The R10’s landmark Le Mans win was just the start…
The Audi R10 TDI claimed a place in the history books when it notched up the first Le Mans 24 Hours victory for a diesel-powered car in 2006. It then cemented that place throughout the remainder of its career with Audi Sport Team Joest.
The R10 turbodiesel was unbeaten in its three starts with the factory team at Le Mans. Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela and Marco Werner scored their second victory with the car in 2007, though only after the sister Audi shared by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello retired from a four-lap lead.
Kristensen and his team-mates put the record straight 12 months later when they did win after a phenomenal battle with Peugeot. Audi wasn’t given a chance ahead of the event, but the drivers of its lead car stayed in the hunt until rain arrived in the small hours. A game of guile and strategy then played out in mixed conditions before Audi sealed a narrow victory.
The R10 also racked up a run of victories and titles in the American Le Mans Series in a halcyon period for the championship, during which the Audi turbodiesel went head to head with Porsche’s lightweight RS Spyder LMP2. A tally of 18 wins in the US-based series included two at Sebring and three in the Petit Le Mans enduro at Road Atlanta. There was also a championship victory in the Le Mans Series in Europe against Peugeot in 2008.
The first in a line of Audi turbodiesels enjoyed a phenomenal record of reliability. Only once did an R10 retire from a race for mechanical reasons, at Sebring on its debut. And Audi Sport engine boss Ulrich Baretzky would dispute that one.
The R10 was also the car that gave the world of international sports car racing André Lotterer. The German was happily plying his trade in Japan when he was offered a ride – and had to bring a budget, against his better judgment – in one of two Audis run by the privateer Kolles team. A starring performance brought him to the factory’s attention and landed him a drive for the following season.