Rallye Monte-Carlo 1984: Röhrl wins with Audi

wlater rohrl, monte carlo 1984

Walter Röhrl and the Monte Carlo Rally – that is a very special relationship. In January 1984 he competed in an Audi Quattro for the first time and had to completely change his driving style. But that wasn’t the only challenge.

The 1984 World Rally Championship was the 12th season of the WRC. Audi Sport fields Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist and Walter Röhrl returning from his experience with Martini Racing. Martini promoting Markku Alén as top driver for the season.

Blomqvist and Mikkola dominated the season in their Audi quattro A2, with Blomqvist winning five races. Audi wins 6 of the first eight events, scoring a hat-trick in the first two rallies. Mikkola finishes second in the drivers’ standings despite eight podium finishes. Alén finished in third place, winning only one rally with his Lancia Rally 037. Towards the end of the season, the Finnish Ari Vatanen took part in the last tests of the championship aboard a Peugeot 205 T16, winning three of the last four rallies and thus managing to finish fourth in the drivers’ standings.

As in the previous season, only 10 rallies are counted in the constructors’ classification while all 12 events count for the drivers’ classification. In 1984 the only rallies counted for the drivers’ classification were those of Sweden and the Ivory Coast. But the opening race in Monte-Carlo remains in history for the revenge that Audi took on Lancia. Let’s see what happened in that crazy race.

audi quattro a2, franz wittmann 1984
Audi quattro A2, Franz Wittmann 1984

The Rallye Monte-Carlo 1984

It’s January 21, 1984, it’s cold and it’s starting to snow. One day before the start of the Monte Carlo Rally, Walter Röhrl is also feeling quite cold inside. Despite the grenade season with Lancia, the tall guy has now signed with Audi. The Bavarian was tired of constantly compensating for the disadvantages of rear-wheel drive cars with superhuman performance.

As a four-wheel drive beginner, Röhrl initially had a hard time. It wasn’t really possible to wean the Quattro, with its long nose and its front-heavy nature, from the time-consuming understeer. In the Audi team, Hannu Mikkola and Stig Blomqvist, he met the most experienced men of the all-wheel drive age. “I wanted to race against Stig on the same material. It was said that he was the best four-wheel drive driver. I wanted to take a closer look at that,” remembers Röhrl.

Röhrl had done a lot of testing to prepare for the Monte, but it was always dry. It flew off twice during testing and had no boost in self-confidence. Shortly before he was supposed to roll the Audi over the ramp in Bad Homburg for the first time, he went out into the Bavarian Forest again that night to finally understand the secrets of braking on the left. With the constant dancing of the left foot on the brake pedal while the right remains on the accelerator, a gentle shift of weight forward was achieved and the relieved rear allowed the car to steer in the desired direction. Suddenly something clicked and Röhrl got the hang of it.

audi quattro, rallye monte carlo 2024
Audi quattro, Rallye Monte-Carlo 1984

After two bone-dry years, the queen of rallies finally showed her white side again. Everyone actually expected a clear victory for the Swede Stig Blomqvist, who had already established himself as the fastest man in the Audi team in 1983 and was considered the absolute snow king. Blomqvist had unselfishly given Röhrl driving lessons in the snow and was surprised at the halfway point of the rally: “But you learn quickly,” he confessed to Röhrl, because he remained firmly on the Northman’s heels.

The collegiality was over; Blomqvist soon got tired of first giving tutoring and then getting showered while Röhrl complained to the television cameras that it was a horror because he drove terribly badly. “Every fifth corner doesn’t fit,” he grumbled.

Suddenly Blomqvist picked up the pace again. Röhrl fought, but couldn’t go any faster. Blomqvist calmly had his tires fitted and because the choice of rubber is pretty much the most important matter in Monte Carlo, Röhrl regularly checked to see how his experienced teammate hoped to master the next test. Then he had the same tires fitted and hurried off. Suddenly Blomqvist decided otherwise and had his tires changed.

The game worked for a while until one of Röhrl’s specialists revealed that the Audi staff always got very busy in the service department when starting number one was already gone. The Regensburg man raged, marched straight to sports director Gumpert and threatened: “If you do that again, I’ll kill you all!”

In the end everyone stayed alive. Röhrl passed Blomqvist by three seconds for the first time in 17 stages. Although world champion Hannu Mikkola calmly secured third place with a respectable distance, Roland Gumpert found the battle at the top too sensitive and so he decreed a non-aggression pact. Whoever leads before the last loop can stay ahead. The two opponents accepted. In the end, Röhrl was half a minute ahead and Blomqvist accepted his fate. Audi had finally won the queen of rallies and with three cars. For a brief moment, Röhrl was also happy because he had replaced Blomqvist as all-wheel drive king.