In the world of endurance racing, Audi has reigned as king for most of the past few decades. For those not familiar with the sport, endurance racing involves taking a race car and not only making it incredibly fast, but making it be able to go that fast for up to 24 hours with the only stops being for more fuel and tires. While Formula 1 cars might have an outright speed advantage, the cars on track for an endurance competition will run the equivalent of an entire Forumla 1 season in one race. Audi set out to conquer the world of endurance racing in the late 1990s, and while their early efforts had merit, it wasn’t until the all-conquering R8 came on the scene for the 2000 season that they began their era of dominance.
Today’s find is one of the very first R8 LMP900 racers, chassis #405. This car was one of the first four that were raced in the 2000 season, campaigned by the legendary Audi Sport Team Joest. The first time it was run on a track in anger came at the test day for the 24 Hours of LeMans – the ultimate endurance race – where it promptly set the quickest lap of the testing. It then went on to get pole position, set the fastest race lap, and came in second overall in that race, driven by the team of Stéphane Ortelli, Laurent Aiello, and Allan McNish. It took 3rd place at the Nurburgring 1,000km race that year. It was then shipped to the US, where Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro campaigned it for Audi Sport North America in the American LeMans series. They were joined by “Mr. LeMans” himself, Tom Kristensen, for the Petit LeMans in Georgia where they drove the car to a 2nd place finish. The car was sold to Champion Racing for the 2001 season where it was driven by the likes of Andy Wallace and Johnny Herbert for the end of its competitive life. It was finally sold again to a private owner, who had the team at Rogers Motorsports return it to its 2000 LeMans configuration and has raced in historic racing since then. It was finally sold to the current owner in England, who has raced it at European venues, including Spa in the Global Endurance Legends series.
This is a prime example of a car that was of massive importance to Audi not only as a race team, but also as a company. Audi used its race program as a development bed for various technologies including such things as FSI, or Fuel Stratified Injection, which would eventually become standard across its lineup of street cars. It represents the very pinnacle of Audi’s “Vorsprung Durch Technik” or “Progress Through Technology” philosophy. Audi used their mastery of engineering and technology to create a car that was so domineering that the governing body of endurance racing had to change the rulebook to make sure other teams stood a chance. The R8 was the platform on which Audi launched their decade and a half long dominance of the endurance racing world. The R10, R15, R18, and R18 e-tron quattro all stand on the shoulders of the successes of the original R8.
Cars like this don’t hit the market too often so when they do, the racing world pays attention. If you happen to have the means, #405 is available through the specialists at Fiskens Fine Historic Automobiles in London, HERE