Audi has competed in numerous forms of motorsports. Audi’s tradition in motorsport began with their former company Auto Union in the 1930s. In the 1990s, Audi found success in the Touring and Super Touring categories of motor racing after success in circuit racing in North America.
Starting in 1999, Audi built the Audi R8R (open-cockpit ‘roadster’ prototype) and the Audi R8C (closed-cockpit ‘coupé’ GT-prototype) to compete in sports car racing, including the Le Mans Prototype LMP900 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For the 2000 season, Audi focused mainly on the new Audi R8, due to favourable rules for open-cockpit prototypes. However, most of the competitors (such as BMW, Toyota, Mercedes and Nissan) retired at the end of 1999. The factory-supportedJoest Racing team won at Le Mans three times in a row with the Audi R8 (2000–2002), as well as winning every race in the American Le Mans Series in its first year. Audi also sold the car to customer teams such as Champion Racing.
In 2003, two Bentley Speed 8s, with engines designed by Audi, and driven by Joest drivers loaned to the fellow Volkswagen Group company, competed in the GTP class, and finished the race in the top two positions, while the Champion Racing R8 finished third overall, and first in the LMP900 class. Audi returned to the winner’s podium at the 2004 race, with the top three finishers all driving R8s: Audi Sport Japan Team Goh finished first, Audi Sport UK Veloqx second, and Champion Racing third.
At the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans, Champion Racing entered two R8s, along with an R8 from the Audi PlayStation Team Oreca. The R8s (which were built to old LMP900 regulations) received a narrower air inlet restrictor, reducing power, and an additional 50 kg (110 lb) of weight compared to the newer LMP1 chassis. On average, the R8s were about 2–3 seconds off pace compared to the Pescarolo–Judd. But with a team of excellent drivers and experience, both Champion R8s were able to take first and third, while the Oreca team took fourth. The Champion team was also the first American team to win Le Mans since the Gulf Ford GTs in 1967. This also ends the long era of the R8; however, its replacement for 2006, called theAudi R10 TDI, was unveiled on 13 December 2005.
The R10 TDI employed many new and innovative features, the most notable being the twin-turbocharged direct injection diesel engine. It was first raced in the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring as a race-test in preparation for the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it later went on to win. Audi has been on the forefront of sports car racing, claiming a historic win in the first ever diesel sports car at 12 Hours of Sebring (the car was developed with a Diesel engine due to ACO regulations that favor diesel engines). As well as winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2006 making history, the R10 TDI has also shown its capabilities by beating the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP in 2007, and beating Peugeot again in 2008, (however Peugeot won the 24h in 2009) and, in a podium clean-sweep by proving its reliability throughout the race (compared to all four 908 entries retired before the end of the race) while breaking a new distance record (set way back by the Porsche 917K of Martini Racing in 1971), in 2010 with the R15 TDI Plus.
Audi’s sports car racing success would continue with the Audi R18’s victory at the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi Sport Team Joest’s Benoît Tréluyer earned Audi their first pole position in five years while the team’s sister car locked out the front row. Early accidents eliminated two of Audi’s three entries, but the sole remaining Audi R18 TDI of Tréluyer, Marcel Fässler, and André Lotterer held off the trio of Peugeot 908s to claim victory by a margin of 13.8 seconds.
In 2012, Audi again won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, an historic first Le Mans victory for a hybrid captured by Audi’s R18 e-tron quattro. Audi’s other R18 hybrid took second, while R18 ultras took third and fifth.
Audi R8R 1999
Audi R8 2000
Audi R10 TDI 2008
Audi R15 TDI 2009
Audi R15 TDI 2010