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From Photographer Matt Wetzel…
With the 24 Hours of Le Mans coming to a close this weekend, we felt that the Hot Car of the Month should correlate. How better to do that then to feature an actual winner from a past Le Mans race?
What better car to pick than the Audi R8 LMP1, the actual winning race car from the 2005 24 Hours of Le Mans!
Those familiar with Le Mans racing will know this as one of the earliest iterations of Audi’s slew of winning racers, but for those not as well versed, we will share some quick statistics. During the last 15 years, Audi has won the event 13 times, or if you look at it from the other way around, only two Le Mans losses since the year 2000. Since it’s debut in the racing world, the car has dominated every major world race at one point or another, and has raised the bar for a new level of racing.
Debuting in 2000, the car won it’s first appearance at the 12 hours of Sebring, as well as it’s first victory of many at Le Mans.
Since the car was developed as an endurance racer, it not only had to be fast, but it had to be reliable as well. Twenty-four hours straight of full-out racing in all weather conditions takes an immense toll on a vehicle, so the vehicle must be very strong. To accomplish these goals, Audi opted to use the 3.8L FSI V8, which was officially rated at 610 Horse Power and 516 lb/feet of Torque, with officials close to the program saying power was closer to 670 Horse Power. This power was variable as rules were constantly changing for the race class, with the later years being restricted to 550 Horse Power, and by the end of its racing career in 2006, 520 Horse Power.
All too often in racing there are collisions and accidents, and in an endurance-style race, where you are competing for 24 hours, in most cases you will try and fix whatever you can because there is no telling what may happen 12 hours later. If your competitors completely crash out, then you need to be able to get back into the race and win. The car was designed with that premise in mind again; everything needed to be very easy to fix and change. Every part was numbered and catalogued, so the moment something happened, the car could come into the pits and be fixed. Entire body shells, engines, and transmissions were on stand-by in case they were needed. To give an example of this, an entire rear trans-axle assembly was changed on a damaged car in 3 minutes and 16 seconds, that is something that usually takes over 3 hours. This quick change parts system allowed the Audi to stay very competitive and make adjustments that other teams couldn’t do in 4 times the time.
It’s hard to quantify the statistics of the car because they varied so much depending on the chassis setup, however in most trims the car was capable of 210 MPH, and in low down force guise it was capable of 217 MPH. While not touching the 240+ MPH of the GT1 cars of the 90’s, the Audi produced increased down force, which gave it higher cornering limits, allowing it to continuously push the envelope of overall times and speeds.
As in the spirit of motor sport, the competition is ever evolving, which means the cars themselves must evolve as well. The R8 was replaced in 2006 with the R10 TDI diesel, which then was surpassed by the R15, and the newest, still in competition, R18 E-tron.
More about Matt
Matt Wetzel is a twenty-year-old automotive photographer based in Buffalo, NY.
To see more of his work visit https://www.facebook.com/mattwetzelphotography