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It’s late one night a restaurant in Geneva – a seriously touristy place that is filled with Swiss kitsch. Picture something like the Swiss equivalent of the Hofbrauhaus and you wouldn’t be far off. There’s a two-story Ricola horn AutoWeek’s Bob Gritzinger bellowed through the year before. The menu includes a fondu appetizer, fondu main course, and for desert… fondu. The food is good, the beer is cold and by this point it is a great way to decompress after two long press days at the Geneva Palexpo. The conversation is about Audi prototypes of the never-built and seriously-mad variety and Motor Trend editor Angus Mackenzie throws down a tale about a 200 with a Group B engine.
Apparently there was a running competition at Audi back in the 80s and maybe the 90s. If true, the deal was this. Executives would make the run up the mainly unlimited speed A9 Autobahn from the Munich airport to the Audi factory in Ingolstadt and compare times to see who was faster. Apparently the record was held for some time (and maybe still) by none other than Ferdinand Piech at the wheel of an Audi 200 fitted with a Group B rally engine. Whether or not it’s all true remains unclear. If it is true, then whether or not anyone ever fessed up to Dr. Piech about besting his record seems also to be unclear… and highly unlikely.
Considering the claim, you have to wonder what sort of speeds Dr. Piech would have hit on his way north toward Audi’s home town. While exceedingly fast he must certainly have been, we’re wondering if he ever hit 260 mph. It’s doubtful.
Whether with an aluminum block as in Group B and the homologation special Sport quattro, or iron block as with everything else, the Audi I5 turbo is the stuff of legends. In 10-valve guise it laid waste to the rallying competition from the beginning of the 1980s, and by 1992 (and through 1995), the 20-valve version was still moving high-performance Audi metal around the autobahn in the form. In 2012, that engine is still setting speed records, and we’re guessing Dr. Piech would turn at least a partial smile in learning that this was done with essentially a 200… or “ur” S4 as the last of the pumped up 100s were termed.
This summer at the Bonneville speed week, Jeff Gerner of Four Ring Performance took his C4 S4 and bested the previous production sedan speed record by 12 mph, hitting 260 before he pulled the ‘chute and came to a dusty rest on this moonscape in Utah.
How’d he do it? Well for one he had the help of that legendary I5. Those familiar with the engine can tell you how robust it is, so maybe your jaw shouldn’t hit the floor quite so hard when you learn Jeff’s S4 sports a meager 1100 hp.
Want to know more? eGarage and QuattroWorld put together a highly enjoyable documentary about the run. Watch it (in two parts) below and check out QuattroWorld’s version of the story for more photos from the day.
One more thing. Congratulations to Jeff Gerner on his record. We’d love to see what that car could do between the Munich airport and Ingolstadt… just don’t tell Dr. Piech or we suspect he’ll take up the challenge.