Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Audi 90 IMSA GTO’s twin - The Audi S4 GTO

By Johan Laubscher

1989 Audi 90 IMSA GTO
The Audi 90 IMSA GTO is a cult classic amongst Audi and general racing fans alike. The car was a tremendous force in the 1989 American IMSA GTO championship. Armed with the legendary Audi five cylinder turbo engine and quattro, this car was able to make its mark on the series. Sadly it only raced for one season and many fans were disappointed when these monsters were not seen on track during 1990.

Audi 200 Trans Am in SA 1989
The 90 IMSA GTO may have been retired at the end of 1989 but this was not the last of the GTO legend. On the southern tip of Africa there was a championship perfectly suited to the Audi race cars that competed in the Trans Am and the IMSA GTO series. Two of the 1988 Audi 200 Trans Am cars went to South Africa to compete in the Wesbank Modifieds championship where they were run by Audi Sport South Africa. The first car arrived in 1989 and the second in 1990. These two Audi cars then continued to race successfully as factory entries from 1989 to 1992. During 1991 it was decided that new cars were needed for Audi in the series. The Audi 90 IMSA GTO would have been the perfect car, but there was a catch.

Audi 90 GTO in SA during 1991
The Audi 90 was not sold in South Africa and thus the race car was not allowed to compete as per the rules. With this fact the Audi and Volkswagen Motorsport Department of South Africa (Voldi) decided to build brand new race cars. The new cars were based on the C4 Audi S4 plaform, also known as the Ur-S4. One of the Audi 90 IMSA GTO cars was sent to South Africa during 1991 at which time it was studied to form the building platform for the new car’s development. The Audi S4 GTO cars have a lot in common with the original 90 GTO. The cars have similar aerodynamics and components, including the same twenty valve engine. It has been said that the S4 GTO is basically a 90 GTO in a S4 chassis.

S4 GTO debut with Hans J Stuck
Voldi prepared two of these Audi S4 GTO cars. The first car was ready by the end of 1992. The car debuted at the penultimate round of the Wesbank Modifieds championship with Hans-Joachim Stuck at the wheel with a traditional silver and red Audi Sport livery. Stuck had been invited to debut the car at Killarney in Cape town, and he did not disappoint. He charged to a dominant double victory on the day followed by the older Audi 200 Trans Am cars. Both S4 GTO cars were ready by the final round at Kyalami where both were now wearing their blue Rothmans livery. Stuck and Terry Moss drove the cars at the event.

1993 Wesbank Modifieds
1993 was the first full season of the S4 GTO cars in South Africa. The two cars were now the factory team’s full commitment as the two 200 Trans Am cars had been passed onto privateer teams. Terry Moss and Chris Aberdein drove the cars. The season was very competitive and came down to the final round were Terry narrowly won the title from Chris. The S4 GTO had proven to be a dominant car in the series, but ever improving competition and performance sanctions would catch up to the Audi team.

1994 Wesbank Modifieds
The 1994 season was the beginning of the end for the formula and the S4 GTO. The S4 GTO had many performance handicaps during the year and the competition had also improved massively. The Audi S4 GTOs, again driven by Moss and Aberdein, battled hard but ultimately finished runner up in the championship standings. Despite losing the championship, the Audi team did win both the races at the last event of the season. This was the last event for this formula in South Africa as the Wesbank series changed to a more cost-effective all-V8 formula. This meant the instant retirement of the S4 GTO and Audi Sport South Africa acquired two Super Touring Audi 80 Competitions from Germany with which they competed in 1995.

Audi S4 GTO replica
The official life span of the Audi S4 GTO had come to an end, but yet again this was not the end of the cars. Both cars were sold shortly after 1994. Audi South Africa, who were then competing in the Super Touring formula, built a replica of the S4 GTO. It can be seen at the Auto Pavilion, the Audi/VW Museum in Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth in South Africa. The replica is not an exact copy as it is right-hand drive whereas the original cars were left-hand drive, but it is sill a very special display at the museum. Despite both cars being sold, they would both be seen racing again. 

Kuismanen Audi S4 GTO
The ex-Terry Moss Audi S4 GTO headed to Europe. Finn Pertti Kuismanen imported the car in parts and reassembled it with additions from Audi Sport. The car was not in the exact same specification as it was in South Africa, but it was basically the same vehicle. Kuismanen retained the basic blue and white livery and replaced the Rothmans logos with his own sponsors. The car also received various aerodynamic changes, most notably the rear wing. The car competed very successfully from 1996-1998 in various European series which included the German STT, Nordic series and Finish Super Saloons. The car was retired at the end of 1998 and remains in Finland to this day. More information about the car in Finland can be read HERE.

Landman Audi S4 GTO
The second S4 GTO, the car that was driven by Stuck at the debut and later by Chris Aberdein, remained in South Africa. The car was bought by Ashley Landman in Cape Town. The car also remained in its blue and white livery but with the Rothmans logos replaced by Bloomsbury logos. The car was raced by Landman in select regional events at Killarney in Cape Town from 1995-1998. 

Eurospec Audi S4 GTO
The car was later sold to Steve Zlotkin of Eurospec Sport in America. The S4 GTO joined the Eurospec Sport collection which also included both the Audi 200 Trans Am cars that competed in South Africa. The car’s livery was restored and now wear’s the “A1” number and its original Rothmans logos. The S4 GTO has remained with Eurosport and is regularly seen at various events in North America. More information about the car at Eurospec Sport can be read HERE.

We will never know what the 90 IMSA GTO would have been capable of if it remained in service after 1989, but the S4 GTO allowed Audi fans to see and hear the dna of that glorious car on track again. The blue monsters are legends among South African and Audi motorsport fans alike. They were as stated by a South African magazine: “Great ambassadors for South African motorsport” and are fondly remembered. The legendary GTO cars from Audi, the 90 IMSA GTO and its twin the S4 GTO, will always be fan favourites.

More information:

The photos in the article are linked from the Wesbank Modifieds group on Facebook. 
Cover image from


Audi S4 GTO onboard video 

Audi S4 GTO debut in 1992 

Final Audi S4 GTO race in 1994 - Heat 1 LINK HERE 

Final Audi S4 GTO race in 1994 - Heat 2 LINK HERE