The 1990s were an amazing time for touring cars with major manufacturers across the globe developing tin top warriors. When Audi was looking to promote the new for '95 A4, world domination of the Super Touring category was their goal. Something they would massively overachieve on.
Super Touring car rules allowed any 4 door saloon over 4.2 meters to enter as long as over 25,000 had been produced. The racers had to be based on the production shell, keep the same basic layout and not use forced induction. After that the manufacturers got a pretty free reign on modifications leading to some fantastic machinery being constructed.
Although they didn't have one in the range, Audi used a 2.0 16v engine (a development of the Golf GTi lump) for the race car naturally powering all 4 wheels. A 6 speed sequential box was added along with brakes so vast, 19 inch wheels were an actual necessity rather than just a fashion statement. Power was just under 300 hp while weight was a staggering 1040kg. Even though it weighed less than gnat's testes it was still the heaviest car on the grid.
Despite the A4s weighing around 65kg more than the opposition, they were dominant to the point of being boringly predictable. 95% of all touring car titles worldwide were snapped up by the A4 in 1996 leaving the competition pretty pissed off. In the UK, the teams either complained the A4 was too good when it won or that the drivers were sandbagging to avoid weight penalties when they didn't. Even with winner's ballast the A4 was devastatingly effective. If it was dry the competition was going to have a fight on their hands, if it rained then they may as well have not turned up at all. Ballast or not, the Audi was going to win.
The quattro 4WD system allowed starts that were in another league to everything else. Eighth on the grid to third before the first corner? No problem at all. It was this crushing success that led to even greater weight penalties in 1997 and then the banning of 4WD in Super Tourers from 1998 onwards. Even though the A4 never matched the successes of 1996, Audi had made their point. The A4 would go on to become a serious competitor to the 3 series and C-Class while quattro technology had proven its worth on the track as well as in the forests.
From AJTaylor's blog The Wastegate.