Audi’s recently restored RS 002 prototype has been run at rally event, 30 years after Group S was cancelled
Audi brought a unique piece of its competition history back to life at Germany’s Eifel Rally Festival, when the RS 002 prototype appeared as a moving exhibit for the first time.
The RS 002 was a skunkworks project carried out by Audi Sport engineers between 1985 and 1986. It was officially a prototype Group S car – destined to use a six-cylinder engine with around 300bhp – but since it was created without the direct knowledge of Audi’s management, its make-up was more akin to a full-house Group B car. The odd-looking bodywork sits atop a spaceframe chassis and a 2.1-litre five-cylinder that was most likely a reworked unit from the S1 E2 rally car.
Audi experimented with a number of mid-engined prototypes in 1985, testing them behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia, but the projects were scrapped when spy photographs revealed the firm was considering what would have been a radical switch away from the Quattro’s production-based (and compromised) layout.
The RS 002 emerged later, and Audi Sport revealed that it had been developed at the division’s alternative base in Neckarsulm, far away from Ingolstadt, without the knowledge of then-chairman Ferdinand Piech.
The car has been a static display in a customer centre in Ingolstadt for much of the past 25 years but Audi Tradition embarked on a restoration earlier this year. Walter Röhrl and co-driver Christian Geistdörfer gave it a couple of parade runs at the Festival.
‘The RS 002 was quite impressive,’ said Röhrl. ‘It felt smooth and easy to drive. But nothing was taken forward with this car; no testing was done, and I don’t believe the front would have looked like this either.’
Audi Tradition’s work means that the RS 002 has now joined several other Group S prototypes in being seen in public, to represent a ‘what might have been’ era of rallying.
Other rally cars planned for Group S…
One of the most advanced, with a carbonfibre/kevlar chassis and unusual twin-turbo ‘Triflux’ engine. ECV1 was followed by less angular ECV2.
Toyota MR2 222D
It sort-of looked like an MR2 but was very different under the skin, with over 600bhp. Toyota Team Europe built 11 prototypes, three of which survive.
Original RS200 engineer John Wheeler took on Ford’s abandoned Group S project and completed it years later, using the planned Cosworth engine.
Opel Kadett 4S
Four-wheel-drive Kadett was tested for Group S. Others included MkI Golf GTI Quattro, Seat Ibiza, privateer Lada Samara S-Proto, Moskvich and FSO.
Words: John McIlroy