Audi R8 By The Numbers - Updated (July 2 2006 - originally posted in October 2005)

Since its debut in 2000 the Audi R8 has broken record after record, and with the car’s days as the frontline weapon for Audi now over after yet another ALMS race win (the R8's 50th in the Series) at Lime Rock, it seems appropriate to look back at the record book.

Now, with grateful thanks to Martyn Pass of Audi Sport UK, we can show just how dominant this extraordinary car has been for over half a decade.

In that time it has seen off factory led challenges from BMW, Cadillac, MG and Panoz and has lifted titles in every full series in which it has competed (ALMS, LMES, ELMS and of course the Le Mans 24 Hours)

Indeed the Audi has been such a tough competitor that it has raised the profile of any team (and there haven’t been many!) that has been able to beat the car.

The Cars
Born out of the 1999 Audi R8R and R8C programmes, the 2000 R8 was already at the cutting edge of sportscar design: what it’s twin turbocharged 3.6 litre V8 lacked in aural excitement it more than made up with in potency and, above all, reliability.

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The involvement of a British company, Ricardo Engineering, in the design of the R8 gave the car what amounted to an almost unfair advantage. The swapable rear end, rear axle, six speed sequential gearbox and all, suddenly transformed the business of 24 hour racing. The team’s abilities to exploit this in swapping the rear end in as little as four and a half minutes effectively turned an already pretty bulletproof LMP car into a 24 hour sprinter.

With the introduction of the FSI direct injection technology to the car, the R8 took a further step forward, better fuel economy was suddenly another weapon in it considerable armoury.

The quick change rear end was eventually banned by the ACO as they attempted to level the Le Mans playing field, but it didn’t stop the car from winning again.

Despite further regulatory changes limiting the rear aero surfaces, power and adding weight, the cars have remained ultimately competitive over the longer races.

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The Drivers
35 different drivers have taken the wheel of the R8 over a race weekend and just over half have reached the top step of the podium thanks to its now legendary blend of blinding speed, iron clad strength and supreme reliability.

Frank Biela tops the winners chart with a total of 21, Dindo Capello next up with 19, Tom Kristensen scores 17 and Emanuele Pirro follows just behind with 16. JJ Lehto and Marco Werner are currently tied on fifth with 14 wins apiece and Allan McNish has broken into double figures too with a total of 12 wins.

The roll of honour though extends much further than that – 11 others have piloted the R8 to a race win: Aiello, Alboreto (2), Ara (3 including the 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours), Davies (2), Herbert (8), Johansson, Kaffer (4), Lemarie, Ortelli, Pescatori, and Peter.

The R8 has made Le Mans winners of seven of its pilots with Tom Kristensen having been aboard for all five of its wins at La Sarthe.

Race Starts, Wins and Podiums
In all Audi R8s have started 177 times in international racing (in 79 individual races) and have come home on the podium an astonishing 137 times.

There have been 63 victories amongst that tally, including of course a string of wins at Le Mans since 2000, broken only by their VAG cousins at Bentley in 2003 and an unbroken six year winning streak at Sebring.

The R8 is also unbeaten at Road Atlanta (8 race wins), Road America (4), Lime Rock (3), Silverstone (2) and Trois Rivieres (2)

And in terms of race dominance the Audi has been a consistent thorn in the side of the competition.
R8s have completed 1-2 finishes on 23 occasions, 1-2-3 finishes on a further 10 occasions and a clean sweep 1-2-3-4 finish at the 2001 12 hours of Sebring.

Astonishingly, an Audi R8 has finished on the podium of every ALMS race contested and indeed has only ever contested three races without posting a podium finish. The this weekend for the #2 Champion Racing car in the R8's final contemporary competitive outing completed a magical 50 wins for the R8 in the ALMS.

Just to complete the picture, R8s have set pole positions on 48 occasions and fastest race laps 59 times.

Chassis Stuff
13 different R8 chassis have won races (with thanks to Martin Krejci for filling in a couple of gaps).

Chassis 505 is the top of the heap with 16 wins over a five season period (more than double the wins of its nearest rival, its first being the 2001 Dallas ALMS race with Team Joest and the latest, the car now with Champion, the 2005 ALMS race at Road America). The 2001 12 Hours of Sebring and the 2003 Petit Le Mans both fell to this grand, and not so old, lady.

2001 and 2002 saw the R8 at the very height of its powers, each of those years seeing the R8 lose out on at least a 1-2 finish just three times.

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The Teams
The factory-blessed Team Joest of course dominated the R8’s history but there have been successes for every single team that has campaigned the car.

Joest tops this chart with a total of 31 race wins from 2000-2003 with Champion next up, a proud 21 race wins for the US team from 2003-2006.

Sam Li’s Audi UK Team Veloqx posted five wins in its 2004 season, with Kazumichi Goh’s squad grabbing a total of three race wins.

Finally there’s been a win apiece for ORECA and Arena: the British team of course has had two bites at the R8 cherry, with the first campaign netting a win for the Gulf liveried R8 in the ELMS, but the later campaign with the British Racing Green trimmed car was less successful.

No customer team therefore has failed to win a race in an Audi R8!

The Bad Times
There have been very few bad days in the Audi R8 story.

Michele Alboreto was a firm favourite with the fans and with Team Joest personnel. A Sebring win in 2001 was the highlight of what would have surely become a long Audi career. April 26 2001 though saw a tragic accident bring down the curtain on his career, when the R8 he was testing at the Lausitzring suffered a sudden tyre failure and pitched the car into a roll.

With that sole exception, the R8 has looked after its pilots extraordinarily well.

The cars have regularly finished races after surviving accidents that would have left any other racecar steaming in an escape road. Who can forget the double R8 accident at the 2004 Le Mans 24 Hour race, which left the #2 Champion and #8 Audi UK cars badly damaged. The cars both finished the race though and the #2 car even made the podium!

In fact out of the 177 race appearances from an R8, just 14 have resulted in retirement and not a single one of them has been caused by a failure in the engine compartment. Accident damage has resulted in a total of 9 'DNFs', electrical problems and clutch failure a further two each and poor Frank Biela’s missed pit stop in the 2003 Le Mans 24 Hours caused the sole retirement for an R8 owing to fuel shortage. It’s worth adding also that in half of the races where an R8 retired another Audi ha gone on to win!

It is only now that the R8 is finally battling from a position of anything other than dominance. Weight and power penalties have more than evened the odds in favour of the Audi’s tormentors, and both the MG Lolas and Zyteks have now found themselves able to compete more effectively than ever before.

The only cars and teams to have prevented the R8 from taking a win have been the factory Panoz team, five times between 2000 and 2002, Dyson Racing four times between 2003 and 2005, Zytek Engineering (bizarrely in the hands of a previous R8 customer team, Arena Motorsport) three times in 2005, Team Bentley at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2003, The penske Porsche RS Spyder at Mid Ohio and, a pair of freak results, RML’s Saleen at the Estoril ELMS round in 2001 (where the Arena run R8 was knocked out of the race by the Pescarolo Courage) (edit - the Courage was reinstated after an appeal and won the race!) and a factory backed Toyota Supra in the 2002 Suzuka 500kms, which profited when the Team Goh R8 suffered an electrical failure.

The Glory Years

2000
Saw the debut of the R8 at Sebring, the car posting a debut win - before the old R8R was brought back to the ALMS campaign, whilst an intensive test programme was brought to bear on the new car to prepare it for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The programme evidently worked, the factory team posting a 1-2-3 finish.

Whilst there was a minor hiccup when the factory Panoz squad won at a very rainy Nurburgring (with the factory BMW forcing the Audi into third spot), from there on in the R8 was unbeaten for the remainder of the ALMS season, Audi Sport North America and Allan McNish taking teams' and drivers' championships respectively.

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2001
A dominant year in the ALMS from the Joest-manned Audi Sport North America netted a repeat team championship for the squad whilst Emanuele Pirro took the drivers honours.

In Europe Joest took the ELMS win at Donington Park before Arena’s Gulf liveried car took the fight to the Pescarolo Courage in what proved to be an undersubscribed series. An accident between the two at Estoril gave the win to the RML Saleen, but the Gulf car took the win at Most in a part season’s campaign which still netted Stefan Johansson the LMP900 crown.

Before then though the Audis had made it two in a row at Le Mans, despite appalling weather (which in part explained the retirement from the race of the customer Arena and Champion R8s), the factory team posting another 1-2.

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2002
A hard fought season between the Audi Sport North America team and the customer Champion Racing squad ended in a hat trick of wins for the factory team. Tom Kristensen took the drivers title.

Le Mans saw the factory team complete another hat trick, the Team Goh car coming in fifth.

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2003
It was closer still in the ALMS with the title only settled at the final race in favour of – you’ve guessed it, Audi Sport North America, just seven points separating the two in both team and drivers championships, Biela and Werner taking the honours.

Le Mans though saw the Audi train derailed – Team Joest personnel were a conspicuous presence in the Bentley pits. The two British Racing Green cars capped a three year programme for the VAG stablemates with a 1-2 finish, the final podium being claimed by Champion Racing. The Audis though had humbled the new kids on the block at Sebring.

Back in Europe, Team Goh took a pair of wins with the team owner’s second chassis, first at Spa in the R8's one and only appearance in the doomed FIASCC (In the colours of Audi Belgium) and then at the Bugatti circuit, at the preview race for the LMES.

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2004
The ALMS saw an uninterrupted five year title freight train completed by Champion Racing, JJ Lehto taking the drivers title alongside now two time winner Marco Werner: just a single win from the #16 Dyson MG Lola broke a chain of wins.

It was Audi Japan Team Goh that took the win at Le Mans, the first from a customer Audi team, whilst Sam Li’s Audi UK Team Veloqx took the inaugural LMES title, winning all four races with the pair of R8s, and netting the drivers title for Jamie Davies and Johnny Herbert. It was this pair that took the 50th win for the R8 at the title clinching Spa 1000kms

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2005
Even with the deck stacked against them, Champion Racing swept all before them, with drivers and team championships in the ALMS and a famous win in the Le Mans 24 hours.

In Europe, Hugues de Chaunac’s ORECA squad added French blue to the Audi colour palate and saw Stephane Ortelli and Allan McNish add to the R8’s win tally, despite extreme pressure from Creation and Zytek Engineering, and the quick hybridised Pescarolo.

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2006
An unexpected return to ALMS service saw a single R8 entered in the three ALMS races following Sebring, as the Audi factory prepared the new diesel R10s for Le Mans. It was a tale of yet more success - Dindo Capello and Allan McNish taking a further pair of wins (Houston and Lime Rock) together with a podium at Mid Ohio. Thus the R8 retires very much on top of it's game, the last race featuring a unique livery detailing the drivers and the circuits that have seen R8s take top honours - It took fairly small type to fit it onto the selected bodywork sections!

Will we ever see the like of the R8's dominance again?

Well who is to say that Audi’s replacement won’t ‘do the double’? It seems though with Porsche, Peugeot, Zytek, Lola and Courage stepping up to the plate, that the replacement will be facing a whole new set of challenges.
GG

 

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