Audi’s secret Mid-Engined prototype rally monster: The RS-002

Group B, one of the most mental series in all of motorsport history. A time of huge wings, power, technological advancements, and most of all, danger. Group B was dangerous, and people got hurt. Crowds would routinely loose small limbs like fingers and toes as the cars flew past at breakneck speeds. Drivers would crash, get seriously injured, and in some cases, even die. Those deaths lead to the cancellation of a new replacement to group B, Group S.

Innovations, it’s what shapes motorsports. Audi revolutionized Group B back in the early days with all wheel drive  and anti lag. They became the team to beat and, with crazy drivers who knew no limits, won many races. When the Quattro became slow, they made the snow plow esk quattro S2. That, while good, didn’t win nearly as much as the original. The problem was understeer. With all the weight over the front wheels, understeer was bound to happen. Putting the engine in the back would fix all the problems, as other teams found out. The obvious fix, move the engine to the back! With Group S coming up, the rally team of Audi decided to make a whole new car, something not based on a road car. Something meant to win wherever it raced. It would have reigned supreme, well, unless the top brass had anything to say about it.

Win on Sunday, sell on monday – That’s the motto of many automotive manufacturers. The basic theory is that if you have a car that looks like the one being raced, that will increase sales. That, to a point, is true. Ferdinand Piech, the head of Audi at the time, wanted Audi’s racing cars to share DNA with the road cars, hence why the Quattro rally cars looked like modified road cars. The Quattro’s DNA is what would lead to its downfall, with it’s all wheel drive and front engine layout, the car had a tendency to understeer. The team knew that there needed to be a serious change in lay out. The first solution, the Sport Quattro, didn’t solve much. The sport had a shorter wheelbase which, while getting rid of understeer, was very twitchy and unpredictable.  Roland Gumpert (Of Apollo fame), went on to say “The second one was that in the long term, the quattro could only go mid engined…. And by late 1984, we had a physical car to run”.

The mid engined prototypes at their secret testing facility

In 1984, the engineers all shipped out Densa Czechoslovakia, where an old Porsche test facility was located.  Audi took command of this facility and with the protection of the iron curtain, were sure nothing could get out. Things went well, with the team developing both the mid engined prototype alongside the quattro E2. The E2, nicknamed the snow plow, would go on to win many rallies and even set a record on Pikes Peak.  Back in Germany, another team was designing a body. They got to a point where they were comfortable with wind tunnel testing and even placed one of these bodies on a prototype. In Densa, testing had just begun. Rohl, with the mid engined car, was set free on a dirt road. There he racked up a couple hundred KMs in testing, stating “…the handling made all the difference for me. It was so much better in the twisty stuff and didn’t get twitchy in the fast corners”. Things weren’t all rainbows and sunshine. That day, someone tipped off a journalist and he got some a selection of photos of the car. Soon, it was front page news on an Austrian automotive magazine…..


The news spread like wildfire. The car, which had previously been developed in secrecy, was now an open secret. VW, the owners of Audi, wanted Audi out of racing. If Audi was to build a new vehicle, VW would have to sign off on it. When the photos came out, VW execs saw that, instead of coming to ask for permission, Audi just went ahead and started it. VW ordered Audi to destroy the cars and have Piech personally oversee the disabled.  The officially built cars were destroyed… But there was another…. Back at the Audi factory in Germany, a fully bodied, fully working prototype was hidden in the museum, not to be seen for decades upon decades. One that even Peich didn’t know about. When it was dug out, it’s odometer showed 12 KM. It was practically brand new!


In the now! 

Rrecently, for the Quattro’s 25th anniversary, the RS002 was restored and now it makes appearances around Europe. Supposedly it has a potential output of over 1000 horsepower.




There was a road going concept for the RS002.


Sources –

Group S and the ‘secret’ Audi prototype.