With Audi's impeccable record, it is today hard to imagine that the German manufacturer only made its prototype racing debut in 1999. Using one season to learn the ropes, the various Audis have won Le Mans every year since bar two. The car that got the ball rolling was the Audi R8R, which was tested and raced in three distinct versions before it was replaced by the all-conquering R8. Developed with the help of Team Joest, the R8R boasted a twin-turbo V8, a Dallara built carbon-fibre monocoque and in its earliest guise resembled the manufacturer's road going models quite closely. Audi's first prototype racer debuted at Sebring with a promising third and repeated that feat at Le Mans a few months later. This was mainly due to the bullet-proof reliability (the R8R reached the finish at every attempt), which compensated for the relative lack of pace. Underlining the company's commitment to endurance racing was the fact that Audi also fielded the closed R8C at Le Mans. For a variety of reasons, the open car showed the most promise and would serve as the basis for the car that would win Le Mans outright five times. Several years ago, we were fortunate enough to capture the R8R in full detail at the Goodwood of Festival of Speed.
We looked back at the R8R to mark the occasion of a double Audi debut at this weekend's FIA World Endurance Championship round at Spa, which is the second round of the new series. Most eyes will, of course, be on the hybrid R18 e-tron quattro but the German manufacturer is once again hedging their bets with the slightly more conventional R18 ultra. This is a development of last year's Le Mans winner, with modifications made to comply with the revised regulations. As at Le Mans next month, Audi will field a pair of each model, bringing back memories of the days that the R8R and R8C raced side by side.
We are already at Spa and will provide you with full coverage immediately after the event and will also take a closer look at all the new and modified cars that will compete in the 6-hour race.

Enjoy the links:

2012 Audi R18 ultra - Images, Specifications and Information

1999 Audi R8R - Images, Specifications and Information