quattro Fever Behind the scenes with Audi Sport UK, 1984-1988
etween 1984 and 1988 I was sponsored by VAG United Kingdom to complete my training as a photographer. Part of this involved working with the Audi Sport UK rally team, shooting the quattro and Golf GTI rally cars as part of the British Open Rally Championship. I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, working alongside VAG staff photographer David Bryant. David taught me a lot about shooting cars, and while some of these images suffer from the inexperience of youth (I apologise in advance for some woeful focusing), I did my best to capture the spirit of a rally team. This book relives some of Audi Sport UKâ€™s glory days, and many of the images have never been published. I hope you enjoy them. Best wishes David Corfield
Hannu Mikkola on the Circuit of Ireland rally in 1986. The event was won by David Llewellin in the MG Metro 6R4.
t all started with the noise. A raucous, violent sound punctuated by pops and bangs. The deep rumble, then a higher roar as a long straight allowed a hastily snatched 5th gear before the hairpin bend forced a violent application of brakes. And suddenly there it was, right before me, smashing through the forest like a lion after its dinner. All growls and high-beam lights. The year was 1981, and being the impressionable teenager I was back then, let me tell you – Hannu Mikkola in his Audi quattro made quite an impression…
I remember the smell of high-octane fuel, baking brake discs and pine needles. The first rally photograph I ever took was of Hannu and his Audi. One frame was all I got, but that was enough. He came through the Grizedale special stage on the RAC Rally that year without a windscreen, having rolled the car earlier in the day. He wore a set of clear plastic goggles and drove the final stage that night with nothing between him and the night air save for 2mm of Perspex: Ari Vatanen may have won the World Rally Championship that year in the
ancient Escort, but Hannu had welcomed in a new dawn for World Rallying by winning the RAC, and I for one was totally hooked. Four years later and rallying’s Group B era had transformed the sport. I would watch Grandstand on BBC television every Saturday for glimpses of the cars and their drivers. Never had motorsport gripped me as much. My brother and I became keen rivals – he a Lancia fan and me with Audi. We both wrote off to the teams’ PR offices and soon posters of the cars adorned our bedroom walls. Little did I realise
then how much that first letter to Audi UK would affect me… I received a box of images from David Bryant, VAG’s staff photographer, as well as a video of Stig Blomqvist’s 1983 season with Audi Sport UK. In the box was a compliments slip wishing me well with my photography. It was all the incentive I needed to write straight back and send in some crudely printed images of a local rally to show more of what I could do! Poor David, I don’t think he realised how keen I was to follow the sport in more detail, but
short-wheelbase Sport Quattro prepared by David Sutton (replacing YMN44, crashed three months earlier by Harald Demuth on the RAC Rally). He was performing a series of doughnuts in the frozen carpark testing out some studded tyres from Michelin and was wearing his Swedish Rally bobble hat, from the previous weekend’s WRC event. David Sutton looked up and cheerfully quipped: “watch out, here comes Scoop” as David Bryant introduced me to Hannu. I’d previously only seen Mikkola in competition, behind the wheel, and was expecting a man as aggressive as the car he was driving, but not a bit of it. Hannu shook my hand and remarked: “two scoops for the price of one, eh?” and walked off to the motorhome to collect his things. David Bryant looked at me and winked: “well, you’re vanilla and I’m chocolate. Let’s go and get something to eat.”
Mikkola sweeps to victory in the 1986 National Breakdown
Tyres, tyres, everywhere... 1985 Welsh Rally
he kindly took me under his wing and from there I started shadowing him on a few rounds of the British Championship, learning my trade, watching him work and shooting my own stuff on an Olympus OM1 SLR with just a couple of lenses. I was studying photography at art college, and in my final year had run out of money. I wrote off to several car manufacturers asking them for help with sponsorship but only Audi’s Laura Warren replied. Thanks to David, and his sway with the PR department at VAG, the company funded my professional year as a photographer, allowing me to shoot their cars and build up my portfolio. A by-product of that was a unique access to some behind the scenes moments of a rally team that had won everything, and were riding on the crest of a wave. But for how much longer could it all go on?
A Snowy Start All I had with me were my wellies and a pair of trainers. An overnight bag and my camera sat in the seat next to me as I travelled from Edinburgh to
Bradford on the National Express coach. It was 1986 and I was 18, on my way to the start of the British Open Rally Championship to shoot the National Breakdown Rally. Hannu Mikkola had, just a few months earlier, completed a tortured season with Audi, where the Sport quattro S1 had recorded only one win, in Italy, in the hands of team-mate Walter Röhrl. Despite being one of the more powerful machines, the Audi was showing its age as mid-engined machines from Lancia and Peugeot started to show the way forward just five short years after the quattro had burst onto the scene. Hannu was in a bullish mood when I first met him. He knew he had a good chance to win the National Breakdown in the icy conditions, but was aware of the young David Llewellin snapping at his heels in the Metro 6R4. The Welshman was on his way up in the sport, having impressed with a series of measured drives in the British Championship the previous year and as I arrived at the Audi team’s hotel Mikkola was outside in 44WMN, the
Servicing in the snow
Lasse Lampi in a privately entered quattro A1 on the 1983 RAC Rally`
y first taste of Wales came courtesy of a Primus gas stove and a can of rice pudding. It was 1987 and David and myself were on the Fram Filters Welsh rally, the third round of the Shell Oils British Rally Championship. We had to shoot two entries from VAG that year, plus one from Finland – Sebastian Lindholm – and Per Eklund in his Clarion-sponsored Audi from Sweden. Our usual drivers, David Llewellin and Phil Short in the Audi Coupe quattro and Simon Davidson and Nicky Grist in the Golf GTI 16V, weren’t faring all that well
in the championship leaderboard and were up against some strong competition. All eyes were on Lindholm as he put up a strong fight against his fellow countryman Pentti Airikkala who was enjoying something of a renaissance in his underpowered but reliable Vauxhall Astra. Jimmy McRae was up there with his Ford Sierra Cosworth while Russell Brookes, that stalwart of the British Rally Championship, gamely fought on with the by now ageing Open Manta 400. David used a variety of cars to follow the rallies
– basically whatever was available from the VAG press pool at that time. On this rally, a Helios Blue Golf GTI 16V was the car of the day, and at 5am with the sun slowly rising over the bonnet we parked up at the stage start and brewed up. Rice pudding had become a bit of a joke between me and David, and the rest of the team often use to joke about stocking up with spare cans whenever we turned up to the motorhome. I found all very amusing, and between the pair of us we became quite adept at ‘pudding stops’ en route...
Scottish testing with the 200 quattro, still in its HB/Audi Sport livery, in 1987
The 200 quattro was a lumbersome beast, and poor old David Llewellin never enjoyed his time with it
allying with the Audi Sport UK team was never dull. As the young assistant I was never afforded the luxury of a room of my own in the many hotels we’d stay at, but I didn’t mind. Most times I’d share a room with David and we’d discuss all sorts of things in the evening - the day’s stages, the shot that got away, Eric Clapton and blues music, the best Ordnance Survey maps and so on. I loved every second. Being the smallest cog in what was then the largest team in the British Open Rally Championship bar
Rothmans Opel, I tackled every job given to me with teenage enthusiasm, often rewarded with a bacon sandwich from Pam and Georgie in the motorhome if they needed something fetching or water bottles refilling. I would be tasked with sorting the exposed films out, labelling the canisters and replenishing the bag with new stock removed from their cardboard boxes. I’d go in search of screenwash when the car was parked up at service halts, or on one case I had to go get some Fishermen’s Friends for Stig Blomqvist. The infamous Audi ‘barge’ was our satellite base
on event, or rather its roof was, accessed by a ladder running up the back. As drivers sat inside with the management we’d be ‘upstairs’ (as David Sutton often put it) shooting the crowds as they craned closer to the quattros while Norman Gault, John O’Connor and the rest of the mechanics serviced them. Crowds back in those days were huge (remember this was long before the Internet and satellite telly had stolen the coverage) and we’d often have to push and shove our way through the army of fans to get shots of the cars. Invariably,
our lofty perch was the preferred viewpoint – and the pictures always looked better too as they showed the crowd sizes and general excitement. Well, most of the time. I tried a slow shutter speed image once with the camera fixed on a tripod. Carefully I focused, got the composition spot on and was mid-way through a five second exposure when the whole motorhome started to shake about – Arne Hertz had a sneezing fit and ruined my picture! I remember when the first autofocus camera arrived. It was a Nikon F801 and we were highly
That’s me! At age 11 I was already addicted, trudging through the forests on the 1981 RAC Rally
slow exposures when I wasn’t shovelling film through the Nikons. That was one of the things I remember most about my rallying days – the landscape. It’s where I first developed my love of travel, moving about from place to place. Always pressured for time, the constant battle against the clock had its own strange attraction. “You never get a second chance” was a phrase that David would constantly use, and it stuck in my head – I still remember it today when I’m shooting my own work. After each rally we would return to Milton Keynes and process film - and then the graft of churning out loads of prints for press releases would start. The VAG Studio had a very well-equipped darkroom and in there I was to spend many happy hours getting my fingers wet devving film and invariably stinking of bleach fix. I used to emerge, blinking like a Mole The Scottish Rally in 1984 saw Hannu MIkkola sweep to victory with Phil Short co-driving
sceptical about its performance – so much so that we’d turn the AF off and focus manually. We used a pair of them mounted on a homemade metal brace side-by-side with one body shooting colour transparency (always Kodak Ektachrome) and the other loaded with Ilford XP1 and latterly Kodak T-Max. The black and white film could be processed in the same chemistry as all the colour neg stuff we’d shoot back in Milton Keynes and was therefore far more economical to use, as it required no special chemistry. It was the standard lash up back in those days, and all the photographers had a pair of cameras mounted in similar fashion. I remember seeing Hugh Bishop, a large man with a reputation for fantastic quality images, and realized the reason why his shots were always so much better – he had the ubiquitous two-camera set up, sure, but while one body was a 35mm SLR (a Pentax LX), the other was a Pentax 67, a huge medium-format SLR which shot 6x7cm roll film (twice the size of a 35mm slide). Twice the film size, twice the quality. Mind you, it weighed a ton!
The other photographers we’d work with were often comparing cameras and discussed image quality – as well as the colour of Michele Mouton’s underwear... Secret battles were forever being waged to get the best angle, and some guys took it to extremes. Les Kolczak, a man who now runs one of the bigger rallying photo agencies in the UK, used to take a pair of aluminum stepladders with him to get extra height and was always the butt of many a gentle joke. And then Reinhard Klein came over to cover the 1983 RAC Rally and blew everyone out of the water with his unique vision.
Personal passions David used to get frustrated with this, as he was (and still is!) a highly accomplished landscape photographer but never had much time to shoot more personal images when working for Audi. He had to remain true to the corporate brief and record images of the quattro in suitable glory poses. The arty stuff was something I was left to get on with – and I enjoyed playing about with flashguns and
surfacing from beneath the lawn, to be greeted by Chris, the studio secretary and fed with chocolate biscuits – hidden in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet away from the hungry photographers.
Changing a punctured wheel in Wales, courtey of David Sutton’s rally mechanics!
Mikkola on the Circuit of Ireland in 1986
surfacing from beneath the lawn, to be greeted by Chris, the studio secretary and fed with chocolate biscuits – hidden in the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet away from the hungry photographers. A Beseler enlarger was fitted with a photographic paper drum on the baseboard, which enabled batches of the same image to be printed. This was all done via an electronic feed and a clockwork timer. We’re talking hundreds of images here, each captioned with a Letraset imprint on the bottom detailing event, car, driver/co-driver and date (a
separate exposure, equally complicated, frequently cocked up by yours truly). The Beseler was a law unto itself and paper jams, clock malfunctions (often referred to as a ‘clock-ups’) and other annoying niggles were to quickly mark it out as a right pain in the ass to use. Only David managed to work it successfully, but even then it would occasionally bite him – most notably when the heavy enlarger head slipped from the column and crushed his fingers when he was delicately inserting a precious negative.
Two rounds of the British Open Championship were to see Bryant’s badly bandaged digits embrace his Nikons “all because of that bastard enlarger!”
Home and away When not shooting rally cars my work with VAG often extended to shooting its range of road vehicles. This was loads of fun, and David and myself were never happier when out and about shooting. Helpfully, my parents lived in the beautiful Scottish Borders, very close to Elibank forest near Peebles where the Audi
team used to go testing so we would sometimes travel north, kip over at my folks, and take a quattro variant of some kind into the forests for some suitably rugged shots (I remember us once getting a 90 quattro stuck in a slate quarry). My father worked for the Forestry Commission and had one of the very special keys that would open any padlocked gate in the UK forests. A spare one eventually made its way into David’s Billingham camera bag… There were times in Milton Keynes when studio photography was in demand, never more so than
Michele Mouton came to Britain regularly and is seen here on the 1985 Manx driving the ferocious Sport quattro S1
those magic moments where I had to pinch myself. As a lowly student I pinched myself quite a lot back in those days… Lucy had a list, as all marketing people do, and busied herself sorting out the cars while David and I drove around the huge expanse of the factory site in an unregistered GTI. It had only come off the production line the day before – I often wonder what happened to that car and what its eventual owners would have thought if they knew that it doubled up as on-site transport for two English photographers…
Changing of the guard As the rallying rules changed in 1986 with the banning of the Group B cars, so Audi Sport faced a dilemma. For six years the UK team had ridden rather a large wave, winning the 1983 British Open Rally
when the Volkswagen Corrado was first launched. The very first car came over from Wolfsburg for evaluative testing on UK roads and I was one of the first people to see it. Left hand drive, silver, the G60 engine, it was such a beauty and photographed very well from all angles. Bearing in mind that the rather angular Scirocco was still ‘on the books’ this new upstart proved an instant hit in the car park. Dealings with the VW ‘mothership’ (our tonguein-cheek reference to the Wolfsburg factory) was a regular thing, and I was lucky to go to the factory with David to help shoot the Mk2 Golf GTI when it was relaunched in 1988 with doors (minus the A pillars). We needed press shots and because there was a delay in getting right-hand-drive models over to the UK we took a set of back-to-front number plates and shot the car in the grounds of the factory, taking great care to avoid backgrounds that had German signs in them. Once we got the shots, all we’d do was flip the negatives and – voila! – a right hand drive car with UK numberplates. Genius. We drove over in an Audi 100 quattro
accompanied by Lucy Cooper from VAG’s marketing department and me in the back with ladders, buckets, camera bags and suitcases. The rain lashed down on us from Calais all the way down to Aachen where we stopped for something to eat. At one point the Audi aquaplaned on the Autobahn but its legendary 4WD system kept us in a straight line, although the colour did drain from his face somewhat! Arriving in Wolfsburg for the first time was very memorable for me. I’d obviously read a lot about the factory and seen the pictures of Beetles gathered outside back in the 1930s, but to be actually there was very special indeed. It was dark when we finally found the hotel and dominating the skyline was a huge VW roundel fixed to one of the factory chimneys, all lit up and shining its message out to the world. From my hotel room I took pictures of it with the twinkling lights of Hanover further to the West, in the background. Kraftwerk was playing from the TV in the corner. I swear you couldn’t have made it more Germanic if you tried. It was one of
Championship with Stig Blomqvist plus the factory scooping up two world titles in ’82 with Hannu Mikkola and again in ’84 with Stig. It seemed nothing could get in the way of the mighty quattros but Audi were soon to find themselves out in the cold with no competitive car to take on the far nimbler Group A machines. David Llewellin was signed up and, ably coached by Phil Short, the pair tackled the 1987 season together with mixed results. Our lives as photographers had changed too, with not only the Audis to shoot but also the Volkswagen Motorsport team to produce press pictures for as well. This made life even more hectic – and all the more exciting for it. We supported David and Phil in the Audi camp, but also privateer Sebastian Lindholm (cousin of Marcus Gronholm) and for Volkswagen Simon Davison (co-driven by a then
Life behind the scenes with Audi Sport UK