Weighed Down - 1993 Audi 80 V6 quattro DTM Prototype
The heavy-handedness of rulemaking
The Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) came into existence in 1984. The series established itself as Germany’s premiere Group A touring car championship and quickly gained popularity. Fierce battles between recognizable production derived machinery struck a chord with a large audience, who came to see the weaponized version of their very own car take to war.
BMW and Mercedes dominated the series with their lightweight and precise 4-cylinder M3 and 190E Cosworth sedans, until the arrival of Audi in 1990. The newcomer used a totally different philosophy. It fielded the massive V8 quattro limousine, which naturally profited from a powerful V8 engine and four wheel drive. The surprising speed of the big luxury barge lead to frequent and harsh weight penalties to slow it down, which angered Audi considerably. Despite the penalties Audi still scored two back to back championships with Hans Joachim Stuck in 1990 and Frank Biela in 1991.
The V8 quattro DTM's career was filled with controversy.
Under pressure from Mercedes and BMW, the DTM’s governing body Oberste Nationale Sportbehörde (ONS) had to find a way to equalize the field. This meant the Audi’s were forced to carry even more penalty weight for 1992.
In response Audi used a controversial flatplane crankshaft to try and to claw back some performance. The part was protested by BMW and Mercedes, and after a few rounds found illegal by the ONS. Audi was forced to withdraw halfway through the season following public embarrassment over their questionable actions.
As the Group A era and the contentious 1992 DTM season drew to a close, the ONS introduced a new technical formula: FIA Class 1 Touring Cars. To minimize individual advantages between the competing cars, competitors were forced to adopt the same 2.5L naturally aspirated engine formula. The engine had to be loosely based on a road engine, and was limited to a maximum of six cylinders and four valves per cylinder.
Other than these restrictions, the new rules offered much more freedom than the conservative production based Group A category. The aerodynamics package no longer needed to be homologated from road going models, which meant big wheel arch extensions, front splitters and rear wings could be used. Also in the mix were futuristic driver aids like ABS and traction control.
The huge splitter on the 80 V6 DTM is a testament to the liberal aero rules in FIA Class 1.
The four German contenders responded favorably to the new rules, feeling it would level the playing field. BMW, Opel, Mercedes and Audi were then joined by the eager Italians at Alfa Romeo, who planned to take their 155 DTM to the very limit of the new rulebook.
With the technical regulations in place, Audi started work on a Class 1 successor to the successful Group A V8 quattro DTM. To better compete with the mid size models used by BMW and Mercedes, the brand new B4 generation Audi 80 sedan was selected as the car’s base. Because of the liberal rules, only the empty bodyshell would actually be used. The rounded, streamlined shape of the 80 was immediately disturbed by a large rear wing and a massive front splitter. Massive wheel arch extensions gave room to huge slotted rims wrapped in very low profile tires.
A much bigger and more complex issue was the development of a brand new engine, as the old V8 had been rendered completely useless. Audi decided against using a 4 or 5 cylinder engine because these layouts would make for a very nose heavy car. Instead the block was based on the new generation of V6 engines, which were much shorter than the inline concept.
The shorter engine shifted the weight back substantially, and prevented the catastrophic understeer seen in most Audi road cars.The finished unit produced 388 horsepower at a dizzying 10.500 rpm. A 6-speed manual gearbox then divided the power to all four wheels, as was the Audi tradition. The ONS-specified minimum weight of 1040 kg (2292 lbs) made for a very inspiring driving experienc
As the 80 V6 DTM entered testing, the ONS dropped a bomb on the new plans. When the competing manufacturers agreed to the new formula, they had been adamant about the removal of the penalty weight system. It was Audi and BMW’s understanding that the equalized technical formula would negate the need for the old arrangement.
The ONS announced however that they intended to keep the penalty weight system in place to punish any manufacturer that proved too successful. In their opinion the Class 1 regulations were not enough to guarantee a completely fair competition. The decision infuriated both Audi and BMW, and they decided to pull out of the championship before it had even started. As a result Mercedes and Alfa Romeo were the only works entries left, with Opel taking a year out to develop their Calibra 4x4 DTM.
The Audi 80 V6 quattro DTM was a victim of the political turmoil during the DTM class switch of 1992/1993. The car could have provided stern German opposition to the bonkers Alfa Romeo 155 DTM, but was denied this opportunity. Mercedes’ hastily prepared 4-cylinder, rear wheel drive 190E’s were virtually powerless against the scarlet weapon, and Alfa Romeo dominated the 1993 DTM season.
However, a disagreement about the sporting regulations between its parent and the ONS condemned the amazing machine to a torturous life as a static museum piece. It never got the chance to scream in anger and ram a competitor off track in unabashed fuel injected fury. And that might make this one of the saddest stories of all.