|April 25, 2005
Celebrating 25 Years of quattro in an Audi Rallye quattro A2
Hear the car start. Wow - it's louder than I thought. Well it is a racecar after all. It runs choppy at first, but soon enough settles into a comfortable burble. OK there's the ski run. It's fenced off up at the top; skiers coming down that section make a gentle right hand turn.
First guy straps on a helmet and he's inside the car. Jochi gives it some gas, RPM's are rising. Visions of a jetliner throttling up for takeoff start running through my head. I feel nervous now. I'll be up soon and have no idea what to expect.
The car must be idling at 6,000+ now, very loud. Suddenly he launches and he's off. I guess I hadn't really thought about it, but somehow I had expected him to drive over to the base slowly and then take off. Oh no, he's full throttle from the get-go, small sideways drift as the car makes a sharp right and the mad dash up the mountain has begun in earnest.
Blurts on the throttle, he's off and on and off and on again in a matter of seconds. The car is racing solidly up the hill, tail end cutting loose and executing a series of hard turns. Sometimes the car appears to be going sideways.
Amazing - at the top he's just flipped it all the way around and now he's coming down with a true vengeance. The task could be left to gravity, but I can hear the acceleration all the way down. Nearing the bottom the car appears totally out of position to make the hard left hand turn. I can literally see the wheels spinning as he comes into our makeshift staging area, pulls a u-turn and heads back up for a repeat performance.
Won't be long now. I'll be strapped into that beast for the ride of a lifetime. During this second run I notice that he's throwing it into the turns even harder. BAM! You can hear the wastegate open. They return and the first guy gets out with a dazed look of ecstasy on his face.
When it's my turn I push my melon into the helmet, hop into the car for a quick photo op and get professionally buckled into the racing harness. Jochi Kleint, former European Rally Champ and current Audi Driving Experience guru, sits calmly to my left. Why are these professional racers always so damn calm? I feel ten years old again and about to ride my first rollercoaster.
Jochi smiles reassuringly and then without further notice floors it like he's possessed. Now actually inside the car, I experience the remarkable combination of sound and movement. Focus. Watch Jochi.
Jochi, for his part, is operating the vehicle with alarming speed. That is to say his feet and hands are orchestrating in-and-out, back-and-forth with a quickness that is difficult to appreciate. Confident, precise shifts. Lock-to-lock turns. Massive turbo boost that kicks in at higher RPM's. At this point we've only gone about 100 yards.
Jochi is doing what he does; I better look around more now. From the staging area I had built a mental picture of severe, demanding turns. No. These turns are grueling from the outside, but quite controlled and graceful strapped inside the racecar. The ascent is aggressively fast considering we are on snow, yet it almost feels like time has slowed down now.
Nearing the top and a huge spin, rear wheels cascading in a fan shape as Jochi prepares to come down. Euphoria settles in because it's just so freaking fun. We are rocketing back. Often we are moving in a different direction than Jochi is steering, and if I was a more accomplished driver myself I would no doubt understand how and why to coordinate the throttle and the steering wheel to move the car to and fro.
The speed that we take into the sweeping left hand turn back to the staging area is unexpected. Please don't take out that photographer over there and plow into the waiting group of journalists. But wait he's lined it up perfectly and the brakes are as impressive as the powerplant. U-turn. Do it again and go even harder this time.
The ride in the former Michele Mouton / Fabrizia Pons Audi rallye quattro A2 was unforgettable. I couldn't think of a better way to demonstrate the significance of 25 years of quattro.
Transcribed within a few hours of the event held at the Alta Badia ski area just outside San Cassiano, Italy on March 14, 2005.