He knows his original quattro inside out. It’s like cycling for him. That was another driving style back then: it was more difficult, you could make a lot more mistakes. You had to know your car perfectly and have experience. Maybe I could beat him in a modern quattro. [smiles]

Mattias, it almost sounds like you would have preferred to drive in the 1980s?
 I would definitely have loved to drive in the 80s. It was all a little bit raw. You needed completely different skills. Talent was more important than discipline and technology. Today you have to be super fit and eat a balanced diet. You used to be able to party, smoke and drink … [laughs] Today the cars are almost more important than the drivers.