AUDI R8 PROTOTYPE IN A CLASS BY ITSELF Braselton, Ga. - After six years, 47 victories, 38 pole positions and six championships in the American Le Mans Series, plus one of the strongest records ever at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Audi R8 is ...
AUDI R8 PROTOTYPE IN A CLASS BY ITSELF
Braselton, Ga. - After six years, 47 victories, 38 pole positions and six championships in the American Le Mans Series, plus one of the strongest records ever at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Audi R8 is heading into the sunset.
There are just three more rides left, starting with next week's Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston. Following the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio the following week, the R8 will turn its final competitive laps at Lime Rock Park in early July before giving way to the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI at Salt Lake City. Then the sports car world will say goodbye to a project that changed the way designers, engineers and manufacturers build race cars.
"Nobody thought that the R8 was a turning point," said Allan McNish, who will drive the next three American Le Mans Series rounds with Dindo Capello in the R8. "They thought it was a good car and a good package, but no one believed that it would turn around the way people built sports car racers and competed. Neither did they believe that it would have a lifespan of six years. But whatever competition it was thrown into it always stood up to the task, whether it was the BMW, Panoz or more recently Pescarolo. There aren't many cars that have had that capability of adapting."
The Audi R8 debuted at Sebring in 2000. Since then, it has joined the likes of the Ford GT-40 Mk. IV, the gaggle of past Porsche prototypes and others as the most successful and recognizable sports cars in the sport's rich history. The numbers, particularly in American Le Mans Series competition, lay it all out:
Series championships: 6
Series starts: 132
Series victories: 47
Series podiums: 104
Series fast qualifiers: 38
Series fast laps: 49
Series 1-2 finishes: 11
Series podium sweeps: 6
The Audi R8 also enjoyed one of the best stretches at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in recent history. It posted overall victories in five of the last six years (three straight from 2000-02), including last year's historic win for Champion Racing with JJ Lehto, Marco Werner and Tom Kristensen. Champion became the first American team to win at the Circuit de la Sarthe since 1967, yet another impressive bullet on the R8's resume especially considering penalties in weight and horsepower (among others) with which the car was saddled.
Longtime R8 pilot Kristensen also made history this year in the R8 when he drove to his record seventh overall win at Le Mans. Five of his seven victories came in the R8, by the way.
Some of the best drivers in the world have, at one time or another, sat at the wheel of the R8 here and abroad. They include Biela, Pirro, Kristensen, McNish, Capello, Werner, Lehto, Stefan Johansson, Johnny Herbert, Ralf Kelleners, Andy Wallace, Didier Theys, Dorsey Schroeder, Rinaldo Capello, Aiello Laurent, Michele Alboreto, Pierre Kaffer, Christian Abt, Jamie Davies, Mika Salo, Stephane Ortelli, Perry McCarthy, Christian Pescatori, Michael Krumm, Philipp Peter, Seiji Ara, Yannick Dalmas, Hiroki Katoh, Jonny Kane, Patrick LeMarie, Jean-Marc Gounon, Franck Montagny, Stephane Ortelli, Jan Magnussen and Tom Coronel.
"The R8 has been around a year longer than our cat," McNish said. "So it is part of you. You see it grow up and develop in the hard times and the good times. Throughout that, it's always been there for you. I've won a lot of races in the R8, and it helped me springboard to Formula 1. The car has literally saved my life, too. She's given me a lot of fun and competition. And in all that, she hasn't missed a beat. Everyone who has a brief encounter has gotten a real passion toward it."
The next round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the Lone Star Grand Prix, scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT on May 12 in Houston. It will be broadcast at 1 p.m. May 13 EDT on CBS Sports, the first of five straight Series events on network television. Qualifying is set for 6:15 p.m. CDT on May 11. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at www.americanlemans.com, which also will have IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.