The start of something big – Le Mans 1999
Four Audis were entered for sportscar racing’s crown-jewel event, the Le Mans 24 Hours, in 1999 – two open-top R8R prototypes in the LMP class run by Joest Racing, and two closed-cockpit versions, the LMGTP-class R8Cs, run by Audi Sport UK. All four were powered by the twin-turbo, 3.6-litre V8 engine. Problems befell the coupés, one crewed by Christian Abt, Stefan Johansson and Stéphane Ortelli, the other by Brits Perry McCarthy, Andy Wallace and James Weaver, while the two R8Rs soldiered on to finish third (Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro, Didier Theys), albeit five laps behind the winning BMW V12 LMR. The sister Audi, raced by Laurent Aiello, Michele Alboreto and Rinaldo Capello, was 14 laps in arrears of the podium, but the intent was clear: Audi was taking its Le Mans effort very seriously and a debut 3-4 was the start of something big.