O Opinions & Commentary

Great races: Audi at Le Mans, 2006

2006 LAT

OK, this may not be quite as legendary or unique as Fangio’s all-out attack at the ’57 German GP.

However, if that race was a showcase of legendary driving, then the 2006 24 Heures du Mans is one of what is sure to go down as a legendary—and I mean legendary—display of technology.

Others had tried to conquer Le Mans with alternative power sources starting as early as 1949. Prior to Audi’s all-out diesel assault on Le Mans’ modern era, meanwhile, a Caterpillar-powered Lola was entered in 2004.

These efforts never fared too well, however, so it was up to the German firm to take the bull by the horns and go for it. Indeed, they led from beginning to end that year and swept the podium, with the number 8 car of Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner taking top honours.

Needless to say, it was an exciting time to be at Le Mans, so I count myself lucky that I got to see it all first-hand, trackside.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the R10 TDI racers was how quiet they were. Seriously; you’d be standing with a friend, head turned towards him and chatting and the R10 would glide by and since your ears would be ringing from the reports of the much louder Corvettes and Lamborghinis, you’d miss the R10s as they’d pass with what sounds like nothing more than the air rushing through their spoilers and NACA ducts by comparison.

We didn’t know it then, but that race spawned the beginning of near total domination by Audi on the mighty La Sarthe circuit, prompting some to argue that now, Audi shoud be considered Le Mans’ most successful manufacturer, even surpassing Porsche.

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