The A4 Takes TOCA
For the 1995 season, Audi entered its new A4 quattro where the all-wheel-drive Audis and rear-wheel-drive BMWs dominated the top positions. This raised many complaints from other teams fielding front-wheel-drive cars. All season Audi won repeatedly throughout most of the series, with BMW finishing in a close second continuously. Team driver, Frank Biela dominated, eventually taking home the 1995 Super Touring World Cup.
To further capitalize, two cars were entered into the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC), piloted by UK native John Bintcliffe and world champion, Frank Biela. While many teams in the British field were run by outside contractors, Audi chose to go it alone creating Audi Sport, UK and placed John Wickham, ex-Footwork F1 team manager, at the head of the British franchise.
Audi did enter negotiations with Paul Stewart Racing in 1995 for a British campaign, but fell back on the philosophy that if an Audi fails, which should never happen, the responsibility lies with Audi.
In Germany, Audi continued their campaign with a four-car lineup. Tamara Vidali, Yvan Muller, Phillip Peter and Emanuele Pirro all fielded factory cars in the STW series.
Female Audiphiles should note Tamara Vidali's presence on the German Audi factory team. Audi has a history of prominent and successful women drivers, including Michelle Mouton and co-driver Fabrizia Pons, who piloted Audi Quattro rally cars in the `80's.
During the 1996 season, Audi's corps of quattro racecars again dominated the opposition in all seven Super Touring series in which they competed, taking home an astounding 95% of Touring Car titles worldwide. In Germany, Emanuele Pirro took the STW-Cup. Frank Biela won top honors in the British Touring Car Championship and Rinaldo Capello won the Italian Touring Car Championship. The other Audi championship wins included Belgium, South Africa, Australia and Spain. It should be mentioned that this feat was accomplished despite the added weight handicap over front-wheel-drive competitors of roughly a passenger and luggage.
Audi's performance in the BTCC was no exception. Frank Biela dominated all season and was so formidable in his yellow-mirrored A4 quattro that he received criticism whether he won or lost. If Audi Sport UK's ace driver won a race, rivals attributed his success to the car's superior quattro system. If he lost, other racers would accuse him of intentionally running slower or "sandbagging" to delay the inevitable weight penalties that came with dominance and success.
The quattro system allowed Biela to perform miracles on the track. In wet weather, the quattros completely dominated with their improved traction. This increase traction also allowed for braking much later into turns allowing for increased mid-corner stability. Incredible standing starts allowed Biela to perform maneuvers like converting an eighth position on the starting grid to a third place position in one fast start.
Stories of Audi's silver flyers from the 1996 season performing feats almost unbelievable during the 1996 season aren't that rare, but perhaps one of the most spectacular of all the tales happened at the BTCC event at Thruxton.