While Pescarolo Sport’s Courage C60s—with naturally aspirated V10s—proved quicker in qualifying, Champion Racing’s turbocharged Audi R8 prototypes won the day back in 2005. The 24 hour endurance race at Le Mans favored the open-top Audis, this one taking the top step of the podium by two laps with Tom Kristensen, JJ Lehto, and Marco Werner doing the driving. Thirteen years later, a handful of years after Audi ultimately ended their LMP program, this R8 is still on track doing big things.
2005 was the final year of Audi’s R8 program, switching to the equally successful diesel-powered R10 TDI in 2006. From a factory perspective, the R8 racer was effectively forgotten about. A road-going supercar was built to commemorate the car’s five Le Mans victories in six attempts (the string broken only by the heavily R8-influenced Bentley Speed 8 in 2003).
With hindsight offering clear vision, the Audi R8 deserves a place in the annals of history alongside Porsche’s 956/962 and the Ford GT40 as one of the best Le Mans racers of all time. And in this video, Andy Wallace gets to chuck one around the Daytona Sportscar Course during the Classic 24. Thankfully someone put a camera on the rear cowl of the car so we could ride along with him.
It’s amazing to see these multi-million dollar carbon monocoque legends of recent motorsport past still being raced with gusto. This car could easily be living in retirement in a storage facility somewhere. It’s great that the owner handed it off to a capable driver for a few hours of track time at a legendary circuit. Hats off to you, sir.