It is a long held tradition for Audi to drive innovation in motorsport, often leaving other teams still scrambling to catch up by the time new technology trickles down to Audi production cars. Both the TDI and TFSI engine types are perfect examples of this, with rigorous testing on the track resulting in direct benefits carried over to their road-going counterparts. Ask many enthusiasts about TDI and TFSI though, and the mental association leans more towards Audi's tame family saloons than anything else. There is one name in the Audi stable that garners a different response though, the fire-breathing legend that is quattro.



Developed specifically to take advantage of the then-recently changed rules that allowed four-wheel drive vehicles to compete, the Audi Quattro dominated the WRC, Pikes Peak and pretty much every other rally event held throughout the early 80s on a streak that is yet to be paralleled. No man knows the quattro better than rally legend Walther Röhrl, claiming victory at Pikes Peak amongst other events behind the wheel of this awesome Audi. It was through drivers like Walther that the quattro heritage began, the name becoming synonymous with AWD, 5-cylinder turbo terrors that were a force to be reckoned with on the track and equally intimidating on the street.



Perhaps the wildest of these quattro creations was the 1989 IMSA Audi 90 quattro GTO, a car that represents the peak of Audi's insanity in motorsport. The now famous turbo 5-cylinder powerplant was pushed to it's absolute limit, putting down a mammoth 720bhp through all four wheels while making, in my opinion, one of the best sounds in motorsport. From here Audi's approach mellowed and although they remained dominant for some time, cars like the Super Touring Audi quattros of the 90s just didn't inspire the excitement of their predecessors. This signaled somewhat of a withdrawal from motorsport for around a decade although when Audi came back, they came back with a bang!



Although not part of the quattro family, Audi's recent offering of Le Mans contenders have revived the marque's motorsport mastery, winning 10 of the last 12 world-famous endurance events. In an effort to continue this supremacy into 2012, Audi have dusted off the quattro name and created a descendant far removed from the ravenous road-racer that began the bloodline; debuting the Audi R18 e-tron quattro at the Audi Training Centre in Munich last week.



Already breaking tradition as the first to win Le Mans with a diesel engine, Audi will now combine their highly efficient TDI engine powering the rear axle with electric motors intermittently powering the front axle to compete with hybrid-heavyweight Toyota in the race to become the first hybrid victor in LMP1. The e-tron quattro drive type is a Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS), storing braking energy in a spinning flywheel that can be used sporadically for extra power, similar to the system used by the Williams F1 team. The rules for LMP1 limit systems such as this, stating that you can have "500kJ (approximately 70bhp) of stored energy to be transferred to the wheels between two braking events at speeds above 120km/h."



While this is a far cry from the original Quattro, Audi's approach to the technology is actually extremely similar. "Audi has always consciously selected championships and categories in racing that have a close relationship to production and therefore have technical relevance for the Audi customers," explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "quattro, TFSI and TDI are three excellent examples of how motorsport has stimulated production development. A similar tendency is apparent with the e-tron quattro: we test a completely new technology on the race track before it’s introduced to the Audi production line."



Audi believe that the bloodline of the almighty quattro is still going strong, albeit in a way similar to you and your great-great-grandfather communicating with friends via Facebook and carrier pigeon respectively. We are still undecided on whether this is in the interests of motorsports' evolution or simply another nail in the coffin hammered in by the hybrid brigade. Check out this awesome trailer put together by Audi and let us know what you think in the comments below.



We would like to thank Road Magazine for giving us the heads-up on the e-tron quattro