Audi Repeats Its Racing History of 70 Years Ago

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October 1, 2004


50 wins for Audi Le Mans car beats the 32 wins of pre-war Auto Union pioneers

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 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 sportscar 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 Nürburging, 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. 

A limited edition DVD has also been produced that provides extended footage of the race at Le Mans. The DVD will be released in advance of the series to provide journalists with a tantalising sneak preview of just how exciting sportscar racing is, particularly from within the pit lane. 

Confirmed TV times for “Inside the mind of a sports car team”are;

Programme One: Sunday 26th September – 8.00am

Programme Two: Sunday 3rd October – 8.00am

Programme Three: Sunday 10th October – 8.30am

Programme Four: Sunday 17th October – 8.30am

Programme Five: Sunday 24th October – 8.30am 

The Fifty Audi Endurance Wins


1 Sebring (USA) Biela / Kristensen / Pirro

2 24h Le Mans (F) Biela / Kristensen / Pirro

3 Sears Point (USA) Capello / McNish

4 Mosport (CDN) Capello / McNish

5 Dallas (USA) Biela / Pirro

6 Portland (USA) Capello / McNish

7 Petit Le Mans (USA) Alboreto / Capello / McNish

8 Laguna Seca (USA) Capello / McNish

9 Las Vegas (USA) Biela / Pirro

10 Adelaide (AUS) Capello / McNish


11 Dallas (USA) Capello / Kristensen

12 Sebring (USA) Aiello / Alboreto / Capello

13 Donington (GB) Capello / Kristensen

14 Jarama (E) Capello / Kristensen

15 24h Le Mans (F) Biela / Kristensen / Pirro

16 Sears Point (USA) Capello / Kristensen

17 Most (CZ) Johansson / Lemarie

18 Mosport (CDN) Biela / Pirro

19 Laguna Seca (USA) Biela / Pirro

20 Petit Le Mans (USA) Biela / Pirro


21 Sebring (USA) Capello / Herbert / Pescatori

22 24h Le Mans (F) Biela / Kristensen / Pirro

23 Mid-Ohio (USA) Biela / Pirro

24 Road America (USA) Capello / Kristensen

25 Trois-Rivières (CDN) Capello / Kristensen

26 Mosport (CDN) Capello / Kristensen

27 Laguna Seca (USA) Biela / Pirro

28 Miami (USA) Biela / Pirro

29 Petit Le Mans (USA) Capello / Kristensen


30 Sebring (USA) Biela / Peter / Werner

31 Road Atlanta (USA) Herbert / Lehto

32 Trois-Rivières (CDN) Biela / Werner

33 Mosport (CDN) Biela / Werner

34 Road America (USA) Herbert / Lehto

35 Spa (B) Ara / Kristensen

36 Laguna Seca (USA) Biela / Werner

37 Miami (USA) Herbert / Lehto

38 Petit Le Mans (USA) Herbert / Lehto

39 Le Mans (F) Ara / Kristensen


40 Sebring (USA) Biela / Kaffer / McNish

41 Monza (I) Davies / Herbert

42 24h Le Mans (F) Ara / Capello / Kristensen

43 Mid-Ohio (USA) Lehto / Werner

44 Nürburgring (D) Kaffer / McNish

45 Lime Rock (USA) Lehto / Werner

46 Infineon R`way (USA) Lehto / Werner 47 Portland (USA) Lehto / Werner 48 Silverstone (GB) Kaffer / McNish 49 Road America (USA) Lehto / Werner 50 Spa (B) Davies / Herbert 

Technical Data Audi R8 (2004)

Vehicle type

Le Mans Prototype (LMP 900) 


Carbon fibre monocoque, crash structure ACO and FIA approved, CFK rollbars front and rear, carbon fibre body 


V8 engine, turbo charged, 90 degree cylinder angle, 4 valves per cylinder, 2 Garrett turbo chargers, 2 30.7 mm air restrictors and boost pressure restriction to 1.67 bars absolute, direct fuel injection FSI

Engine management:

Bosch MS 2.9 

Engine lubrication: Dry sump, Shell lubricants 

Displacement: 3600 cc

Output: about 550 hp

Torque: more than 700 Nm

Transmission: Rear wheel drive

Clutch: CFK clutch 


Sequential 6-speed sports gearbox, partner Ricardo, pneumatic gear-shift


Multiple-disc limited-slip differential


Constant-velocity plunging tripod joints


Rack-and-pinion power steering


Independent suspension front and rear, double-wishbone suspension, pushrod system with spring/damper unit, adjustable gas-filled shock absorbers


Hydraulic dual-circuit brake system, monobloc light-alloy brake calipers, ventilated carbon fibre brake discs at front and rear, brake balance adjustable by driver


O.Z. forged magnesium rims,front: 13.5 x 18 inches, rear 14.5 x 18 inches 


Michelin Radial, front: 33/65-18, rear: 37/71-18 


Length: 4650 mm 

Width: 2000 mm 

Height: 1080 mm 

Minimum weight: 900 kgs

Fuel tank capacity: Le Mans/LMES: 80, ALMS: 90 ltr

  Audi R8 (2000-2004) Auto Union C-type (1936)
Engine Biturbo charged V8 FSI – 3.6-litre Super charged V16 – 6.0-litre
Max output 550-610bhp 520bhp
Max speed 220mph 211mph (180mph in race trim)
Weight 900kg 824kg
Chassis Carbon fibre composite Tubular steel
Body Carbon fibre Aluminium
Cost now Approx £750,000 Approx £3,000,000 (though never likely to be available)

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