Ken Block is a man of many talents, many of which have nothing to do with driving. But he’s still best known for showboating from behind the wheel in the highly entertaining and well-produced Gymkhana video series. Here, Kenneth and the Hoonigan team choose a visually engaging locale and creatively rips up the pavement in some of the coolest custom-built rally cars ever to grace the screen.
Due to Block’s partnership with Ford, the majority of those cars wore the Blue Oval. But he’s since entered into a new professional marriage with Audi where he’s supposed to help push the brand’s all-electric agenda. The unification has apparently yielded its first mechanical offspring, with the insane-looking Audi S1 e-tron Quattro Hoonitron having debuted on Wednesday. Predictably electric, the vehicle is heavily inspired by the Group B legend that shares the parts of the name that don’t utilize the word tron.
Everyone loves the Quattro. Introduced at the start of the 1980s, the original model became the first rally car to effectively and reliably use all-wheel drive in a motorsport setting. A few years later Audi launched the Sport Quattro as a homologation requirement for the World Rally Championship’s largely unrestricted (and tragically short-lived) Group B. Sadly, the cutting edge technology and unprecedented performance being offered up by the race cars running in the segment hadn’t caught up with safety considerations of the day. This made Group B cars rare, dangerous, and mysterious — resulting in an almost-mythical status that has only strengthened over time.
That makes the Sport Quattro S1 the perfect inspiration for the latest Honnigan, excuse me, HooniTRON model.
“The S1 Hoonitron combines a lot of what Audi was already famous for in the nineteen-eighties,” said Block, who’s allegedly a big fan of Audi’s vintage rally cars. “For instance, the car’s spectacular aerodynamics have now been translated into a totally modern form. I think it’s cool that the Audi designers have been inspired by their own past and uniquely transferred the car’s technologies and appearance into the present.”
The car features two electric motors, one at each axle to achieve all-wheel drive, making an unspecified (but allegedly beastly) amount of power. The chassis is carbon fiber and the electrified S1 has a full complement of safety equipment as prescribed by the FIA. Development was completed (start to finish) by Audi Sport in Neckarsulm (home of the RS e-tron GT). Block indicated that the resulting product took some getting used to. Though it sounds like the winged coupe is more than up to the challenges of burning rubber in dramatic fashion when he wrung it out in November.
“Audi gave me the opportunity to test it for a few days in Germany,” he explained. “I’m familiar with a wide variety of cars using internal combustion engines and transmissions, but there were a lot of new things for me to learn here. Spinning into a donut at 150 km/h directly from standstill – just using my right foot – is an all-new experience for me. Our work was focused on getting the car and I used to each other. My thanks go to the whole Audi Sport squad for their outstanding teamwork.”
Audi Design (based in Ingolstadt) was responsible for the styling and reportedly began with the team looking at the Group B model for inspiration. Marc Lichte, Audi’s lead designer, said the team was thrilled to have the opportunity to reimagine the Sport Quattro in a modern context.
“When we first heard about this project, the whole team was thrilled immediately: we had the opportunity to develop a car that combines an icon of our brand with the future,” Lichte said. “It was about creating a modern, all-electric interpretation of the S1 Pikes Peak. The timeline was extremely tight: while our design process normally takes one to one-and-a-half years, we only had four weeks from the first drawing to the final design. We were constantly in touch with Ken Block and his team and engaged in intensive exchanges.”
We’d like to have more specifics on the powertrain the Hoonitron uses or at least some generalized specs. But we also understand the vehicle isn’t intended for sale and hasn’t yet taken its final form. That’s all fine. However, it would be nice to see Audi tone down the EV-obsessed marketing. For example, the electric S1 is going to be used by Block in a new Gymkhana video the company is calling “Elektrikhana.”
Block and company already have a bunch of goofy names for their stunt cars — including the Ford Mustang Hoonicorn — so the Hoonitron moniker seems largely on brand. But the constant reminders from Volkswagen Group that everyone not forget how Audi is now building EVs and has a partnership with Hoonigan to show just how great they are from a performance perspective feels kind of desperate. The same goes for the absolutely ludicrous frequency Audi tries to slip the word “tron” into everything. If the car is truly capable, then we have no doubts Ken is going to be showing the best of that in his next video.
The hip thing to do would be to stop segregating EVs from the rest of the automotive realm and let the car’s all-electric hardware speak for itself. The lame thing to do would be to continue prattling on about how the act of building an electric car is going to fundamentally change the way people think about things via a soulless corporate release.
“Knowing that we’re developing a car for a video with Ken Block that millions of people around the world are going to watch has provided our team with additional motivation,” said Lichte. “These new inspirations are also immensely important for our daily work. The development of this car will encourage us to approach future projects with an even more open and progressive mindset.”
Damn it, Marc.
[Images: Volkswagen Group]
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