Audi has been dominating Le Mans for the past decade; they managed to do so in four different Le Mans Prototypes and against several competitors from different continents. There’s no reason to believe that it won’t happen again this weekend as the long-tail R18 e-tron quattro is looking like the car to beat. Before the race inaugurates on Saturday, we’re taking you back for a quick look at Audi’s highly successful Le Mans history.
Audi’s Le Mans campaign kicked off in 1999 when it entered four prototypes: two Audi R8Rs in the open-cockpit LMP category and two Audi R8Cs in the closed-cockpit LMGTP category. Both R8Cs retired, but the #8 R8R gave Audi its first ever podium with a third place overall, its #7 sister crossed the line right behind in fourth.
In 2000, Audi introduced, what would later become, one of the most successful race cars ever: the Audi R8. Once again, Audi opted for an open-cockpit setup with the R8; the car featured a 3.6-litre Audi FSI V8 petrol engine which powered the R8 for five overall Le Mans victories (2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005).
When the R8’s racing days came to an end in 2005, Audi brought the diesel-powered R10 TDI to life in 2006. The R10 TDI was the first diesel powered car to win at Le Mans, building on the R8’s pedigree. Powered by a 5.5-litre V12 TDI diesel engine, it scored overall victories in all of its Le Mans outings between 2006 and 2008.
For the 2009 edition of the race, the R10 TDI was replaced by the R15 TDI; the R15 featured a smaller 5.5-litre V10 TDI diesel engine. Unfortunately, Audi’s five-year winning streak ended that year as Peugeot took the chequered flag first. Audi didn’t quite give up though; the German brand returned to reclaim its throne with an updated version of the R15, dubbed the R15 TDI Plus, in 2010. The R15 Plus’ rock solid reliability gave Audi a 1-2-3 at the 2010 race, avenging their 2009 loss in style.
In 2011, Audi became the second most successful car manufacturer at Le Mans after winning the endurance race for the 10th time on the new closed-cockpit R18 TDI – beating Ferrari’s record of 9 wins. This was followed by an 11th victory in 2012 with the R18 e-tron quattro, a hybrid version of the R18 TDI featuring a 3.7-litre V6 turbodiesel and a Kinetic energy recovery system developed by the Williams Formula 1 team, which gave the car a quattro four-wheel drive system. The 2012 triumph made the Audi R18 e-tron quattro the first hybrid electric vehicle to win at Le Mans, as well as the first with four-wheel drive.
Audi’s lofty Le Mans record surely gives us enough reason to believe that a 12th victory is on the way; whether this is the case or not, Audi will remain one of the most successful automakers in sports car history.