Thursday, January 3, 2013

Audi Racing History in South Africa Part 3: The rally legend came to SA

Audi Racing History in South Africa Part 3 of 10 
The rally legend came to SA

By Johan Laubscher

During the 80's the Audi quattro revolutionised rallying worldwide. This revolution made its way to South Africa in 1983 which started six years of quattro domination as these Group B machines roared through the local landscape.


Rallying: The Audi quattro rally cars were a sensation in Europe, proving the dominance of the four wheel drive concept. Two Audi quattro rally cars came to South Africa for the 1983 South African Rally Championship. Sarel van der Merwe and Geoff Mortimer would use these cars for the next three years dominating the local series up until the end of 1986. The cars were seen competing in the National Championship and also some Regional Championship events. During the 1984 season both Sarel van der Merwe and his co-drive Franz Boshoff went to the Portuguese Rally where they competed in an official Audi Sport entry in the World Championship. In 1986 a Sport quattro was sent to South Africa to be driven by Sarel van der Merwe, however the car only competed in one rally with the works team.

Sarel van der Merwe quattro (SRG)
Geoff Mortimer quattro (SRG)
1986 Sarel  van der Merwe Sport quattro (SRG)
1984 Sarel van der Merwe quattro in Portugal (SRG)

Video footage from 1983 HERE.


Rallying: In 1987 one of the monstrous Audi Sport quattro S1 E2 cars arrived for the South African Rally Championship. The car was driven by Geoff Mortimer during 1987 and by Sarel van der Merwe during 1988, with both claiming the title respectively. 1988 also saw a blue privateer Sport quattro joining the field, driven by Johan Evertse. This was the same car that was used by Sarel van der Merwe in 1986. At the end of 1988 Sarel van der Merwe had already won the title by the penultimate round. He had other overseas commitments which clashed with the final round. Thus with Sarel unable to attend, privateer Johan Evertse drove the S1 at the final round and Geoff Mortimer drove Evertse’s blue Sport quattro. This was the last rally of the Group B monsters in South Africa. A few private Audi entries of Audi S2 and Audi 90 cars did feature in South African Rallying during the early 1990's, but on a much smaller scale. The factory Audi SA rally involvement came to an end in 1988. 

During 1987 and 1988 a Volkswagen Passat also competed in the South African Rally Championship. The car was fitted with an Audi five cylinder turbo engine, which was virtually identical to the Audi quattro engines. The main difference between the engines in the Audis and this Passat was that the Passat engine used a cast iron head versus the aluminium head in the Audi. This difference allowed the Passat to compete in Class B of the championship whereas the Audi competed in Class A. 

1988 Sarel van der Merwe Sport quattro S1 E2 (SRG)
1987 Geoff Mortimer Sport quattro S1 E2 (SRG)

1988 Johan Evertse Sport quattro (SRG)
1988 Johan Evertse Sport quattro S1 E2 (RP)

1988 Geoff Mortimer Sport quattro (RP)
1988 Nic de Waal VW Passat (RP)

Various private Audis during the early 90s (VF)

Video footage from 1987 HERE.

Speed Record: In 1988 one of the Nardo Audi 200 record cars was sent to South Africa. Sarel van der Merwe drove the car and broke the national South African Four-Wheel-Drive speed record with a speed of 358.923 kph.

1988 Sarel van der Merwe speed record (RP)

Photo sources:
RP = RacePics from
VF = Video footage screenshots
SRG* = South African Rally History Facebook Group HERE

Article cover photo = RacePics from
Bottom cover photo = Johan Laubscher / Tarek Ramchani 

All the images are labeled with an abbreviation within brackets in their caption which indicates the photo source as listed above. 

*May not include the original photo source.