Michelle Mouton, one of the most successful and best-known female rally drivers of all time, will open Race Retro at the International Historic Motorsports Show at Stoneleigh Park near Coventry on Saturday, March 24, 2007 and will make a rare visit to Britain next weekend to be reunited with her 1985 Pikes Peak Hillclimb winning Audi Sport Quattro.
The 55 year-old French lady driver still remains to be the only woman to win a round of the World Rally Championship, sweeping the Audi to a record time of 11 minutes 25.39 seconds in Colorado. The World Rally held in Colorado was a 12.42 mile course that featured over 150 corners and climbed almost 5,000 ft. in elevation.
According to Michelle Mouton, ?I was very pleased to win the race for myself?it was the first outright victory ever scored by a woman ? and proud for Audi as it was the first time a European manufacturer?s rally car had won?it was something very special to beat the Americans on their home ?soil?.?
The famous 1985 Pikes Peak near 500 bhp Audi Sport Quattro after 22 years was restored to its original glory not really by following the Volkswagen repair manuals that goes with the Quattro but through the relentless effort of the rally Quattro specialist John Hanlon. According to Hanlon, ?The car has been stripped back to a bare metal body shell and fully rebuilt over the last nine weeks. Every component has been re-furbished to Audi Sport specification and we have imported the original BBS split rim wheels which the car competed on at Pikes Peak in 1985. The car will be in its authentic livery and technical specification at Stoneleigh. The fact that this actual car competed in the very last Group B WRC round (1986 Olympus Rally) is a huge factor of its appeal.?
Mouton said, ?I was used to driving this Audi but the problem was the altitude. It starts at almost 9,500 ft above sea level ands we had to make adjustments to the electronic gearbox and turbocharger. The Hillclimb itself was very difficult as it?s very fast and quite narrow with no markers and sheer drops off the side?the event?s ?Race to the Clouds? title is very true?and I think it was probably the toughest challenge in my career.?
She also added, ?There had been problems in testing which meant I wasn?t allowed to drive my car to the start, mechanics instead pushing me to the line, which made me mad and very determined. I really wanted to win, so I pushed very hard?sometimes almost too hard.?
It was in the year 1981 in Sweden that Hannu Mikkola scored Audi?s first World Rally Championship while Mouton won the San Remo Rally later that year and claim the first World Rally Championship for a lady driver. The Audi Quattro was also the first car with the four-wheel-drive and turbocharged engine to compete in the World Rally Championship.
A year after, in 1982, Mouton achieved an outright WRC wins in Portugal, Greece— wherein the Acropolis Rally was held– and also in Brazil where she was able to win a second place in the Driver?s WRC and contested 50 WRCs between 1974 to 1986. Audi won the Manufacturers? World Championship in 1982 and 1984. Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist both win the Drivers? titles with Audi for years 1983 and 1984 respectively.
John Hanlon purchased the Audi last March from a private collector in America, aside from Mouton the Audi Sport Quattro was also driven by Walter Rohrl for the 1985 Corsica WRC and afterwards was taken hold by John Buffum who has successfully campaigned in North America.
At present Audi is leading the way in creating the technology in diesel-engined sportscars in endurance racing and made history last year when it won the Le Mans 24 Hours with its diesel Audi R10 TDI.