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No other manufacturer has managed to make a lasting impression within such a short space of time in the Le Mans 24 Hour race as Audi. With eight wins from eleven starts the brand with the four rings has demonstrated “Vorsprung durch Technik” impressively in probably the world’s hardest car race.
The Le Mans project began in 1997 when Audi searched for a new motorsport discipline after the superior quattro drive was banned from touring car racing. Audi claimed a podium finish in 1999 when the first Le Mans prototype made its debut. At that time two open-topped Audi R8R fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest started the race. Two Audi R8C Coupés developed by Audi subsidiary RTN in Great Britain and entered by Audi Sport UK also started but, however, failed to make the finish.
The combined know-how from the R8R and R8C poured into the revolutionary Audi R8, which dominated the sports car scene between 2000 and 2005 and won 63 times in 80 races. Audi remained unbeaten with the R8 at Le Mans between 2000 and 2002. Audi Sport Team Joest won three times in succession, as a result the Le Mans trophy finally found a permanent home in Ingolstadt. Audi was represented by customer teams in Le Mans between 2003 and 2005. Importer teams from Japan and the USA gave the R8 two further victories.
The much acclaimed Audi R10 TDI debuted in 2006. Audi wrote motorsport history following the first race of the powerful 650 hp plus diesel sports car. It was the first victory of a diesel powered race car in the endurance race since its inception in 1923. Audi Sport Team Joest repeated the victory in 2007 and 2008 and therefore achieved a hattrick as it did between 2000 and 2002.
In 2009 the Audi R15 TDI finished its Le Mans debut on third position. The new diesel sports car won its premiere race the Sebring 12 Hour race (USA) in March.