words: Bill, photo: George Achorn
With plenty of time left in Audi Club’s RS 6 Avant Sweepstakes, there’s also plenty of time for some cool giveaways to go with it. For the next week, every entry will also get the chance to win a 24 x 36-inch canvas of an early Audi R18 prototype shot from pit row at Sebring during the very first American test of Audi’s closed-top Le Mans legend. This is Sonja before she was painted Audi Red.
Back in 2011, Audi had just missed the 12-hours, losing out to Peugeot and its blistering fast closed-roof 908 HDi FAP. Open-top cars like its R15 plus just weren’t up to the pace of closed top cars. So the very next day, Audi Sport rolled its then-new R18 closed-canopy LMP1 out of the transporter and took to Sebring’s now-empty tarmac.
Only Audi staff photographers, DailySportcar.com contributors, and quattro Magazine editor George Achorn were there shooting that day, which makes photos of the R18 before its racing debut all the more rare.
George recounted the day:
“Shooting on an empty track is surreal and extra special. The day after the race in Sebring, there’s still all the evidence of that 12-hour party in the form of empty beer bottles and abandoned couches. A lot of the rules in place for photographers on race day really don’t apply. Access is only really limited by the teams, and areas like bridges and portions of pit row during races are fair game under such conditions.”
And then there was the shot itself.
“Any photographer who has shot Sebring knows about the ‘Florida Orange’. As the sun starts to drop during the 12 Hours of Sebring, there’s always a crowd down at Turn 1. They all wait for the orange sun to drop behind the oncoming cars. If you want to compose an iconic Sebring shot, you head to Turn 1 at that time.
“As Florida Orange time approached on test day, I jumped on my cart and tore off to catch the R18. I could see the others sitting down at Turn 1 as I approached pit lane. Hitting the gate at pit exit, I hung a left and realized I couldn’t hear anything on track. So, I turned my head to look back at the pits and saw the test car sitting doors up, and that big old orange halo behind it. Waves danced away from the wheels as heat radiated from the brakes. With no one on track, I was emboldened to walk out into the lane and shoot to my heart’s content. There’s a whole set of these shots but this one’s my favorite.”
He got the shot of a lifetime: the #2 R18 in test car black, up on its jacks with engineers and mechanics casually chatting nearby, doors open, and partially obscuring the sun behind it. A driver sits inside. The R18 is every bit the spaceship it seemed to be in 2011… here coming in for a landing.
Later, in June of 2011, the lone remaining R18 of the Audi Sport squad also running the #2 would win a highly memorable 24 Hours of Le Mans. That this test car was also the #2 may have been a premonition of things to come, seemingly Sonja before she received her red stripes.
Of all the photos that George has taken over the years, this is a favorite. Yes, it’s of a race car, but one that isn’t moving. The beauty of this photo is what’s going on around it.
For our next promotion, we’ll be printing this remastered version of the photo on a 24 x 36-inch canvas for your home, garage or office. Enter our Audi RS 6 Avant Sweepstakes from Thursday February 25th to Thursday March 4th for a chance to win the canvas. Every entry in the sweepstakes during that time window will also automatically enter you to win the canvas.
We will draw on Friday March 5 around noon Eastern and announce the winner at that time. And as a bonus, we will continue to send a free R18 e-tron quattro with a roof box decal with every purchase while supplies last. So buy entries, get a free decal, automatically get entered into the R18 canvas, and potentially win an Audi exclusive RS 6 Avant. Don’t forget; your chapter is also in a competition to get an Audi Club chapter logo 10×10 EZ-Up tent so please choose which chapter you want to give credit to. We have more promotional giveaways planned, so stick around…you’ll love them. Buy your entries HERE.