20 April 2020 · Dennis Schmidt

Livery History: Audi (Part I)

In this series we're going to look back at how manufacturer teams' liveries have developed over their history in racing. The first brand we're looking into is Ingolstadt-based car-maker Audi who have started racing in the 1930s as Auto Union.

Auto Union (1934 – 1939)

Auto Union started racing in 1934 with the Auto Union Type A, driven by Hans Stuck. The project had immediate success winning three races in the 1934 Grand Prix season, including the race at the Nürburgring. As usual in those days, the cars were kept in the colour of their nationality. We've actually written a piece on that some time ago: National Racing Colours. Therefore, the Auto Union livery was plain silver as livery design wasn't really a thing back then. This meant it was barely distinguishable from Mercedes-Benz' Silver Arrows apart from the logo on the nose of the car.
The Auto Union project ended in 1939 due to the outbreak of World War II. The last Auto Union car was the Type D.

The Auto Union Type D.
RWD Cars / CC BY, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

World Rally Championship (1981 – 1983)

It took Audi quite some time to re-appear in motor racing. Their return came with the Audi quattro in the 1981 World Rally Championship. Again, the team was instantly successful, winning the Rallyes in Sweden, Sanremo/Italy and Great Britain.

Their livery design was one that is still highly recognizable to this day. The white base was overlaid by black, grey and red diagonal stripes along the edges of the bonnet and trunk of the car.

Their livery design was one that is still highly recognizable to this day. The white base was overlaid by black, grey and red diagonal stripes along the edges of the bonnet and trunk of the car.

© Audi AG

Audi Has a Go at Pikes Peak (1984 - 1987)

In 1984, Audi had its first of four outings at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb which they won three times between 1985 and 1987.
During those three years, the livery basically remained unchanged. It featured the same colour scheme as the early WRC Audi before HB came in, however with a different layout. While the base livery was also white, there were three sets of the tricoloured stripes. Two went down the lower sides of the car and then bent diagonally upwards towards the rear wing. The third set was a set of vertical stripes running centered along the bonnet, roof and rear wing.

© Audi AG

HB Audi Team (1984 – 1987)

In the 1984, the Audi WRC team got its first main sponsor which also manifested in the livery. Cigarette brand HB International joined the works team and brought its yellow stripes with it. Those went along the sides of the car – the bottom one along the lower end while the upper one essentially replaced the red, grey and black stripes of they years prior.

Audi however also retained their typical tricolour which design-wise ended up in a bit of a mess. On occasion, the Audi tricolours was also rotated to go in parallel with HB's yellow stripes. In this livery, Audi won both the 1984 manufacturer's and drivers' championship with Stig Blomqvist.

© Audi AG

The livery was retained for the beast that was the Audi Sport quattro S1 and is one of the most iconic cars in motorsport history. That car was only in use for one year as the WRC's regulations banned the Group B cars. Its successor, the Audi 200 quattro, was entered for one season in 1987 before Audi pulled out of the World Rally Championship.

The Audi Sport quattro S1 raced in 1986 with its distinct yellow stripes is one of the most iconic cars in rallying history.

© Audi AG

© Audi AG

Coming up: The Switch to Circuit Racing

That concludes part one of our review of Audi's historic liveries. Next week, we'll look into the German manufacturer's jump across the pond into the Trans-Am and IMSA GT championships before kicking off their remarkably successful touring car program back in Europe.


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About the author

Dennis Schmidt is a graphic and UI/UX designer as well as motor racing enthusiast from Hamburg, Germany.