Audi's road to LeMans This year at Le Mans, Audi will make its 10th start in the world’s greatest motor race. The German marque debuted with third- and fourth-place overall finishes in 1999 with its R8R. But the year prior, the first on-track steps toward Audi’s dominance came with a McLaren GTR entry that had very little fanfare.
Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro, now legendary Audi works drivers, drove the McLaren with Dr. Thomas Bscher for Gulf Team Davidoff. The event wasn’t much of a success as the car retired after an accident in the 17th hour.
“It was like a dress rehearsal for Audi’s Le Mans debut the following year,” said Capello, a two-time Le Mans winner who made his debut that year. “Frank (Biela) did pre-qualifying with Thomas Bscher and me, but Frankie had to step down for the race because his wife was unwell, and Emanuele drove the McLaren GTR with us.
“My first experience at Le Mans in 1998 was not a good one,” the three-time Le Mans pole-winner continued. “I had gone from Super Touring to Le Mans and it was so much faster - I couldn’t believe the speed. But saying that, along the Mulsanne the Mercedes, Toyotas and Porsches passed me as if I was stopped - it was incredible. These two sensations almost made me go home.”
But he didn’t and neither did Audi. Capello won his first Le Mans in 2003 with Bentley (which used an Audi TFSI engine) and repeated in 2004 for the independent Japanese Team Goh in an Audi R8.
Audi has won the race seven times since 2000 including three straight from 2000-2002 with the R8 and four consecutively from 2004 to 2007. The last two victories have come with the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI.
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