Racing to the clouds with Walter Röhrl

An iconic Pikes Peak winner - Walter Röhrl’s Audi Sport quattro S1.

[Re-Posted from here -]

By the time this post is up, the 2020 edition of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb would be well underway. So here is a iconic Pikes Peak winner - Walter Röhrl’s Audi Sport quattro S1.

First staged in 1916, Pikes Peak is a ~20 km long hill climb along a 6m wide track that widens to 15m in the 155 guard-rail less corners. And until 2011, the track was partly gravel and partly paved tarmac. And until the early 80's, there was no separate category for rally cars and most of the storied rally cars were never really seen (with factory support) at Pikes Peak. Until 1984, that is, when Audi became one of the first European teams to compete at Pikes Peak.

Right from their 1st year, Audi was successful at Pikes Peak with Frenchwoman Michèle Mouton finishing second. Audi bettered their debut at Pikes Peak by winning the next three editions of the hill climb with Michèle Mouton, Bobby Unser and Walter Röhrl, with both Unser and Röhrl beating the course record in successive years (1986 and 1987).

Walter Röhrl was the only Audi driver at Pikes Peak in 1987. While he was competing at Pikes Peak for the 1st time, he was no green horn. Having driven his first rally in 1968, he was WRC favorite in the 1970s and 80s, winning two WRC drivers championships in 1980 and 1982.

On that day, 11 July 1987, Röhrl was apparently on beast mode in his 600 bhp Audi Sport quattro S1, becoming the first driver to break the 11 minute barrier, beating their closest competitors (Ari Vatanen in a Peugeot 205 TI6) by almost 7 seconds. If that was not all, Röhrl smashed Bobby Unser’s year old course record by more than 20 seconds.

A press release from Audi to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his record breaking run says - "The man from Regensburg, always calm and collected at the wheel, conquered the world’s most elevated highway in a new world record time of 10:47:85 minutes. He reached sixth gear in the S1 on four occasions, and at the quickest point of the track was measured at a speed of 196 km/h. Röhrl took each of the 156 corners with razor-sharp precision and performed full power-slides around the hairpin bends; sometimes the edge of the car was actually hanging over the precipice"

Walter Röhrl’s S1 (the car featured here) was a steed worthy of its rider. While the car’s official designation was identical to its WRC equivalent, it was a very different beast with significant improvements to pretty much every single part of the car. Converted into a one seater (WRC equivalent was obviously 2 seater), the weight optimized S1 weighed a mere 1,000 kilograms. With the aerodynamic improvements enabled by iconic spoilers in the front and the rear and the 2.1 liter powerplant officially rated at 600 bhp, the car was swift. If that was not all, Walter Röhrl has stated in interviews that the output was actually 750 bhp and the throttle was akin to a on-off switch.

After having already withdrawn from the WRC in 1986, Audi withdrew from the so called “Race to the Clouds” hill climb after their hat-trick of wins to focus on circuit based endurance racing. And we know how that next 20 year long chapter transpired!

Finally, about this model. For a long time I was not able to find out the origin. Just today, I found out that this is actually one of those Japanese coffee giveaways - part of a Suntory Coffee 9 car set. I guess, I should not be surprised anymore considering I got this from Aliexpress (after seeing pictures and googling its history). The paint and the graphics are a little off, as you can see in the close-ups, but it has pull-back action. So I guess you win some and you lose some!

Join In

Comments (0)