It started back in 2000 when the first Audi prototype showed up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At a race where sports car manufacturer Porsche has won 16 times and Ferrari nine times, the upstarts from Ingolstadt came with a serious race car, the turbocharged gasoline-engined R8, and took first, second and third the first time out.
In the years since, the Audi R8, R10, the R15 diesel and now the new R18 diesel have won the race nine more times. They took a year off in 2003 when, at the suggestion of management, the Audi race car was reconfigured into a Bentley coupe, and the Bentley took first and second using Audi engines.
In 2004, the R8 returned and took first, second, third and fifth. The following year, the updated and heavily restricted R8 won again, with Danish driver Tom Kristensen winning his seventh Le Mans in a row.
The world of sports car racing changed forever in 2006 when Audi showed up with its new R10 race cars, powered by 5.5-liter turbocharged diesel engines. Diesels? At Le Mans? Yes. Using specially distilled diesel race fuel, the Audis qualified first and second and beat the closest gasoline-powered car by four LAPS, owing to the diesel’s reliability, huge torque off the corners, and far fewer stops for fuel. The winning Audi diesel covered 3164 miles in 24 hours, at an average speed of 131 mph.