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the quattro experience

audi (bless their cotton socks) saw fit to fly me to auckland last weekend to sample their 
"quattro experience".

the original plan was to have hannu mikkola there (audi's world champion rally driver from 1983),
however he pulled out at the last moment due to a late decision to enter the 1000 lakes rally. 
a shame, i wanted to get his moniker on my ur-quattro's owners manual.  it was seeing him,
stiq blomquist and michelle mouton in their a3 quattro's which convinced me that i wanted 
one of those great sounding cars...

audi had brought out a half dozen instructors for the sessions which commenced at an airforce
base just north of auckland (yes nz does have an airforce, but i think the smithsonian is after
some of the planes).  it was a fine day and i took the ur-q  along hoping to be able to use it
in anger.  i arrived to find a water truck dropping water all over the place, a large marque
set up, people milling around and hot and cold running waiters.

outside were parked a collection of cars, some late model s2's, an a8, no s6's and, apart from
mine, no ur-q's.  interesting comment about audi's newer customers is that a lot of people didn't
know what an ur-q was, let-alone the 20-valve incarnation.  audi is clearly being driven less
by the enthusiasts (like me i guess) and more by your-average-appliance-purchaser.

cars for our use were 2 dark metallic blue 4.2 a8q's, an a4 1.8tq with 186hp, an a4 1.8t with
286hp, an s6 with 260hp, an a6 2.6 fwd, bmw 318is.  other cars which were "demonstrated"
were a new bmw740i and a jag 4.0 sovereign.

after an explanation of weight transfer, cornering performance and traction in the marque, we
were ushered out onto the track where activities commenced.

first up we were witnesses to the cornering test. this involved the bmw 740i, the jag and finally 
the s6 being driven at 100kmh into a wet corner (marked with cones) and then having the
drivers feet being lifted off the gas.  with the cars at this point basically a 100kmh projectile
the jag and bmw time and again careered "off" the road.  although there was some differences
in the cars behaviour (the jag being better), both were basically spinning like tops.

not so the s6 which, because of it's quattro, tracked around the corner looking very much under 
control.  being a passenger in the cars was an interesting experience.  the "oh-my-god-we're-
going-much-too-fast" reaction was entirely justified in the jag and bmw, and entirely *wrong*
in the quattro.  a very impressive demonstration and one which brought out a new dimension
of quattro for me.  i know the benefits of quattro with the power on, but hadn't appreciated
that these same benefits were there power off  it's obvious when you think about it i guess.
it was also a timely reminder that traction control is a waste of time unless the driver is up
to the job.  power off and traction control can do nothing.  both the jag and the bmw had

next up saw us doing the abs, lane change test.  this involved accelerating the a8's :-):-)
flat out to about 100kmh, passing some cones, standing on the brakes (and i mean *standing*
on the brakes) and then executing a panic lane change manoeuvre.  this was easy enough
with the main point being to really hit the brakes.  the a8's (which had already had 3 days
of this treatment) took it all without a complaint, no smell of brake pads, no brake fade.
a very impressive motor car.  for comparison i took the ur-q through.  i was interested
to see how it would react.  it's terminal speed before braking was a quicker than the a8's 
and it stopped better (shorter).  i tried this a number of times.  the instructor, susannah,
(who had been woman's world rally champion), was quite happy.  she told me to keep doing it
as she could listen to the sound of the ur-q all day.  she turned out to be a bit of an enthusiast
telling me that there was an ur-quattro club in existence in europe, so she took my card and
told me that they would be in touch with me...

lunch was taken with very nice food, good (nz) wine and a chance to socialise with the
other audi owners there.  generally an over 40 brigade, no women (sigh) and only one
younger person in the computer industry like me.  malcolm stewart had loaned his a3
quattro which was on display.  apparently there are only 3 of these left in the world (i
think that david sutton has one in the uk).  it was left in nz by audi after the 1983 rally
it was hannu mikkola's car i think (could have been stiq blomquists though).  not in great 
condition and it must surely warrant a full restoration...

the next exercise was the panic lane change manouvre this involved the a4's (186 and 286hp
models) accelerating down a land of cones until a particular point where the driver went off
the gas and attempted to turn the car through a tight right hand 90 degree turn to a parallel lane
marked off with cones.  a very valuable exercise which we took at various speeds (the 286hp
a4 was clearly capable of some high speeds).  the main point of the exercise was to exert just
enough control on the car without putting it into an oversteering "tank-slapper".  the instructors
were talking about "progressive steering", the point being to turn the wheel slightly at first
then more rapidly so as not to unsettle the car at speed.

the final exercise was the slalom test which comprised a wet slalom course followed by a hairpin
turn and a slalom course back to the start.  cars were a bmw 318i, a4 2.6 fwd and an s6. this 
was the highlight of the day for me.  the difference in handling between the cars was obvious and 
you learned to adapt your driving style to suit.  the bmw, while being the least powerful of the 3 
was slightly frustrating but made you concentrate on getting the lines right because if you got it 
wrong, you couldn't use the power to make it up.  the a4 fwd was fantastic.  what a fine handling 
car!  apart from one time when i had all the oversteer i could handle, it behaved itself beautifully.  
the s6 was a bit too big and heavy for this sort of course but was easy to handle through the 
slalom as long as you had your lines through the hairpin right to cope with the understeer. it was 
easily quicker than the other cars.

by the end of the session the bmw was clearly suffering the most.  all 4 tyres of the car were 
showing the steel braid, and the (usual) bits were falling off inside the car.  not so the a4
which continues to impress me as a car.

we finished off by having timed tests over the course in the bmw.  a professional driver was there
who set the benchmark which we tried to beat.  you will be pleased to know that i upheld the
honor of the list by being the fastest amateur driver there!  i was 1 second down on the pro and
a little under 1 second up on the group lead by some "gentlemen drivers" who had raced bathurst 
(group a) 3 times.  a most satisfying way to end a great day.

i endeavoured to obtain product news from the importer, particularly about the rs4 which i have
been hoping to replace my s2 with.  he's not expecting to see it for new zealand for 2 years 
apparently.  he's clearly very happy with the brand (and he's not a bad driver either).  audi
is now doing very well in nz, and taking on bmw.  he'd have to be happy with the outcome of
the session, the people i talked to were all very positive afterwards.  two people in particular
were gobsmacked; one drives a 911 and the first exercise had him acknowledging that the 
porker would have been toast.  the other was the owner of an amg c36 (nice car) who was
quite taken by the a8.  the audi owners like me, simply went away affirmed in the belief that
these are great cars for those that know...

'93 s2
'90 ur-q