Celebrating four decades of Vorsprung
Today, 10th October 2023, marks the 40th Anniversary of Audi Sport, the successful motor sport division at the heart Audi AG.
Whilst it continues to make waves in the world of motorsport with the move into Formula 1 and recent electrifying performances at Dakar, our sporting heritage and Vorsprung innovation make up the core DNA of every model across the Audi range, from the sportily compact A1, to the all-electric e-tron GT, and our vast array of S and RS vehicles.
Here, we take look back at the exciting journey our iconic sporting marque has been on over the decades, and what ambitions it has for the years to come.
Our racing heritage
Originally founded in 1983 as quattro Gmbh, our high-performance motorsport division took the Audi innovation to the next level. However, the start of our racing legacy begins much earlier.
Audi’s motorsport origins began back in 1906, when the company’s founder August Horch decided that the best way to promote his new motor car was to take part in gruelling lost distance rallies. Horch even competed behind the wheel himself, and at around the same time that Ferdinand Porsche rose to fame as both designer and racing driver, Horch’s team won the Austrian Alpine Run three times in a row between 1912 and 1914.
Following the 1932 merger of the four automotive companies, Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer, it was important to promote the new Auto Union name. In this regard, motor racing offered the ideal platform to endorse the message and the decision was made to compete at the very highest level: Grand Prix racing. This was known as the age of the Silver Arrows, with victories in Monza, Donington, and various hill-climb successes with the Type D model.
The rebirth of the Audi brand came in 1965, when company mergers and a renewed focus on motorsport following the post-war era saw the start of development on a specialised manufacturing department dedicated solely to performance engineering. In 1980, a new racing legacy was born with the introduction of the very first quattro rally car – and this is where our iconic racing heritage really begins to take shape.
The 1980s welcomed huge success for Audi quattro Gmbh, with racing wins at the World Rally Championship, record braking climbs at Pikes Peak, and ultimately the move into circuit racing where it triumphed in DTM and Super Touring Car races up until the late 1990s.
Just before the turn of the new millennium, Audi Sport embarked on a completely new adventure with its debut in the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours, where it claimed 3rd place on the podium. The Audi R8 was in a class of its own at the toughest endurance race in the world and secured its place in motorsport history with a total of 63 wins in 80 sports car races. It was during this time that Audi Sport began to develop it pioneering performance in TDI and hybrid technology, with the R10, R15, and eventually the Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
In 2016, Audi began realigning its motorsport strategy for the future when it ended its participation in Le Mans endurance races and instead turned its focus to the all-electric Formula E racing series. This venture allowed the brand to gain extensive technical experience in the realms of electric vehicle manufacturing, and is something that has shaped the e-tron models you can see and drive today. After seven successful years, Audi left Formula E at the end of the 2020/2021 season with two titles and numerous victories in a total of 84 races.
A new era
In 2022, Audi took it’s experience and knowledge of vehicle electrification to the next level when it entered the Dakar Rally for the first time with the Audi RS Q e-tron and its innovative drivetrain – scoring four stage wins and a total of 14 stage podium results. At only its second competitive outing, the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, the Audi RS Q e-tron wrote a new chapter in motorsport history when Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger won the event in Abu Dhabi – marking the first success for an electric drivetrain in the desert. The technology and drive train has continued to be developed through 2023’s Dakar rally and into preparations for the 2024 event.
The continued success of Audi Sport can also be seen in today’s customer racing range which sees models from Audi competing all over the world in the hands of customer teams. And not to mention, its commitment to the evolving world of Grand Prix racing with development well underway for the Formula 1 series in 2026.
Be it the Audi Sport quattro S1, the Audi R8 Le Mans prototype or the Audi 90 quattro IMSA GTO, many racing cars from the 40-year history of Audi Sport are icons today. From year to year, even more are added to that spectacular line up. However, what is even more profound is the impact these iconic motorsport cars have had on our current model range, from both the S and RS customer products, right through to the electrifying performance you will see in our e-tron models and even the innovations at the heart our A and Q ranges. Our sporting heritage and exceptional technological advancements can be found at the core of every Audi, and the continued developments within the motorsport division herald even more exciting times for our four-ringed marque in the future.
So no matter what Audi you drive, know that legendary sporting heritage lives on in its DNA.
Celebrate with us
Join us to mark 40 years of Audi innovation and performance at our exclusive celebratory Sale event! From the 5 - 15 you can discover exceptional offers across our entire new and approved used Audi range.
We even have some very special vehicle available to view at selected Group 1 Audi centres.