Audi Sport competes in several racing categories, including GT2, but it hasn't participated in the World Rally Championship (WRC) for many years. It's not planning a comeback, either, so a Swedish team is bringing the Quattro name back to the starting grid with a custom-built, rally-ready evolution of the pocket-sized Audi A1 hatchback.

Swedish pilot Mattias Ekström launched the project on behalf of the EKS JC racing team he recently formed. He started with an A1, a four-door city car developed largely for the European market. Preparing it for international rallying required gutting the interior, adding a full roll cage, and installing sport seats for the front passengers. The pilot faces a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel and a screen that provides information about the car and its surroundings, while the door panels are made with carbon fiber. Clearly, this is a no-expenses-spared build.

Outside, nearly every body panel was redesigned with racing in mind. The front bumper is specific to the rally car, the fenders and the quarter panels are punched out, and the roof gains an air scoop. The white, yellow, red, gray, and black livery is a tribute to the original Quattro race cars that dominated the rally scene during the 1980s. We think the A1 wears this look well, especially because the three vents above its grille are inspired by those on the Quattro Coupe.

The hatchback sounds as mean as it looks thanks to a turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine tuned to develop 263 horsepower. It sends power to all four wheels via a five-speed sequential transmission and, of course, Audi's time-tested Quattro all-wheel-drive system. South Africa-based Rally Technic participated in the development.

Building a rally car from scratch is a massive undertaking, and the A1 Quattro is not quite ready for its competition debut. It still needs to be fine-tuned, first on snow, then on gravel, and finally on tarmac. Emil Bergkvist, a 26-year old Swedish pilot who is a former FIA Junior WRC champion, has been selected as the car's development driver.

When it's fully dialed in, Ekström's A1 will be eligible to compete in the WRC2 and WRC3 classes, which are support categories where up-and-coming young drivers can gain experience before moving up to the top league in WRC. It complies with FIA standards, so it can be entered in other events, too. It will start to race in 2021.

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