By the time this picture was taken in 2001, the car hiding in the background wasn't a secret anymore. But in its day, it was one of Audi's greatest behind-the-scenes projects.
Behind the then-new first-generation Audi TT and the original Audi Quattro is Audi's Group S prototype.
You can read a full history of the car right here on IEDEI, but I'll give you a quick summary.
Group B was a set of rules for top-level rallying established in the early '80s. With the requirement that 200 road cars be built, an automaker could enter just about any kind of crazy prototype race car in official competition. 'Evolution' models were allowed if an automaker built 25 road cars of those, as well.
The series came to an end after a run of fatal crashes in the mid '80s, with midengine specials that were simply too fast for the long, grueling days of competition, often running well into the night.
Well, before Group B got cancelled, another series was planned called Group S. It took the Group B Evolution cars and allowed them to be even more extreme, even closer to top-level prototype racers. When Group B (perhaps wisely) got banned, the Group S programs became stillborn.
Lancia had one famous 800 horsepower Group S prototype called the ECV and Audi had one as well. Its mid-mounted inline five pushed out nigh on 1,000 horsepower to all four wheels. There was big downforce from gigantic wings, and just about as little safety protection as Audi could manage.
The entire project was conducted in absolute secrecy, hidden from top Audi bosses. And not without reason - once top brass found out about the car, they had all official copies destroyed. One prototype, completely off the books, survived and lives in Audi's Ingolstadt museum, where it is pictured above.
I'd never heard about the car until early 2011 when IEDEI published an old magazine article. Maybe I should've looked at Audi's press archive a little more closely.
Photo Credits: Audi