Audi R8 on the racetrack

Reading Time: 5 min

NEW ERA

With the entry of Le Mans prototypes in 1999 and into the DTM in 2004, Audi began an exceptionally successful era with the most superior racing cars of their time. The regulations for open sports cars resulted in a technological boom, which also flowed into the brand’s series production. The DTM had evolved from a category for production-based race cars in the 1980s and 1990s to prototypes that only resemble road vehicles in their silhouettes. Pure racing technology combined with first-rate safety has guaranteed top-class touring car sport ever since. Moreover, in 2009, Audi entered a whole new domain with customer racing and the brand with the four rings continues to race into the future in the Formula E electric racing series since the 2016/17 season.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro on the racetrack

SUCCESS AT LE MANS

After the superior quattro drive was banned from touring car racing, Audi switched to sports prototypes, also underlining its slogan ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in this motorsport category for eighteen years. At its debut in the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours, it promptly claimed a podium result with third place. In the following years, the Audi R8 was in a class of its own at the toughest endurance race in the world. A historic hat-trick was celebrated from 2000 to 2002, also thanks to the TFSI technology first used in 2001. The combination of turbocharging and direct injection proved revolutionary at the time and is now standard in Audi production models. In 2004 and 2005, customer teams in Le Mans took two more overall victories for Audi. The R8 secured its place in motorsport history with a total of 63 wins in 80 sports car races.

Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer, Leena Gade, Benoît Tréluyer with the Audi R18 e-tron quattro

PIONEERING PERFORMANCE WITH TDI TECHNOLOGY

Audi demonstrated a pioneering feat and at the same time again proved ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ with TDI technology: the newly conceived Audi R10 TDI triumphed in 2006 as the first diesel-powered racing car at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Overall, the TDI technology has won the toughest endurance race in the world eight times. Audi also won the American Le Mans Series three times in a row with the diesel racing car as well as the European Le Mans Series in 2008. With the R15 TDI, Audi celebrated a 1-2-3 victory in the fastest Le Mans race ever, setting a new distance record. In 2014 followed the 13th victory from only 16 races entered. ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ also applies to energy efficiency. In the TDI era, Audi reduced diesel consumption by 46 per cent within a decade.

Another pioneering achievement also helped here: hybridization of the drive system. With the first victory for a hybrid racing car at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Audi achieved another pioneering feat in 2012. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro remained unbeaten in Le Mans three times in a row (2012 to 2014). Many other innovations, such as the Audi laser light, add to list of technical developments.

Team photo

GOING OUT ON A HIGH

The participation of Audi in sports prototypes came to an end in 2016, when Audi began realigning its motorsport strategy for its factory-backed commitment in the all-electric Formula E racing series. In Bahrain, Audi Sport Team Joest closed this highly-successful 18-year chapter of Audi’s motorsport history in sports prototypes by scoring a 1-2 triumph at the season finale of the 2016 FIA WEC. It was the 107th sports prototype race win for Audi.

Audi A4 DTM on the racetrack
René Rast with the Audi RS 5 DTM

DTM TITLES

After Laurent Aiello’s title win in 2002 with the privately entered Abt-Audi TT-R, Audi returned to the DTM with a factory-backed commitment in 2004 and won the title with Mattias Ekström – the Swede then won again in 2007. In 2008 and 2009, his brand colleague Timo Scheider took the crown. By now, Audi is the only car manufacturer in DTM history to win a title hat-trick. Martin Tomczyk completed the Audi A4 DTM’s success story by winning the title in the 2011 season. Two years later, Mike Rockenfeller clinched the drivers’ title with the Audi RS 5 DTM, marking the ninth DTM title for Audi.

In 2017, René Rast achieved a sensational result. The newcomer secured the DTM driver’s title as a rookie. The team title went to the Audi Sport Team Rosberg. Audi also rounded off a strong season by winning the manufacturers’ title.

A new era dawns in the DTM in 2019, with the introduction of new turbo-charged four-cylinder engines and lighter cars – ensuring that the fans will enjoy the fastest DTM season to date.

Audi RS 5 DTM on the racetrack
Audi Sport customer racing

AUDI SPORT CUSTOMER RACING

With the R8 LMS, Audi developed its first racing car specifically for customer racing. The GT3 sports car, more than 50 percent of which is standard parts, proved itself immediately during its debut season in 2009. Audi has delivered more than 200 racing cars to customers. In March 2015, Audi presented the second generation of the successful GT3 sports car, which won the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring only two months later. 2015 also heralded the Audi Sport TT Cup that saw youngsters proving themselves in action-packed races over three seasons. Jan Kisiel, Joonas Lappalainen and Philip Ellis were crowned champions between 2015 and 2017 respectively.

In September 2016, the launch of the Audi RS 3 LMS marked the brand’s venture into the world of TCR competition in touring car racing. Whilst the RS 3 LMS was enjoying a successful first season in the hands of customers during 2017, the Audi R8 LMS GT4, for the ever-growing GT4 category, was released in April of the same year. This was followed by the latest evolution of the Audi R8 LMS for GT3 competition that was launched at the Paris Motor Show in 2018. The Audi R8 LMS GT2 was unveiled at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. This completes Audi Sport customer racing’s current portfolio of the three internationally popular categories GT3, GT4 and TCR, as well as the new GT2 category for 2020.

Audi R8 LMS
Audi S1 EKS RX quattro on the racetrack

TITLE IN WORLD RALLYCROSS

In addition, Audi provided Mattias Ekström’s rallycross team with support for two seasons from 2017 to 2018. The DTM champion of 2004 and 2007 celebrated the drivers’ and teams’ titles in the World Rallycross Championship in 2016, and thus continued Audi’s success story. “In 1983, Hannu Mikkola was the first to race with quattro-drive, then the Audi R18 e-tron quattro was successful over many years, and now I have been able to contribute a chapter with my Audi S1 EKS RX quattro,” says Ekström. After ending his DTM career, the Swede focused on the rallycross season in 2018, when the rallycross chapter came to a close at the end of the year with Ekström finishing as the runner-up in the drivers’ standings, followed by team mate Andreas Bakkerud in third place.

Audi e-tron FE04 on the racetrack

‘VORSPRUNG DURCH TECHNIK’ CONTINUES INTO THE FUTURE

In 2017, Audi Sport repositioned itself. The company not only demonstrated ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in the DTM, but also in Formula E, which joined the brand’s portfolio for the first time. Since the 2016/17 season, Audi became more involved in the world’s first racing series for pure-electric-powered racing cars. With success: Audi driver Lucas di Grassi won the drivers’ title at the season finale in Montreal.

The commitment of Audi in the 2017/18 season was extended to a factory motorsport programme, with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler participating in the twelve Formula E races with the Audi e-tron FE04, driven by Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt, who won the teams’ championship for Audi. But the future has already begun: The 2018/19 Formula E season, with thirteen races around the world, sees the new Audi e-tron FE05 taking part with di Grassi and Abt behind the wheel.

Audi e-tron FE05 on the racetrack
Rear light NSU TT
Rear light NSU TT

Racing history

1908–1968: The success of NSU

NSU was already making a name for itself in motorsport in the early twentieth century. By 1967, the brand had scored notable race victories at motorcycle and automobile races.

Auto Union Type C, Audi Sport quattro S1, Audi R8
Auto Union Type C, Audi Sport quattro S1, Audi R8

Audi racing

History

Audi positions itself as the sportiest supplier in the premium sector, and for this it has the perfect basis: Motorsport. Sportiness, pioneering technology and an evocative design lay the foundations for Audi brand’s success. The genes for this stem from racing.

Horch

History

AUDI AG

The history of AUDI AG dates back to the 19th century. Learn more about the great personalities from over 100 years of the brand’s history.

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