Audi is and has always been far more than the producer of road cars. Ever since the founding years headed by August Horch, the Audi name has been synonymous with motor racing. Even over 100 years on from some of its earliest successes, Audi remains a dominant force on the race track. Here’s a brief glimpse into that illustrious past of competitive racing.
1911 – The Pioneering Years
After having left his original motor company that bore his name, Horch created Audi and almost immediately set about racing the cars it produced. Success was quickly felt thanks to Audi’s victory in the challenging 1911 Alpine Run, an event famous for challenging a car’s durability and mechanical strength. The following years saw Audi remain unbeaten whilst competing in the Challenge Trophy, cementing the brand as a racing legend almost right from the offset.
1934 – Auto Union Legends
Despite having been bought by Auto Union and racing under the parent company’s name, Audi’s talented engineers were put to work alongside partnering companies to produce the legendary 170mph Type A racing cars. The fierce rivalry that resulted between fellow German brand Mercedes saw the two manufacturers dominate Grand Prix racing for years to come. This dominance included the 1935 Type B racer, a car that broke records when it reached a top speed of 198mph in one mile. Of course that record was stolen from arch rivals, Mercedes, who had only set the previous record three months earlier.
Auto Union continued with pioneering, ground breaking racing success, achieving miraculous advances in aerodynamics and weight-saving, whilst developing some of the most powerful engines of the time.
1981 – Unbeatable Audi
As technology became increasingly important in motorsports such as rallying, Audi, the new name having been resurrected for a rebranded Auto Union, was able to excel thanks to its pioneering and innovative creations. Now the norm in world rallying, Audi were in fact the first to perfect a four-wheel drive system for high performance Group B rally cars, its quattro sports car providing the underpinnings for the new era of rally machinery.
The car won the World Rally Championship in 1982, its second year of entering before winning again in 1984, as well as winning three times at the Pikes Peak Hillclimb in modified form.
After withdrawing from rallying to concentrate on circuit racing, Audi entered the 1988 TransAm Championship where it not only won the championship in its first year, it wrapped up the championship with three races to spare. Such was the dominance of Audi, that the championship’s regulators banned four-wheel drive cars from racing, as well as the use of non-American engines in following years.
1996 – Number One
After a wealth of success in a raft of touring car championships, in 1996 Audi entered its A4 racing cars into seven different championships across seven nations. Astonishingly, an A4 won every single one of the championships, resulting in a 100% success score for Audi’s touring car racing programme. Success proved to be too much for championship regulators, with 1998 seeing the end of four-wheel drive touring cars as the FIA imposed a ban to prevent dominant Audi from running away with wins yet again.
1999 – The Beginning Of The Future
Audi remained competitive in touring car championships throughout the 90s and into the 21st century, wrapping up seven DTM drivers titles and three constructors titles from the year 2000. However, even with such a showing in touring cars, it was Audi’s entry into Le Mans from 1999 that sparked most interest.
Developing an entirely new racing car to compete in the Le Mans Prototype class of the world-famous endurance race, the resulting car of choice was named the R8R. This car achieved moderate success but it was its predecessor, the Audi R8 race car, that set the course for the future. Finishing on all three steps of the podium, the R8s entered into the 2000 Le Mans race provided rivals with a scene they would have to become familiar with.
Evolved across five more generations into the current R18 e-tron quattro race car, a car that features a hybrid-diesel engine with electric power and four-wheel drive, Audi’s Le Mans programme has seen its cars win 12 of the last 14 Le Mans races. Unprecedented success in the legendary race, Audi is not only breaking records, but producing racing technology of the future at an amazing rate.
Future – Audi
Audi is a brand known globally for its quality road cars, but with such a raft of racing success that has influenced so much of the motorsport world, in many ways Audi is an equally successful example of a racing brand. With Audi’s defiant racing wins of late, the future of Audi racing looks strong to say the least.
Audi Heritage. [Online] Available at: http://www.audi.co.uk/content/audi/audi-innovation/heritage/motorsport.html