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  Audi R8R

  Article Image gallery (13) Chassis (1) Specifications  
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Country of origin:Germany
Produced in:1999
Numbers built:8 (Including unraced prototypes)
Successor:Audi R8
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 03, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWith no prior prototype racing experience, Audi launched a remarkably ambitious program late in 1998 with a victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as the ultimate objective. Hedging their bets, they developed two distinctly different prototype racers, with the engine the only major component shared by the two; the open R8R and the closed cockpit R8C. The former was developed in-house with the help of long-time Porsche privateers Team Joest, while the latter was designed and constructed in Great Britain under the supervision of Tony Southgate. At the 1998 launch, Audi only showed an R8R, ahead of extensive winter testing and its competition debut at Sebring.

While the R8R was designed in-house, Audi outsourced the production of some of the key components to specialist companies. Included was the carbon-fibre monocoque chassis, which was sourced from Italian experts Dallara. Bolted directly to the tub was a turbocharged V8 with a displacement of just under 3.6 litre. Breathing through mandatory restrictors, the all-aluminium engine produced well over 600 bhp. It was mated to a Ricardo-built six-speed sequential gearbox that was operated by paddles behind the steering wheel. Suspension followed conventional lines with double wishbones and push-rod actuated spring/damper units on all four corners. Carbon ceramic discs provided the stopping power.

Audi's road car designers clearly had a hand in the lines of the R8R shown late in 1998. The new Audi racer was also extensively tested in this guise but by the time of the Sebring 12 Hours, an all-new body was fitted. Although it sported much sharper lines, some road car cues were retained like the grille with the four-ring badge. Run in conjunction with Team Joest, two cars were entered for a hugely talented driver line-up that included former F1 racers Michele Alboreto and Stefan Johansson as well as Audi regulars Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro. Although the two R8Rs were not quite on the pace yet, the extensive testing had made for bullet-proof reliability. This allowed the two Audis to move up to third and fifth in the race; an impressive result for what was Audi's first ever sports car race.

Back in Germany, the development proved continuous as for the Le Mans pre-qualifying, a third evolution of the R8R was rolled out. The latest version combined most of the Sebring body with the TT-inspired headlights of the original design. Le Mans also saw the debut of the R8C, which resulted in a slight re-shuffle of the driver line-ups. Assigned to pilot the R8R were Alboreto, Rinaldo Capello and Laurent Aiello (#7) and Biela, Pirro and Didier Theys (#8). The 1999 edition would go down as one of the most hotly disputed of all 24 Hours of Le Mans races, with in addition to the four Audis, works teams from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Nissan lining up.

As at Sebring, the new Audis failed to match the rivals on outright pace but as the race progressed the two R8Rs moved up the order. Eventually they finished third and fourth with #8 car claiming the final podium position behind the winning BMW and the second placed Toyota. It was an altogether different story for the R8Cs, which clearly suffered from a lack of development time. Neither car managed to reach the finish and they were not raced again. The impressive results at both Sebring and Le Mans had convinced Audi Sport to continue the development taken with the open R8R. Already focusing on the following season, Audi did not race again in 1999.

Using the lessons learned, the virtually all-new R8 was developed for the 2000 season. Only the tried and trusted drivetrain was carried over from the R8R. The new car took a debut victory at Sebring and would go on to dominate sports car racing for years to come. The R8R was pressed into service for two American Le Mans Series (ALMS) races early in 2000 while the R8s were readied for Le Mans back at base. A third at Silverstone was the best result. Despite having been raced in just four events, the R8R has proven to be a vital element to establish Audi as the endurance racing giant it is now. Highly impressive for a brand new racer, the R8R had a 100% finishing rate, which was also a sign of things to come.

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  Article Image gallery (13) Chassis (1) Specifications