What’s your favorite rally car and why? In the latest in our series, we ask some of the rallying and rallycross world’s leading figures about the car which started the passion, what made it so memorable and why it deserves the recognition it got (or not!).
When it comes to rallying knowledge in the current generation of drivers, Jari-Matti Latvala stands out as one of the very best. The Finn is passion personified, so it was with great anticipation that DirtFish approached the former Toyota, Volkswagen and Ford factory driver for this fourth edition of My Favorite Car.
Although he was born in 1985, and therefore meaning the production-based Group A rally cars were the cars of his childhood, Latvala instead looks back on the era just before his time for his pick. Group B had just a year and nine months left in its heyday before it was banned by FISA at the end of the 1986 season, but Latvala has selected one of the pioneering cars of this time.
DirtFish’s Senior Staff Writer David Evans selected one of the leading lights in Group B towards the end of its time as the top class of the WRC, in the Lancia Delta S4. Latvala has gone the other direction with the innovative Audi Quattro S1, most notable for steering Stig Blomqvist to the 1984 WRC title.
What springs to mind when you think of the Audi Quattro S1?
When I started to understand the concept of rallying, I was around five or six years-old and by that time, you already had the Group A cars when I was going to watch the 1000 Lakes. I first went to spectate in 1992 so I had never seen a Group B car but then as I got a VHS tape of Henri Toivonen and it was after this that I became excited about Henri’s life and the era in which he drove those cars.
It was the lightness and the power of the car. There was no safety in those days, and for a lot of Group B cars, there was not even any power steering. The early Peugeot didn’t have any, and okay the S1 did but you cannot compare power steering of the 80s to power steering of today. They were difficult to drive, the suspension travel was so low, the cars were really stiff. They are just in a different world.
So, it was the challenge of those cars which stands out. You know, the drivers had to be so brave to drive at 100%, and they did drive at 100% because you had to push them to get the most out of them. They were monsters!
What is it you appreciate the most about the car?
Unfortunately, I don’t have one of the Quattro S1s in my museum in Finland, because the price with those cars is so high these days, I simply cannot afford that, which is a shame. I have one of the very first Group B cars, the long version of the Quattro but not the S1.
But for me, the S1 was a very special car. I was born in 1985, and grew up with Group A cars on the TV, but I was so interested in the Group B cars and what they were like
What I love most about the S1 is pretty much everything. The aerodynamics of the car were really aggressive, the five-cylinder engine makes a very distinct noise over the other cars, and then when you see the flames coming out of the exhaust, that makes it really, really spectacular. These are two elements which I miss in the current WRC cars, the cars are looking really cool aerodynamically, they are exciting. But one problem is that all the cars sound pretty much the same. In the old days, it was easier to say: “okay, here is the Audi coming, here is the Metro coming, now is the Lancia coming”, you could tell which car it was just by the sound of it. And for me, the Audi was the best sounding car of them all.
What’s your lasting memory of the Quattro S1?
If I think about the greatest car, I have ever driven myself, then it is the Yaris WRC, that’s just a fact. It’s the fastest, the most impressive car I ever drove. But one of the most amazing cars, which is something very unique and speaks a lot to me is the Audi Quattro S1 Group B car. For sure, I have driven many different cars and I enjoy the challenge of driving different cars but I pick the S1 because rallying was very different in those days and to drive a car like that when you have 600hp and when it weighs less than a 1000 kilos and a very thin roll cage, four-point seat belts, Kevlar seats and certainly not strong, was very impressive. You took a bigger risk driving those cars then than when we were driving today’s WRC cars even though the current cars are much faster than the Group B cars.