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.
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 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.
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.
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