The Top 10 Most Dominant Race Cars of All Time
When Audi arrived in prototype sports car racing in 1999, few observers gave them a second look. After all, they wouldn’t be allowed to utilize the added advantage of quattro all-wheel-drive like they were able to in rallying, Trans-Am, IMSA GTO and touring cars. And it appeared that the company couldn’t even decide which direction it wanted to go with the program: It fielded both closed-top (the R8C, developed by Racing Technology Norfolk and run by Audi Sport UK) and open-top (the Dallara-built R8R, fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest) prototypes.
However, after the R8Cs struggled heavily at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi canned the coupe program and set about developing an improved R8R for the 2000 racing season. That new car – now known simply as the R8 – made its debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring; it finished 1-2 overall, a lap ahead of the third-place BMW V12 LMR. Three months later, it swept the podium in its Le Mans debut, and ended the year by winning the American Le Mans Series team and driver championship (the latter going to Allan McNish).
The R8 went on to take the ALMS title again every year from 2001 to 2005, and it won its final three races in 2006 to help Audi Sport North America to that season’s championship. Additional Le Mans victories also came in 2001, ’02, ’04 and ’05. What happened in 2003, you ask? The factory Audi program was taking a siesta that year, the idea being that it would improve the chances of corporate cousin Bentley topping the podium, which it dutifully did. But here’s the thing: The Bentley Speed 8 had a whole bunch of R8C and R8 bits under its British Racing Green skin, including the latest specification 3.6L twin-turbo V8. So yeah, the R8’s winning streak at La Sarthe was only semi-unbroken.