The Drivers and Races That Shaped Audi's Motorsport Legacy
Slideshow: Let's take a trip back to witness some of the most exciting Audi motorsports moments in history.
Austrian Alpine Run 1912 - 1914
If you take a glance at August Horsch’s life, you’ll see he was no stranger to motorized competition. In 1906 he won the Herkomer Run in his namesake Horsch 11/22hp. Leaving the very company he helped to build, and which was named after him, in 1909, he immediately started Audi. With the creation of an all-new car company, it was only a few years until he got right back into racing, competing in the Austrian Alpine Run and winning it every year from 1912 to 1914.
Deemed the "Speed Racer" of Auto Union (which Audi was part of), in 1936 Bernd made his mark in the racing world. He won repeatedly, all of which lead to him capturing the title of European Champion. The public knew him as the "hot-headed" driver, as he was popular for his aggressive, but skillful performance. While many of his races were memorable, one, unfortunately, stands out from the rest. While attempting to break a land speed record set by Mercedes, the car he was using lost traction and veered off of the road and into the air, resulting in his unfortunate death.
Michele Mouton 1981 World Championship
A superior driver, and innovator in her own right, Michele Mouton was the first woman to win a World Championship rally event. Finnish driver Ari Vatanen was quoted saying, “Never can, nor will I lose to a woman”, but Mouton was sure to make him eat his words when she won the Sanremo World Championship. Considering the male domination of the sport, there were a lot of men quick to criticize and speculate that she only won due to the technology provided by the Quattro. However, over the years her prowess and ability to achieve consistent victories soon changed the mind of even the most stubborn critics.
Rally de Portugal Accident
While there was no direct connection between Audi and the tragedy that occurred at the infamous 1986 Portugal Rally, but this race had a massive effect on ending Group B rally racing. After a Ford RS2000 driver lost controlled and crashed into a crowd of spectators, many decided that the Group B cars were too fast and dangerous. Audi’s drivers and the rest of the factory-sponsored teams removed themselves from that specific race because of poor crowd control. After receiving word at headquarters, Audi then removed itself completely from rally racing.
1990 DTM Series
While rally racing may have been put on hiatus by Audi, the Quattro continued to succeed in touring racing. The debut of this pedestrian looking sedan in 1990 resulted in the car being criticized as a chauffeur’s car, but those critics were dumbstruck when Audi driver Hans-Joachim Stuck won Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM, German Touring Car Masters) championship in 1990. Audi managed to win the next season’s title, becoming the first manufacturer to successfully defend its title at DTM. These races marked a new beginning for Audi’s motorsport legacy, and in the coming years provided a platform to test newly designed cars. Winning on the track, with what were originally production-based cars, lent weight to Audi's performance image.
24 Hours of Le Mans
There’s a reason the Audi R8 is popular, besides its good looks. This car is fast, handles amazing and has a racing record to back up its on-road performance. In 2000, participating at both 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans, the R8 dominated the competition, finishing in first and second for Sebring, and first, second, third for Le Mans. This trend continued until 2005 when Audi backed privateers ended taking first, third and fourth places. Audi introduced the R10 TDI with its diesel engine to replace the R8 racer. Needless to say, it absolutely blew away the competition. For the next three years, Audi conquered Le Mans with various variations of the R10 TDI, winning its last gold in 2009.
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