Sold for $1,034,000 at 2012 RM Auctions - Monterey.
Chassis #: 501
Audi's unimaginable run of success at Le Mans is legendary and well documented, as is the R8's incredible run of five victories out of six attempts in the famed French Classic. And while witnessing the dominant R8s achieve their unfathomable run of success was truly something astounding to behold, the chances of owning one of those remarkable machines would have seemed as one of those dreams that would have gone unfulfilled. However, an opportunity would present itself in August of 2012 that would remind all that dreams do come true.
In 2006, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello would earn one last victory for the venerable R8 at Lime Rock, Connecticut. It would cap off a career that would see the famed R8 achieve victory at the longest and the shortest road courses in the world. However, it would be those early years of the new millennium for which the R8 will be forever remembered.
Perhaps no image of the Audi R8 would ever be as compelling as its famed one-two-three finish at the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans. But the fact that image would be followed up with a one-two in 2001, another one-two-three in 2002, yet another one-two-three in 2004 and a one-three-four finish in 2005, would cause the R8 to enter into the realm of the unimaginable. Surely, there have been prototypes throughout the history of Le Mans that have captured the attention, imagination and the awe of racing fans, but the beauty coupled with the success, leads the R8 to exist in a realm unto itself.
And in August of 2012, at the RM Auctions event in Monterey, just one of five privately-owned R8 prototypes would be made available for purchase.
Audi would contract Dallara and Tony Southgate to develop a prototype to compete in the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans. Though outrun in the 1999 edition, the Audi cars would earn respectable 3rd and 4th place finishes. Always looking for ways to improve and gain an advantage, Audi Team Joest sports director Wolfgang Ullrich had identified some ways in which Audi could gain an advantage, and therefore, would contract Dallara to build an R8 roadster for use in the 2000 24 Hours of Le Mans. And while many believed the new car would perform strongly, nobody likely believed the R8 would serve as the beginning of a dynasty that still continues as of this day.
In no small way, the dynasty would result from the car itself. Boasting of a 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V-8 engine with direct electronic fuel injection, the R8 could produce better than 610 bhp. Aided by the Ricardo six-speed sequential gearbox, the R8 would be capable of reaching speeds of around 217mph. And with its well-balanced carbon fiber monocoque chassis and fully-independent front and rear suspensions, the car would be able to dominate race after race for half a decade. And at Le Mans, with its exceptional reliability and ease of serviceability, the car would be untouchable.
The Audi R8 offered by RM Auctions is chassis 501. Chassis 501 would make its debut for Audi in the third race of the 2001 European Le Mans Series. The race was held in Jarama, Spain on the 20th of May. Driven by the now 'Mr. Le Mans' Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello, the R8 would be driven to victory in its very first race. It would be followed home by another of the team R8s. Yet another R8, a privateer, would finish the race in 4th.
Chassis 501 would make its first appearance at Le Mans in 2002 entered under the Audi Sport Japan Team Goh name. Driven by Hiroki Katoh, Yannick Dalmas and Seiji Ara, the car would finished the race 7th overall and 6th in the LMP900 category.
While chassis 501 would not have the storied career that some of its sister-cars would experience, it would have a longevity that many of those would not. In fact, chassis 501 would not see the end of its racing career until after taking part in a race at Road America in 2007.
Brad Kettler, who had been a long time crew chief of Champion Racing would try to explain the success of the R8. Kettler would respond, 'the R8 is both the most sophisticated and simple car I've ever seen. It's a joy to work on.' In the end, he would make the point very clearly and very succinctly, 'It really had no rivals in raceability, durability and serviceability.' And as to the R8's ability to compete, even with today's prototypes, Kettler would go on to say, 'I think this car, race pace, head to head, could compete today.' It would be for this reason, and many others, that the Audi R8 would be chosen the 'Sportscar of the Year' in 2001.
Just one of a very select and prestigious few, chassis 501 is special just for being one of the famed R8s. Even today, the car attracts crowds and turns heads. Therefore, just as Kettler believes, the new owner of this 2001 Audi R8 would not only be purchasing a piece of a racing dynasty, but would be buying an old prototype still capable of giving the young prototypes a real run for their money.
This truly phenomenal prototype would be expected to draw between $1,000,000 and $1,500,000 heading to auction.
'Lot No. 137: 2001 Audi R8 Le Mans Prototype Racing Car', (http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=MO12&CarID=r191). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/FeatureCars.cfm?SaleCode=MO12&CarID=r191. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
'2000 Audi R8 News, Pictures and Information', (http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z3664/Audi-R8.aspx). Conceptcarz.com: From Concept to Production. http://www.conceptcarz.com/vehicle/z3664/Audi-R8.aspx. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
'Audi R8', (http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/783/Audi-R8.html). Ultimatecarpage.com: Powered by Knowledge, Driven by Passion. http://www.ultimatecarpage.com/car/783/Audi-R8.html. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Audi R8 (race car)', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 April 2012, 19:47 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Audi_R8_(race_car)&oldid=485584880 accessed 1 August 2012
Webster, Larry. '2000 Audi R8: We Unwrap the Secrets Behind the Machine that Revolutionized Endurance Racing', (http://www.caranddriver.com/features/2000-audi-r8). Car and Driver: Intelligence, Independence, Irreverence. http://www.caranddriver.com/features/2000-audi-r8. Retrieved 1 August 2012. By Jeremy McMullen