Top Gear remembers riding shotgun with Walter Röhrl in an Audi Quattro

We recently took a trip down memory lane to remember Michele Mouton, one of Audi’s WRC drivers that helped the Audi Quattro dominate during its heroic run in the ’80s and ’90s. One of the other Audi drivers during that time was far more famous than Mouton and widely considered one of the greatest, if not the very greatest, rally driver of all time — Walter Röhrl . A few years back, Top Gear had the chance to spend some time in the passenger seat of an original Audi Quattro rally car, with Röhrl at the wheel, and it seems like an incredible experience.

The Col de Turini is a French mountain pass through the Alps and can be one of the trickiest in the world. Covered in snow and ice, with tight hairpins whose only runoffs are thousand foot cliff drops, the ‘Turini is no joke. Yet on that day with a TG journalist in his passenger seat, Röhrl never blinked.

Instead, he ripped off what he claimed was his best effort through the pass yet. “That was 100 per cent, as quick as I could go,” he said after scaring the hell of the TG journalist. “I’m doing it quicker now that I did in the 80s. I’m always trying to improve.” He wasn’t taking it easy because there was a journo on board.

How did the TG journo feel about Röhrl’sdriving? “Röhrl is astonishingly, unfeasibly smooth. Every movement is tiny and measured and delicate, Walter’s actions much more tai chi than karate. Doubly impressive when you consider what a reticent brute the Quattro is: the early four-wheel-drive systems were unsophisticated, slow-witted arrangements which, combined with the Quattro’s heavy engine up front, produced a resolutely understeery car. In other words, it’s a bloody difficult thing to coax into controlled drifts, but Röhrl is skating the Quattro from corner to corner, keeping it on edge, flicking the back end out. A masterclass? It’s so much more than that. It is other-worldly.”

Personally, I’d love the chance to simply sit in an original Audi Quattro rally car, never mind ride shotgun with a legend like Röhrl. Though, maybe I’ll pass on doing it through the Col de Turini.

Nico DeMattia

I've been in love with cars since I was a kid, specifically German cars. Now I get to drive them talk about them on the internet.