The Audi R8 plays a very important role in the history of Joest Racing. The team won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times in succession and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) four times in a row with sportscar from Ingolstadt.
Reinhold Joest’s squad was integrated, as race team, in the R8 development from the very beginning. “We tried to pass on all of our experience”, explains Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director and one two directors of Joest Racing GmbH. “With the R8, Audi Sport created something quiet incredible. In its sixth racing season, the R8 still sets the standards – and its reliability is second to none: We’ve only ever had a single technical defect in all the races, and that was clutch failure.”
The most successful Le Mans Prototype of all time celebrated its 50th victory at the 1000 kilometre race in Spa-Francorchamps. This milestone is particularly impressive because it was reached in only 60 races over four years. Audi Sport Team Joest has notched up 33 of these wins.
The Audi R8 has been regarded as the Sports Prototype to beat since its debut at the 12-hour race in Sebring in March 2000. The R8 has won the renowned 24 Hours of Le Mans five times. With six successive victories at Sebring it remained unbeaten just as it did at the “Petit Le Mans” at Road Atlanta. R8 drivers have won the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) six times on the trot. And in the Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES), held for the first time in 2004, it was also in a class of its own from the word “go”.
The R8 developed under the combined leadership of Audi Motorsport Head Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Wolfgang Appel (Vehicle Technology) and Ulrich Baretzky (Engine Technology) has not only set new performance standards in sportscar racing. Its reliability is almost legendary: Till today there was not a single engine failure during a race.
The V8 engine in the Audi R8 is equipped with the globally unique combination of FSI and Turbo technology. In the meantime, this combination is now successfully used in the new A3 and A4 2.0T models. The advantage of this combination in motorsport is the same as in everyday use: less fuel consumption with improved initial response. “As a result we were able to drive one lap longer with a tank of fuel than the competition in Le Mans”, knows Ralf Jüttner.
The Audi engineers involved on the R8 project also demonstrated “Vorsprung durch Technik” in many other areas. The R8 was the first Le Mans Prototype with a hydraulically actuated gear shift mechanism. Audi also developed a unique system that allowed the complete gearbox and suspension unit to be changed in almost four minutes – a fascinatingly choreographed operation that has since been forbidden by the regulations.
Other rule changes targeted the performance of the Le Mans Prototypes. In the meantime, the Audi R8 must make do with less power (approx. 520 instead of the original 610 hp) and a narrower rear wing. However, the R8 remains in a league of its own, particularly over a race distance.
The meaning of the model number “R8” was the subject of much head scratching for a long time. The explanation is simple: Since the legendary original quattro, Audi Sport numbers all internal vehicle projects sequentially. With the R8, the project name became the official name for the car and is now synonymous for the world’s most successful Le Mans Prototype. In the case of the Audi R8, the project name has been used to officially baptise the car. Now, it is synonymous with the most successful Le Mans prototype in the world. The car won races even in its final season in 2006, a feat that includes the very last race at Lime Rock (USA): in its 80th outing, the R8 scored its 63rd victory - a dignified exit of a legend.
Technical data (2003)
Monocoque: Carbon fibre, crash structure ACO and FIA approved. CFC rollbars front and rear, carbon fibre body
Engine: V8, turbo charged, 90 degree cylinder angle, 4 valves per cylinder, 2 Garrett turbo chargers, to comply with the rules 2 x 30.7 mm air restrictors and boost pressure restriction to 1.67 bars absolute, direct fuel injection FSI
Displacement: 3600 cc
Output: 550 hp
Torque: more than 700 Nm
Transmission: Rear wheel drive
Gearbox: Sequential 6-speed sports gearbox, partner Ricardo
Steering: Rack-and-pinion power steering
Suspension: Independent suspension at front and rear. Double-wishbone suspension. Pushrod system with horizontal spring/damper unit, adjustable gas-filled shock absorbers
Brakes: hydraulic dual-circuit brake system, monobloc light-alloy brake callipers, ventilated carbon fibre brake discs at front and rear, brake balance adjustable by driver
Length: 4650 mm
Width: 2000 mm
Height: 1080 mm
Minimum weight: 900 kgs
Fuel tank capacity: 90 litres