2001 Audi R8 #1 Pilots: F. Biela, T. Kristensen, E. Pirro Team: Audi Sport / Joest Racing Race: 1st overall (LMP900) at Le Mans in 2001 Minichamps - 400011201 (diecast)
Audi’s prototype saga started in 1998. Aiming at the 24 Heures du Mans but also with an eye at the new ALMS, the manufacturer pulled all the stops. In 1999 they reached partial success with the R8R coming in third at La Sarthe. Then, in 2000, their (huge!) investment and dedication paid off, when R8 #8 came in first place. In the ALMS front, the 2000 season was a true Audi Fest. Of the 12 races the R8 came in first in nine (!) of them. Without a doubt the R8 proved to be an absolute monster at tracks in Europe and North America. However, the competition would not stand still, and neither would Audi. Despite the R8’s fantastic success, for 2001 Ingolstadt reviewed the whole car. And equally important, once again the factory effort would be run by the more than competent Joest team.
Even though the new 2001 R8 looked almost identical to the 2000 version, Audi made a lot of improvements. The chassis was new, but followed the same architecture, a aluminum and carbon fiber honeycomb monocoque. The frontal area was now lower and lateral air ducts were revised. After a blown tire made Michele Alboreto’s R8 fatally crash into a wall in April, tire-pressure monitors were added. In terms of power plant, the engine was almost the same 3596 cm³ V8 of 2000. It received an improved Garrett turbo, more efficient intercoolers and a re-tuned fuel injection/engine management system. That allowed better drivability out of slow corners, and more importantly, greatly improved fuel economy. Audi was confident about the R8, and had a fleet of four cars at La Sarthe.
Interestingly, each of the R8 were in a different team, though only the Audi Sport teams were factory teams. One of these R8 was chassis WAUZZZ8RZAA100503. It participated in seven races only in 2001, and never raced again. Of these seven races, the car came in first thrice and in second twice, with one fourth and one fifth place. Or in other words, the car was a winning machine. At La Sarthe, on June 17th, the pilots were once again Biela, Pirro and Kristensen. And once again they came in first place, after 24 hours at an average speed of 180.949 km/h. Sister car #2 (chassis #505), of team Audi Sport North America, came in second, one lap behind. Once again Audi dominated Le Mans, a streak that would go on until 2014. Well, nothing is perfect – there was a pesky Bentley in 2003 and that Peugeot in 2009…
And my R8 fleet grows! Just one more R8 to get, the 2004 winner, and I’ll have them all. Looking at my “Le Mans A-H” page it’s impressive to see all the 🏆 icons in the Audi section. Without a doubt, Audi became as important to Le Mans as Porsche. In fact, if you divide the number of wins by the number of races, Audi is THE most successful brand at La Sarthe ever… About the model there’s not much to talk about, since the 2001 R8 #1 is your “basic Minichamps R8”. In other words, it ain’t great, but it’s very nice. However, maybe not for everyone, but for the Le Mans nut a must buy.