- 1 Rallying
- 2 Motorsports in the USA
- 3 Touring cars
- 4 Sports Car racing
Audi has competed in numerous forms of motorsports. Audi's rich tradition in motorsport began with their former company Auto Union in the 1930s. In the 1990s, Audi dominated the Touring and Super Touring categories of motor racing after success in circuit racing in North America.
In 1980, Audi released the Quattro, a four-wheel drive turbocharged car that went on to win rallies and races worldwide. It is considered one of the most significant rally cars of all time because it was one of the first to take advantage of the then-recently changed rules which allowed the use of four-wheel drive in competition racing. Many critics doubted the viability of four-wheel drive racers, thinking them to be too heavy and complex, yet the Quattro was to become a successful car. Leading its first rally it went off the road, however the rally world had been served notice 4WD was the future. The Quattro went on to achieve much success in the World Rally Championship. It won the 1983 (Hannu Mikkola) and the 1984 (Stig Blomqvist) drivers' titles,and brought Audi the manufacturers' title in 1982 and 1984.
In 1984, Audi launched the short-wheelbase Sport Quattro which dominated races in Monte Carlo and Sweden, with Audi taking all podium places, but succumbed to problems further into WRC contention. In 1985, after another season mired in mediocre finishes, Walter Röhrl finished the season in his Sport Quattro S1, and helped place Audi second in the manufacturers' points. Audi also received rally honors in the Hong Kong to Beijing rally in that same year. Michèle Mouton, the first and only female driver to win a round of the World Rally Championship and a driver for Audi, took the Sport Quattro S1, now simply called the "S1", and raced in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. The climb race pits a driver and car to drive up a 4,302 meter high mountain in Colorado and in 1985, Michèle Mouton set a new record of 11:25.39, and being the first woman to set a Pikes Peak record. In 1986, Audi formally left international rally racing following an accident in Portugal involving driver Joaquim Santos in his Ford RS200. Santos swerved to avoid hitting spectators in the road, and left the track into the crowd of spectators on the side, killing three and injuring 30. Bobby Unser used an Audi in that same year to claim a new record for the Pikes Peak Hill Climb at 11:09.22.
Motorsports in the USA
In 1987, Walter Röhrl claimed the title for Audi setting a new Pikes Peak International Hill Climb record of 10:47.85 in his Audi S1 which he retired from the WRC two years earlier. The Audi S1 employed Audi's time-tested 5-cylinder turbo charged engine and generated over 600 hp (447 kW). The engine was mated to a 6-speed gearbox and ran on Audi's famous all-wheel drive system. All of Audi's top drivers drove this beast, Hannu Mikkola, Stig Blomqvist, Walter Röhrl and the female driver, Michèle Mouton. The Audi S1 enjoys a 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) time of 2.3 s. This Audi S1 started the S-series of cars for Audi which now represents an increased level of sports options and quality in the Audi line-up.
As Audi moved away from rallying and into circuit racing, they chose to move first into America with the Trans-Am in 1988.
In 1990, having completed their objective to market cars in the United States, Audi returned to Europe, turning first to the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) series with the Audi V8, then in 1993, being unwilling to build cars for the new formula, they turned their attention to the fast growing Supertouring series, which took place nationally, first in the French Supertourisme and Italian Superturismo. In the following year, Audi would switch to the German Super Tourenwagen (known as STW) and then to British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) the year after that.
The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), having difficulty regulating the quattro four wheel drive system, and the impact it had on the competitors, would eventually ban all four wheel drive cars from competing in 1998, by then Audi switched all their works efforts to sports car racing.
By 2000, Audi would still compete in the US with their RS4 for the SCCA Speed World GT Challenge, through dealer/team Champion Racing competing against Corvettes, Vipers, and smaller BMWs (where it is one of the few series to permit 4WD cars). In 2003, Champion Racing entered an RS6. Once again, the quattro four wheel drive was superior and Champion Audi won the championship. They returned in 2004 to defend their title but a newcomer, Cadillac with the new Omega Chassis CTS-V, gave them a run for their money. After four victories in a row, the Audis were sanctioned with several negative changes that deeply affected the car's performance. Namely, added ballasts and Champion Audi deciding to go with different tires and backing off the turbos boost pressure.
In 2004, after years of competing with the TT-R in the revitalized DTM series, with privateer team Abt Racing/Christian Abt taking the 2002 title with Laurent Aïello, Audi returned as a full factory effort to touring car racing by entering two factory supported Joest Racing Audi A4s.
Sports Car racing
Beginning in 1999, Audi built the Audi R8R (open-top prototype) and the Audi R8C (GT-Prototype) to compete in sports car racing, including the Le Mans Prototype LMP900 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. For the 2000 season, Audi focussed mainly on the new Audi R8, due to favorable rules for open-top prototypes. The factory-supported Joest Racing team won at Le Mans three times in a row with the Audi R8 (2000 — 2002), as well as winning every race in the American Le Mans Series in its first year. Audi also sold the car to customer teams such as Champion Racing.
In 2003, two Bentley Speed 8s, with engines designed by Audi, and driven by Joest drivers loaned to the fellow Volkswagen Group company, competed in the GTP class, and finished the race in the top two positions, while the Champion Racing R8 finished third overall and first in the LMP900 class. Audi returned to the winner's circle at the 2004 race, with the top three finishers all driving R8s: Audi Sport Japan Team Goh finished first, Audi Sport UK Veloqx second, and Champion Racing third.
At the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans, Champion Racing entered two R8s along with an R8 from the Audi PlayStation Team Oreca. The R8s (which were built to old LMP900 regulations) received a narrower air inlet restrictor, reducing power, and an additional 50 kg (110 lb) of weight compared to the newer LMP1 chassis. On average, the R8s were about 2-3 seconds off pace compared to the Pescarolo-Judd. But with a team of excellent drivers and experience, both Champion R8s were able to take first and third while the ORECA team took fourth. The Champion team was also the first American team to win Le Mans since the Gulf Ford GT's in 1967. This also ends the long era of the R8; however, its replacement for 2006, called the Audi R10 TDI, was unveiled on 13 December 2005.
The R10 TDI employs many new features, including a twin-turbocharged diesel engine. Its first race was the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring as a race-test for the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans, which it later went on to win. Audi has been on the forefront of motorsports, claiming a historic win in the first ever diesel sports car at 12 Hours of Sebring. Audi has achieved the title as the most dominant motor sport power since the start of the 21st century, continuing its long and storied motor sport heritage. As well as winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2006 making history, the R10 TDI has also shown its capabilities by beating the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP in 2007, and beating Peugeot again in 2008.
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