With traction and on-track speed to die for, the Super Touring A4 couldn’t last
You have to hand it to Audi Sport, they’re nothing if not persistent. Wherever they’ve roamed with quattro all-wheel drive tucked up their sleeve, upsetting the status quo, winning comfortably and breaking rivals’ hearts, more often than not they’ve then been banned. It’s happened time and again but fortunately the world has quite a few race series, so Audi just keeps moving on: arrive, win, get banned, repeat.
In the mid-’90S, Super Touring was enjoying a halcyon age of big investment, terrestrial television coverage, pantomime-villain drivers, spectacular on-track action and huge interest. Into this maelstrom of rear-drive BMWs and a phalanx of unlikely front-wheel-drive rivals, including Primeras, Vectras, Lagunas and Mondeos, strode Audi and its all-wheel-drive Super Touring A4 for the 1996 season. Low-slung on 19- inch forged OZ rims and resplendent in a stunning works livery of giant red rings on German Racing Silver, the normally blobby B5 A4 bodyshell had a visual menace in Super Touring specification that was, it would transpire, entirely appropriate – the thing was a weapon.
Rivals in the 1996 BTCC series didn’t have to look hard for ominous omens. Audi’s Touring Car Terminator Frank Biela won both races of the opening round and went on to record a string of 20 podium finishes across 26 races to bag the title. So complete a racer was the A4 Super Touring – and so unequivocal its on-track advantage – that Audi won every single one of the seven national championships it entered that year.
The BTCC protests from rival teams resulted in a weight penalty towards the end of 1996, and a still more debilitating one for ’97, a handicap that left Biela defending his title with both arms tied behind his back. He nearly managed it nonetheless, finishing the year in second. An outright ban was issued for’98 and Audi packed its bags. Again.