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50 wins for Audi Le Mans car beats the 32 wins of pre-war Auto Union pioneers

Seventy years after the reign of the all-conquering Auto Union Grand Prix racing cars of the 1930s, the Audi Le Mans R8 sports car has just become the most successful modern-day prototype ever by achieving its 50th race victory in only five years. Its pre-war Auto Union forebear posted 32 wins over four years.

Hans Stuck with his Auto Union Type C. Click here for larger image.

Auto Union, established in 1933, was the first marque to use the legendary four-ring Audi emblem. In the ensuing four years, the company took part in 54 races, winning 32 and setting 15 world records and 23 class records with the A, B, C and D-type single-seater Grand Prix racing cars. In the hands of legendary racing drivers Bernd Rosemeyer, Tazio Nuvolari and Hans Stuck, these mammoth V12 and V16 "heavyweights" achieved competition glory at speeds of over 240mph.

The V16, 520PS Auto Union Type C of 1936, was impressive for its time, posting 32 wins in just 4 years. Click here for larger image.

The Auto Union was the first successful mid-engined (positioned behind the driver and ahead of the rear axle) Grand Prix car, the precursor of current Formula One design. It would take 26 years from when Hans Stuck Snr set new World speed records on the Auto Union A-type's 1934 debut for this layout to become the norm in Grand Prix racing.

50 outright wins
The latest Audi success in the new millennium is the famous Audi R8, a sports racing car that, since its race début in March 2000, has claimed an amazing 50 outright wins in 60 starts. Johnny Herbert and co-driver Jamie Davies swept their "British" Audi to its 50th victory in the final round of the Le Mans Endurance Series at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium (12 Sep).

The Audi R8 has chalked up four Le Mans 24 Hour victories and five consecutive wins in both the Sebring 12 Hour and 1,000-mile Road Atlanta "Petit Le Mans" races. The latest of these titles was achieved earlier this month (25 Sep) at Road Atlanta by JJ Lehto and Marco Werner. Audi R8 drivers have also won five successive American Le Mans Series (ALMS) titles and now the inaugural Le Mans Endurance Series (LMES) "crown".

Britain's Johnny Herbert wins the 2004 Spa 1000km race, bringing Audi its 50th win for the Le Mans R8 prototype. The R8 has won the Le Mans 24-hour race four times. Click here for larger image.

The R8 has set new standards not only for performance, but also for reliability. There has not been a single engine failure in a race to this day.

Since 2001, the Audi R8 V8 engine has been using FSI direct injection technology. This pioneering combination of turbo charging and direct petrol injection, which reduces fuel consumption while simultaneously improving throttle response, is featured in Audi's new A3 and A4 2.0T models.

Audi engineers also demonstrated "Vorsprung durch Technik" in many other areas. The R8 was the first Le Mans prototype with a pneumatic gear shift, and remains unique in this respect, helping Herbert and Davies plus fellow Briton Allan McNish to achieve success.

This year's Le Mans 24-hour race was one of the most exciting in the illustrious eighty-year history of the race, with the final result hanging in the balance until the closing minutes. For Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx it was the most important race in a season long campaign to prove themselves the best sportscar team in Europe. The team, which only came together in the New Year, had an ambitious programme to race at Le Mans and in the 2004 Le Mans Endurance Series.

Audi racers in new TV series
A Channel 4 series broadcast in five parts on consecutive weeks - "Inside the mind of a sportscar team"- tells their story as they rise to the challenge of races at Sebring, Le Mans, Monza, the Nürburging, Silverstone and Spa. The series started on Sunday September 26th at 8.00am and will continue on October 3rd at 8.00am and then at 8.30am on Sundays for the remaining three parts.

A limited edition DVD has also been produced that provides extended footage of the race at Le Mans. The DVD will be released in advance of the series to provide journalists with a tantalising sneak preview of just how exciting sportscar racing is, particularly from within the pit lane.

Confirmed TV times for "Inside the mind of a sports car team"are;
Programme One: Sunday 26th September - 8.00am
Programme Two: Sunday 3rd October - 8.00am
Programme Three: Sunday 10th October - 8.30am
Programme Four: Sunday 17th October - 8.30am
Programme Five: Sunday 24th October - 8.30am

The Fifty Audi Endurance Wins

1 Sebring (USA) Biela / Kristensen / Pirro
2 24h Le Mans (F) Biela / Kristensen / Pirro
3 Sears Point (USA) Capello / McNish
4 Mosport (CDN) Capello / McNish
5 Dallas (USA) Biela / Pirro
6 Portland (USA) Capello / McNish
7 Petit Le Mans (USA) Alboreto / Capello / McNish
8 Laguna Seca (USA) Capello / McNish
9 Las Vegas (USA) Biela / Pirro
10 Adelaide (AUS) Capello / McNish

11 Dallas (USA) Capello / Kristensen
12 Sebring (USA) Aiello / Alboreto / Capello
13 Donington (GB) Capello / Kristensen
14 Jarama (E) Capello / Kristensen
15 24h Le Mans (F) Biela / Kristensen / Pirro
16 Sears Point (USA) Capello / Kristensen
17 Most (CZ) Johansson / Lemarie
18 Mosport (CDN) Biela / Pirro
19 Laguna Seca (USA) Biela / Pirro
20 Petit Le Mans (USA) Biela / Pirro

21 Sebring (USA) Capello / Herbert / Pescatori
22 24h Le Mans (F) Biela / Kristensen / Pirro
23 Mid-Ohio (USA) Biela / Pirro
24 Road America (USA) Capello / Kristensen
25 Trois-Rivières (CDN) Capello / Kristensen
26 Mosport (CDN) Capello / Kristensen
27 Laguna Seca (USA) Biela / Pirro
28 Miami (USA) Biela / Pirro
29 Petit Le Mans (USA) Capello / Kristensen

30 Sebring (USA) Biela / Peter / Werner
31 Road Atlanta (USA) Herbert / Lehto
32 Trois-Rivières (CDN) Biela / Werner
33 Mosport (CDN) Biela / Werner
34 Road America (USA) Herbert / Lehto
35 Spa ( B ) Ara / Kristensen
36 Laguna Seca (USA) Biela / Werner
37 Miami (USA) Herbert / Lehto
38 Petit Le Mans (USA) Herbert / Lehto
39 Le Mans (F) Ara / Kristensen

40 Sebring (USA) Biela / ****** / McNish
41 Monza (I) Davies / Herbert
42 24h Le Mans (F) Ara / Capello / Kristensen
43 Mid-Ohio (USA) Lehto / Werner
44 Nürburgring (D) ****** / McNish
45 Lime Rock (USA) Lehto / Werner
46 Infineon R'way (USA) Lehto / Werner
47 Portland (USA) Lehto / Werner
48 Silverstone (GB) ****** / McNish
49 Road America (USA) Lehto / Werner
50 Spa ( B ) Davies / Herbert

Technical Data Audi R8 (2004)

Vehicle type
Le Mans Prototype (LMP 900)

Carbon fibre monocoque, crash structure ACO and FIA approved, CFK rollbars front and rear, carbon fibre body

V8 engine, turbo charged, 90 degree cylinder angle, 4 valves per cylinder, 2 Garrett turbo chargers, 2 30.7 mm air restrictors and boost pressure restriction to 1.67 bars absolute, direct fuel injection FSI

Engine management: Bosch MS 2.9
Engine lubrication: Dry sump, Shell lubricants
Displacement: 3600 cc
Output: about 550 hp
Torque: more than 700 Nm
Transmission: Rear wheel drive
Clutch: CFK clutch

Sequential 6-speed sports gearbox, partner Ricardo, pneumatic gear-shift

Multiple-disc limited-slip differential

Constant-velocity plunging tripod joints

Rack-and-pinion power steering

Independent suspension front and rear, double-wishbone suspension, pushrod system with spring/damper unit, adjustable gas-filled shock absorbers

Hydraulic dual-circuit brake system, monobloc light-alloy brake calipers, ventilated carbon fibre brake discs at front and rear, brake balance adjustable by driver

O.Z. forged magnesium rims,front: 13.5 x 18 inches, rear 14.5 x 18 inches

Michelin Radial, front: 33/65-18, rear: 37/71-18

Length: 4650 mm
Width: 2000 mm
Height: 1080 mm
Minimum weight: 900 kgs
Fuel tank capacity: Le Mans/LMES: 80, ALMS: 90 ltr

.............Audi R8 (2000-2004)..................Auto Union C-type (1936)

Engine.......Biturbo charged V8 FSI - 3.6-litre...Super charged V16 - 6.0-litre
Max output...550-610bhp...........................520bhp
Max speed....220mph...............................211mph (180mph in race trim)
Chassis......Carbon fibre composite...............Tubular steel
Body.........Carbon fibre.........................Aluminium
Cost now.....Approx £750,000......................Approx £3,000,000 (though never likely to be available)
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