February 27, 2005
Text and Photos by John Stahmann & Matt Daniels
In 1986 Audi filmed what has become a legendary commercial where an Audi 100 climbs a ski jump near Kaipola, Finland. That ski jump was 78 meters long with a gradient of more than 80 percent. Fast-forwarding nineteen years to 2005, Audi is using the same ski jump in a commercial with the new A6 to show off quattro’s unique traction capabilities.
For the first in a series of celebrations throughout 2005 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of quattro, the ski jump would play a central role during the quattro Night event on February 21st.
Audi invited over four hundred primarily European-based journalists to celebrate quattro Night at its Ingolstadt headquarters. Of all of the attendees only a select few – five to be exact – traveled from North America for the festivities. This group included representatives from Audi Club of North America and its print magazine (Quattro Quarterly) and, of course, from AudiWorld, the world’s largest Audi-enthusiast website.
In fact we wouldn’t have missed this for anything in the world.
For those not familiar with Audi headquarters, there is a large piazza between the Delivery Center, Museum Mobile, Audi Forum and other Audi offices. This area is normally a wide open space. The lucky folks who actually pick up their new automobiles at the Delivery Center end up driving out and across this piazza during the first moments of new Audi ownership. For quattro Night the piazza was magically transformed.
quattro Night began with the normal mixing and chatting of journalists. The allroad quattro Concept was on display fresh off its debut in Detroit the previous month, and girls with geckos spray painted in their hair made sure that nobody was thirsty. Moving out towards the piazza we were confronted with a truly amazing layout.
For starters there was a very healthy amount of snow which had been carefully piled around so as to create neat pathways. Warming areas were constructed and scattered around the pathways, and in the middle of everything stood a bonafide ice rink. Just off the ice stood a wooden chalet with large glass windows so those inside could see the festivities, and next to the chalet there was a six story ramp with a platform on top. Amazingly, the entire location had been built up in a mere four days.
Light snow was falling as the program was finally set in motion. German ice skaters in silver body suits circled the ice while music played over the loudspeakers. A large monitor played footage of Audi race cars in action. The thrill of quattro Night was upon us!
With the skaters coming to the end of their program, a red UR quattro pulled out on the ice and dropped off the emcee for the night who welcomed everybody to the evening’s event and narrated some more race footage. The driver of the UR? Michele Mouton!
As the UR pulled off the ice, we heard the unmistakable sound of race engines. The gates of the piazza opened up allowing a dramatic entrance for Audi Rallye quattro A2s from 1984, and the Audi Sport quattro S1 from 1985 with their original drivers – Stig Blomqvist, Hannu Mikkola, and Michele Mouton. Each of the cars pulled onto the ice, did a few spirited donuts, and parked. The drivers got out and each was interviewed and then sent over to the chalet.
Next, we heard another race engine, but this time it sounded like it was a block away. On the monitor we could see another car coming down the street towards the festivities, and as it came sliding into the piazza we immediately recognized it as the unforgettable Audi Sport quattro S1 Pikes Peak car from 1986. The car did a few requisite donuts of its own on the ice, parked, and out popped none other than Walter Rohrl. More interviewing ensued and Walter made his way to the chalet.
Out of the doors of the Museum Mobile came yet another car – this time an Audi 80 Super Touring car driven by Emanuele Pirro. This car didn’t actually venture out on the ice, but in his comments, Pirro mentioned that he would love the chance to race on the ice. Of course all we can do at this point is fantasize about another Audi rally team.
For those assembled we knew that we were witnessing an amazing feat – to have so many legendary drivers, driving their cars, all on the same night was an unexpectedly gratifying tribute to Audi and its quattro all-wheel drive system.
Real, in the flesh cars were soon replaced by digital versions as the giant screen started running footage of all different Audi models and the announcement came that the first of two product reveals would follow.
We watched the screen as they played the original 1986 quattro ski jump commercial and then the new 2005 version with the Audi A6 quattro climbing the same ski jump in Finland. Our attention was then directed towards the large ramp and the tent on top. Through the tent emerged a set of piercing headlights, at which point the new Audi RS4 in Imola Yellow thrust down the ramp onto the ice below. The car immediately did a set of pulse raising spins before coming to rest in the center of the ice.
Keeping in mind that this was the first time the car had been revealed to anyone outside of Audi, a frenzied rush towards the car immediately ensued. Everybody wanted to get a closer look at latest quattro GmbH super car, including the small details which set it apart from its S4 cousin.
The new RS4 picks up right where the old left off, albeit based on the completed redesigned B7 platform. This time it’s powered by a new 420 hp 4.2 Liter FSI V8 which revs up to an incredible 8250 rpm. With a 0-100 km/h of 4.8 seconds and reaching 200 km/h in 16.6 seconds, this car is the fastest production automobile built by Audi. Special attention was given to reducing the curb weight of the new RS4 wherever safely permitted; lightweight materials are used extensively with most of the chassis and suspension made of aluminum, along with the front fenders and hood. The seats are also specifically designed for light weight and body support.
Amidst the revelry surrounding the new RS4 there was an announcement that the second “reveal” of the night was forthcoming. Escorted by bodyguards like a superstar, the Audi Q7 then made its way out of the Museum Mobile. The Q7 is the production version of the 2003 Audi Pikes Peak quattro concept and is built on the shared VW Touareg/Porsche Cayenne platform. It will go into production in 2006.
As quickly as it appeared, it returned back into the Museum and disappeared behind curtains. Audi would later note that that single appearance of the Q7 would be the only one until the official debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show this fall.
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