Seventy years after the reign of the all-conquering Auto Union Grand Prix racing cars of the 1930s, the Audi Le Mans R8 sports car has just become the most successful modern-day prototype ever by achieving its 50th race victory in only five years. Its pre-war Auto Union forebear posted 32 wins over four years.
Auto Union, established in 1933, was the first marque to use the legendary four-ring Audi emblem. In the ensuing four years, the company took part in 54 races, winning 32 and setting 15 world records and 23 class records with the A, B, C and D-type single-seater Grand Prix racing cars. In the hands of legendary racing drivers Bernd Rosemeyer, Tazio Nuvolari and Hans Stuck, these mammoth V12 and V16 “heavyweights” achieved competition glory at speeds of over 240mph.
The Auto Union was the first successful mid-engined (positioned behind the driver and ahead of the rear axle) Grand Prix car, the precursor of current Formula One design. It would take 26 years from when Hans Stuck Snr set new World speed records on the Auto Union A-type’s 1934 debut for this layout to become the norm in Grand Prix racing.50 Outright Wins
The latest Audi success in the new millennium is the famous Audi R8, a sports racing car that, since its race début in March 2000, has claimed an amazing 50 outright wins in 60 starts. Johnny Herbert and co-driver Jamie Davies swept their “British” Audi to its 50th victory in the final round of the Le Mans Endurance Series at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium (12 Sep).
The Audi R8 has chalked up four Le Mans 24 Hour victories and five consecutive wins in both the Sebring 12 Hour and 1,000-mile Road Atlanta “Petit Le Mans” races. The latest of these titles was achieved earlier this month (25 Sep) at Road Atlanta by JJ Lehto and Marco Werner. Audi R8 drivers have also won five successive American Le Mans Series (ALMS) titles and now the inaugural Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES) “crown”.
The R8 has set new standards not only for performance, but also for reliability. There has not been a single engine failure in a race to this day.
Since 2001, the turbo charged Audi R8 V8 engine has been using FSI direct injection technology. This pioneering combination of turbo charging and direct petrol injection, which reduces fuel consumption while simultaneously improving throttle response, is featured in Audi’s new A3 and A4 2.0T models.
Audi engineers also demonstrated “Vorsprung durch Technik” in many other areas. The R8 was the first Le Mans prototype with a pneumatic gear shift, and remains unique in this respect, helping Herbert and Davies plus fellow Briton Allan McNish to achieve success.
This year’s Le Mans 24-hour race was one of the most exciting in the illustrious eighty-year history of the race, with the final result hanging in the balance until the closing minutes. For Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx it was the most important race in a season long campaign to prove themselves the best sports car team in Europe. The team, which only came together in the New Year, had an ambitious programme to race at Le Mans and in the 2004 Le Mans Endurance Series.Audi Racers In New TV Series
A Channel 4 series broadcast in five parts on consecutive weeks - “Inside the mind of a sportscar team”- tells their story as they rise to the challenge of races at Sebring, Le Mans, Monza, the Nürburgring, Silverstone and Spa. The series started on Sunday September 26th at 8.00am and will continue on October 3rd at 8.00am and then at 8.30am on Sundays for the remaining three parts.Confirmed TV times for “Inside the mind of a sports car team” are:
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