Audi in Le Mans – a Historic Hat-Trick
Seldom before has a car manufacturer been as successful in the Le Mans 24 Hours as Audi. With three consecutive victories in 2000, 2001 and 2002, Audi achieved a historic hat-trick in probably the world’s toughest motor race. Thus, the Le Mans trophy finally went into the hands of the AUDI AG – it can now be admired at Audi’s museum mobile in Ingolstadt.
In the 2001 season, Audi proved that its success in the previous year was no coincidence: in difficult conditions with torrential rain, Audi celebrated a dominant double victory for the two R8s that had been entered. The FSI technology, being used for the first time, played a decisive role in the process. At the rain-soaked track, the better throttle response, courtesy of the direct fuel injection, proved to be a huge advantage for the Audi drivers.
With the three-fold victory in the year 2002, the reduced fuel consumption of the FSI technology developed by Audi paid off to the full. Not only were the Infineon Audi R8 sportscars the fastest cars in the field, thanks to the FSI engines, they also saved valuable time, as they had to pit for re-fuelling less often.
At Le Mans, Audi works drivers Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro have achieved a unique feat: they became the first driver line-up to win the endurance classic, that has been taking place since 1923, three times in a row.
The Audi sports car also convinced because of its one hundred percent reliability: since its debut in 1999, the Audi Sport Team Joest has always brought all the cars to the finish at Le Mans. In the process, Audi defeated the entire opposition three times in a row – a unique record.
This year, three customer teams want to benefit from the reliability of the R8 when competing at Le Mans. The team ADT Champion Racing is entering an R8 for Stefan Johansson, JJ Lehto and Emanuele Pirro. Frank Biela, Perry McCarthy and Mika Salo will be competing for Audi Sport UK. The R8 of the Audi Sport Japan Team Goh will be driven by Jan Magnussen, Seiji Ara and Marco Werner.
“I am convinced that we have a real chance of winning with the Audi R8 this year, too,” says Frank Biela. “We have scored our three victories because of incredible reliability, speed and low fuel consumption. The opposition is strong, but the 2002-spec R8 will continue to be competitive.”
Head of Audi Sport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich has the same view: “Le Mans is the most important sportscar race of the year. Even though we are not entering a works team, we are still hoping for a fine performance by our customers and a podium finish.”