German auto manufacturer, Audi, has a rich racing tradition going all the way back to the International Austrian Alpine Rallies during the years from 1912 to 1914. The company was founded in 1909, so success in racing came quickly. Over the years the cars have proven competitive time and again, holding the bragging rights to victories and series championships. After a racing hiatus of many years, today they are again a highly respected brand in auto racing.
In 1932 Audi merged with four other car companies to form Auto Union, and the new company raced under the new Auto Union brand. The Audi name disappeared from the automotive marketplace in 1939. It did not reappear until the mid-1960s and racing did not return under the Audi brand until the late 1990s when Audi introduced the R8R followed by the R8C, neither of which were able to consistently challenge the leaders in sports-racing competition.
Audi re-emerges on the strength of the R8
But by the 2000 season, Audi had developed the R8 model to a winning formula. The R8 then won the American Le Mans series six straight years from 2000 through 2005, and placed first at the prestigious European 24 hours of Le Mans five of those six years. In 2003 the R8 placed third. The car’s dominance of its racing category was profound, to say the least.
The R8’s lightweight carbon-fiber body and 600+ h.p. V-8 engine produced record lap times at Le Mans during those first three championship seasons before rules changes reduced horsepower. But perhaps the most significant fact about the dominance of the R8 is this: out of 79 races the car entered, it won 63 times.
Replacements for the irreplaceable R8
The successor to the R8 was the R10, which turned out to be a great car in its own right, albeit with a shorter lifespan. The full model designation was R10 TDI, the later part meaning turbocharged direct injection. This car placed first at Le Mans in each of the three consecutive seasons it raced there (2006, 07, and 08) until being replaced by the R15. It won constructor’s championships in each of those seasons for Audi.
In 2009 the new R15 TDI employed a V-10 engine, replacing the V-12s that had been used in earlier models. The car was competitive but failed to win at Le Mans, in its first and only year there, also failing to win at the Petit Le Mans, and winning only three of its ten races entered.
The car was revamped in 2010 as the R15 plus, and competed more successfully. At Le Mans, after trailing the leading Peugeots for most of the race, Audis finished 1-2-3. But that marked the high point for Audi in 2010 as the cars were unimpressive throughout the remainder of the season.
For the 2011 season Audi again entered an entirely new car, the R18 TDI, which did win at Le Mans, but did not impress for much of the season, with the company in fact choosing to field older R15s in some races. The new car was revamped for 2012 as the R18 ultra, and also as another model, the R18 e-tron quattro. These two models together performed well winning five times during the season, sweeping the top four finishing positions at both Spa and Le Mans. Audi again captured the World Endurance Championship in 2011 on the strength of these finishes.
Ian Douglas is a freelance writer who concentrates on auto repair, auto upkeep & maintenance, auto gadgetry, auto manufacturers and other topics as well; to learn more about auto repair visit Subaru repair BC.