Audi in Motorsport: History of The Four Rings, Part 5

1990 Audi V8 Quattro DTM

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Audi entered the V8 Quattro for the 1990 German Touring Car Championship series (Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft, DTM). The driver, of perhaps the chauffeur, of this “racing limousine”, was Hans-Joachim Stuck: in seven races during an exciting season, culminating in an even more exciting final on the Hockenheim Ring, he deafeated strong BMW and Mercedes competition and took the title in the car’s very first season. In 1991 Audi defended the championship successfully with Frank Biela driving the car. The quattro permanent four-wheel drive principle was clearly an impressive success in circuit racing too. The car pictured is Hans-Joachim Stuck’s actual 1990 title-winning car.

1992 was a year of transition because of changes to the rules. Audi used it as an opportunity to prepare for its attack on the European touring car championships. Frank Biela started an unparalleled series of victories in 1993 when he won the French touring car championship. In 1994 and 1995 it was Emanuele Pirro’s turn to repeat this success in the Italian championship. The 1996 season was a total triumph for Audi. It entered its cars for the touring car championships in seven countries and won them all: Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, Spain, South Africa and Australia.

In 1998 Audi’s clearly dominant position in relation to its rivals led to an official ban on four-wheel drive in many touring car championships. What better confirmation of the quattro drive-line’s lasting supremacy could one wish for?

Audi in Endurance

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In the early part of the 21st century, Audi set forth on a German racetrack to claim and maintain several world records, such as top speed endurance. This effort was in-line with the company’s heritage from the 1930s racing era Silver Arrows. Audi’s debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 14th June 1999 was to set an unequaled run of success into motion. In 2006, Audi then became the world’s first car maker to win the overall Le Mans title with a diesel engine. An event to forever change the course of motor racing history.

However, back to the glorious beginnings. Just its first time out, Joset’s 1999 Audi racing team made it onto the winner’s platform. The Pirro / Biela / Theys trio took a sensational third place with an Audi A8R (V8 Twin Turbo) – trailing the Toyota GT One by only 49 km. The four-ringer has since become a fixture on the Sarthe racing scene. With the exception of the Bentley victory in 2003, all overall wins from 2000-2008 went to Ingolstadt – And yet Audi even had a hand in the Bentley victory after all – purring under the bonnet of the Bentley Speed 8 was a V8 Twin Turbo engine from Audi. Peugeot took 2009, then from 2010 to 2014 Audi dominated once again before the reigns of Porsche (2015-2017) and Toyota (2018 & 2019).

The hotly coveted Challenge Cup, which ACO (Automobile Club de l’Ouest) presents to the first place winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, must be relinquished to the French organisers at the following year’s race. Yet one cup now calls Ingolstadt home, ever since the legendary hat trick of 2000 / 2001 / 2002. The official rules say that after a third overall win in a row, the cup is kept by that winner – and thus has been on proud display at the Ingolstadt factory ever since 16th June 2002.

The Audi R8 – Race Technology For The Road

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After the 24 Hours race in 2005, then Audi Chairman Dr. Martin Winterkorn was named honorary starter. This was a symbolic gesture on the part of ACO to pay tribute to Audi’s phenomenal development and overall achievement at Le Mans.

Today, the R8 is still the most successful in its class, boasting a five-time overall win record on the Sarthe circuit. Since its Le Mans debut in 1999, the Audi racing team has been tweaking its further technical development. Over the years, the chassis has been perfected to aerodynamic requirements, telemetry systems optimised, and innovative FSI technology tested on the R8. The result of all this development is the R8’s incomparable streak of success in international racing, all the more magnified by the great interest which the road version of the R8 sparked worldwide.

The Audi TDI – A Racing Dream Come True

The 24 Hours of Le Mans tested by a race-worthy diesel – a formidable goal on which the Ingolstadt teams were firmly set. First by subjecting the V12 TDI to 30,000 test kilometres and 1,500 hours on the test rig.

Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director of the Joset Audi Racing Team: “The expectations were clear: we wanted to be the first to win the Le Mans 24 with a diesel engine. That was a very ambitious goal. The competition was keen, the R10 TDI project very complex and yet still at a very early stage. This year more than ever it was a matter of driving for 24 hours straight without any problems – equally as much from the technical standpoint as from the driving standpoint. We’ve done we possibly could in preparing for it.”

The Audi R10 was developed as the first diesel-engine sports car to comply with ACO’s new LMP1 regulations. The R10 TDI aluminium V12 power-train delivered over 650 PS while maximum torque reaches more than 1,100 Nm.

On 17th/18th June 2006 came the great day: the first two cars with TDI technology under the bonnet head to the Le Mans start at the hands of Biela / Pirro / Werner, and Capello / Kirstensen / McNish. After a grueling race, a phenomenal overall win, as well as an outstanding third place, the proof is conclusive: the constant and dillegent research and development work by the Ingolstadt team had clearly paid off. The R10 TDI would take the 2006, 2007 & 2008 victories, followed by its successors the R15 TDI in 2010 and the R18 TDI in 2011. The 2012-2014 victores were taken by the R18 e-tron quattro, in which a flywheel accumulator system was coupled to the TDI engine.

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