Blast from the past - 1994 Virginia City Hillclimb

Kicking off an intro on the new Audi club forum in my Sierra Chapter section.

I’ve been around Audi quattros since the early 1990s and the Art Director in the early days of the Audi quattro club helping with the ur-quattro registry, design of the quattro quarterly, illustrating covers, event posters and T-shirt designs. I worked with Kent Anderson while he travelled the country promoting the club. In 1995, my wife and I moved from South Lake Tahoe to Vermont to start a family. With my Mars red 1983 ur-quattro in the Mayflower moving truck, we packed up our gear, stuffed in the cat, and drove our 1986 5000CS quattro loaded to the hilt across the USA. As soon as I arrived in Vermont, I hooked up with the local hillclimb group, SCCA rally teams and got connected with local Audi enthusiasts — I was the driving force that helped form the New England Region.

Jump in the hot tub time machine to early winter 1994, I was in the thick of it with supporting Kent traveling and promoting club events. The big events of the year were always the Virginia City Hillclimb (run by the Ferrari Owner’s Club, Audi quattro club) and the Frank Beddor Nationals held yearly in MN. I just had to race in the Virginia City Hillclimb. One of the benefits of living up at South Lake Tahoe, I could easily drive 45 minutes and practice on the hillclimb whenever I needed.

As a side note, this isn’t a normal race with other cars together, it’s a hillclimb in the european tradition, one car against the clock. Some racing experience helps in this venue. I was raised autocrossing in a 1969 Porsche 911E from the late 70s learning to drive and time trialing (way before DE events were formed) at the original Laguna Seca track layout in 1987 (in a 1976 Porsche Carrera 3.0 targa), Sears Point raceway, and several SCCA Pro-Solo events in my 1972 Porsche 911RS replica.

Waiting until June 25-26th for the hillclimb was difficult for me to contain all my excitement. June in Virginia City is usually filled with dry, dusty sage brush, wild mustangs roaming the hills and hot summer sun. Imagine how cool it was to see a full car transporter arrive from Minnesota at the base of Hwy 341 in Nevada loaded with a few Audi Sport quattros AND ur-quattros? Yup, giddy cool. Oh yeah, the club also loaded three brand new tuned Ruf CTR4s on the transporter. The Audi quattro club is totally first class — all the way from MN to NV with a transporter full of rare cars.

My first Audi I bought in 1989 was an Alpine White 1985 4000S quattro, purchased from the original owner, this is what I raced in. We had two drivers for the event, Randy Evans and myself. On a shoe string budget, I removed the rear seat, strapped down a Sony camcorder behind the passenger seat on a tripod, and mounted Yokohama Intermediate tires. We packed up the 4000S and took it to the hillclimb for the weekend.

As usual for June, it was HOT, must have been in the high 90’s in the shade. Audi’s don’t normally like heat and I’ve got TWO drivers on my only car. All I could think about was everything that could go wrong. Arriving there first thing in the morning temperature was was cold, the smell of dewy sage brush permeated and racers were sipping cups of coffee chatting cars. The Anderson brothers were unloading the Audi sport quattros, this was a first sight of these for me. WOW, with white Compomotive 9" wide forged race rims and Goodyear race slicks, these Audis and club mean business. Alois Ruf was also there, overlooking the prepping of the Ruf CTR. This event was really a shake down run for the Pike Peak hillclimb the week after for the Ruf. To kick off the hillclimb, Steve Beddor jumped out of a helicopter and dropped in at the start of the event from under a parachute sporting a huge green “Ruf” flag. There were several nicely race tuned Porsches, Vintage Mustang GT350s, and Ferraris, lots of them. Ok this was going to be fun.

I met Ken and Andrew Bennett (2Bennett Audimotive) way back in the 1990s and we were in the same class at the hillclimb. They brought out a silver 1985 4000S quattro and ran the engine without accessory belts and with race fuel. These young guys were fueled with a major case of Audi adrenaline way back then. Running on the battery only, they forgot to remove the catalyst and had somewhat of a melt down by the end of day, oops, lesson learned with experience but, placed first in class due to that extra power. All I remember was how quickly their mostly stock 5 cylinder 2.22 liter JT engine revved, compared to mine, super quick like it had a lightened flywheel.

Both Randy and I drove my 4000S repeatedly so hard that day and it never skipped a beat, ran like a top. Just a solid built running Audi, loved every minute of it. We ended up second in class for the weekend.

On a side note, I met Aidan McCleer, an Audi tech that travelled down from Redding, CA. He brought his really trick 1983 5000S turbo proud with Audi Sport livery and of course, did really well. What a nice vintage FWD Audi that was. Credit photos below from Aidan.

The below video is my first run, and since it was early on, my quickest. I think I can remember my trap speed was a lowly 77mph but, I sneaked in a 4:30 time. Respectable for the altitude and stock 115hp Audi 5 cylinder engine. Just for reference Steve Beddor’s Ruf CTR pulled FTOD (autocross lingo for “Fastest Time of the Day”) and 132mph. Starting elevation is 5000 feet and ends up at 6200 feet!

Hope you enjoy. After 25 years, still spreading the Audi Sport love, enthusiasm and on my 13th Audi quattro. Happy to be back home in South Lake Tahoe and ready to support the Sierra Chapter.

Thompson Smith
2013 Audi Q7 TDI s-line Prestige
2012 Audi A4 Avant s-line Sport Prestige

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