40 years of Audi Sport
Almost 40 years ago on October 10, 1983 Audi Sport GmbH, as it is now known, was founded as quattro GmbH. Today, it shapes the sporty and exclusive image of our four-ringed marque, with the red rhombus signalling performance at its finest.
To mark such a prestigious milestone in the iconic sporting history of the brand, Audi have planned a number of festivities over the coming months in the run up to the official anniversary in October.
Starting the anniversary with something exciting
Last weekend, Audi Sport’s 40th birthday celebrations kicked off in style when the red rhombus met the “Green Hell” at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. With 20.832 kilometers, 73 turns and elevation changes of more than 300 meters, no other racetrack has shaped Audi Sport like the legendary Nordschleife– also known as the “Green Hell” – of the Nürburgring.
The circuit in the Eifel region and the wholly owned subsidiary of AUDI AG share a close relationship, both in racing and in the high-performance vehicles of the series, with Audi Sport having been an official partner of the 24-hour race since 2002 and providing the official cars to the race organisers. Since 2009, the Audi R8 LMS has been competing in the Eifel marathon, the customer racing division has been part of the former quattro GmbH since 2011, and with six overall victories and three additional GT3 class wins to date, Audi is the most successful manufacturer in the GT3 era of the endurance classic at the “Green Hell.” So, it’s no surprise that Audi Sport GmbH decided to launch its activities to mark its milestone birthday at the track.
At this year’s edition of the 24-hour race, the four Audi R8 LMS cars of the Audi Sport Teams competed in retro designs to mark the 40th anniversary, featuring famous liveries from Audi’s motorsport history. In keeping with the birthday spirit, former DTM champions Mike Rockenfeller, Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk also took part with the number 40 as their start number. Their Audi R8 LMS from Audi Sport Team Scherer PHX is visually based on the 1992 Audi V8 quattro DTM.
Due to its demanding characteristics of the track, the Nordschleife is not only a motorsport challenge, but also a yardstick for the production vehicles of Audi Sport GmbH. Every new R and RS model completes several thousand kilometers on the varied Eifel circuit during its development phase. “The Nürburgring is the world’s toughest race track. It is a magical place for us and that’s why it is perfectly suited to start our 40th company birthday at the 24-hour race,’ said Rolf Michl, Managing Director of Audi Sport GmbH and Head of Motorsport at Audi. “The Nürburgring-Nordschleife is considered as a Mecca for all motorsport fans. For me, the 24-hour race is one of the most beautiful things you can experience in motorsport, but the Nürburgring is also essential for the development of our production cars. All our models are tested there under extreme conditions and brought to production readiness.”
On Friday, May 19, Mike Rockenfeller, Timo Scheider and Martin Tomczyk, as well as Audi Sport Managing Directors Sebastian Grams and Rolf Michl, were on hand to answer questions at the “Champions’ talk” in the media center. Various models from the company’s history were also on display in the ring boulevard, including the first-generation Audi R8 and RS 4 Avant, the current R8 GT and the RS 4 Avant with the competition package. Another highlight was the all-electric Audi S1 Hoonitron, with which the unforgettable Ken Block caused a stir on the streets of Las Vegas in the “Electrikhana” video. And shortly before the 24-hour race, spectators were able to admire high-performance models from the sporty Audi subsidiary in a dedicated motorcade along the famous track.
The festivities continue
From the 14 June, fans can also look forward to a dedicated celebratory exhibit at the headquarters of Audi Sport at the Audi Forum in Neckarsulm, Germany. The anniversary exhibition of “40 years of Audi Sport GmbH – Fascination Meets Performance” will provide an almost complete overview of the history of Audi Sport. Showcasing automotive highlights which range from the first ever vehicle made by the former quattro GmbH, right up to present day racing programs and product portfolio, plus an insight into the future of the red rhombus.
Finally, celebrations will climax in the autumn with a rally for Audi enthusiasts heading across Europe to the Audi Forum on 14 October. Audi Sport GmbH is inviting visitors to a special day, whereby informative guided tours will be taken through the special exhibition, supplemented exclusively for this day by further exhibits on four wheels that are not otherwise open to the public, enabling fans to take an exciting journey through the 40-year history of the company. An entertaining stage program will then conclude the celebrations.
Well positioned for the future
“Audi Sport GmbH has written a real success story over the past four decades. With passion and team spirit, many exciting high-performance projects have been developed to production readiness, emotional customer experiences have been created and great successes in motorsport have been achieved,” says Oliver Hoffmann, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at AUDI AG and Chairman of the Advisory Board of Audi Sport GmbH.
“We have a clear goal: to successfully carry the sporting DNA of the four rings into the electric future.” Managing Director Sebastian Grams adds: “The company has remained true to itself over all these years, has always been courageous and dared to do new things. This spirit of innovation still characterises us today. We want to shape the future of mobility in the high-performance segment in a sustainable and progressive way.”
Audi Sport GmbH is currently involved in four business areas: In addition to the development and production of high-performance models, it is responsible for both factory and customer racing for the brand with the four rings. In addition, vehicle customisation via the Audi exclusive program and the sale of high-quality lifestyle collections from the Audi collection are among its core areas. Audi Sport GmbH currently employs around 1,500 people. In 2022, the wholly owned subsidiary of AUDI AG once again set a sales record with exactly 45,515 cars. With 16 models, the vehicle portfolio is larger than ever, ranging from the compact Audi RS 3 Sportback and the high-performance RS Q8 SUV to the R8 Coupé super sports car and the top electric model, the RS e-tron GT. With the all-electric four-door coupé, the sporty Audi subsidiary is demonstrating a pioneering spirit in the field of electric mobility. Last year, 10,042, or around a quarter of the vehicles delivered by Audi Sport GmbH, were already models from the e-tron GT family, with around one in three of these being an RS model. “We want to make the right segment-specific offer to our customers. This ranges from broad electrification via mild hybrids to the flexibility of the future performance plug-in hybrids to the special driving experience of electric cars,” Sebastian Grams explaining the corporate strategy.
“With the RS e-tron GT, we started the era of highly emotional and electric vehicles – with the new all-electric Audi Sport models on the PPE platform, such as the first electric performance SUV, we will continue this chapter. By the end of the decade, the portfolio is to be converted one hundred percent to battery electric (BEV) and partially electric (PHEV) models. At the same time, we want to make even greater use of our small-series expertise for highly emotional vehicles in the future.”
Audi Sport GmbH is also a key driver of electrification for Audi in motorsport. Under its leadership, the innovative Audi RS Q e-tron prototype was created in 2021 for its first participation in the legendary Dakar Rally. The vehicle’s drivetrain concept combines an electric powertrain with a high-voltage battery and a highly efficient energy converter that charges the high-voltage battery while driving. The energy converter consists of an TFSI engine from the DTM coupled to a drivetrain unit from Formula E as a generator. From 2026, the four rings will compete in the FIA Formula One World Championship. The new rules rely on greater electrification, and the electric drivetrain unit (MGU-K) will then have nearly as much power as the combustion engine. The highly efficient 1.6-liter turbocharged engines will be powered by sustainable synthetic fuel. An independent company, Audi Formula Racing GmbH, has been established to enter the premier class of motorsport.
For more information on Audi Sport or current models in the range, please speak to a member of our team.
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Information and quotes obtained from Audi Communications article.