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From the Racetrack to the Road: The Evolution of the Audi R8

Audi R8

There is likely no car in the past two decades that has epitomized the the correlation between track and street as well as the Audi R8 has. It is no coincidence, then, that no automaker has been as simultaneously successful with one car for both racing and driving purposes, as Audi has been with their relatively recent super car.

The Audi R8 is one of the most storied vehicles in recent years, turning heads – and ears – on the track, on the street, and even on the red carpet. So, how did this living legend come to be the beast that it is? Here’s a brief history of the evolution of the Audi R8.

Born to Race

The R8 began in 2000 as a Le Mans Prototype, an open-topped race car that combined elements of their two successful racers, the R8R and the R8C. From there, the legend was born. The R8 competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans for seven years, winning a stunning five times. When the R8 then hung up its hat, it was widely considered one of the greatest Le Mans race cars in the history of auto racing. The table was set for that success to translate elsewhere.

Hitting the Streets

In 2003, Audi introduced the Le Mans Quattro concept car, which drew some interest, but was then forgotten by many auto enthusiasts. When the company announced that the R8 racer would no longer be racing in Le Mans, it revealed that the namesake would live on in a street-legal car, which would be a newer version of the concept; it would be the first true Audi super car. In 2006, at the Paris Auto Show, the vehicle was unveiled, and it rolled off of assembly lines in 2007. The first iteration featured a 4.2 liter V-8 that made 414 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque. But it was best known for its handling, which drew praise from analysts and racers alike. The styling, too, helped the R8 become so popular.

Back to the Track

In 2009, Audi announced that the R8 would become a racing car once more, though it would stay as a street legal vehicle as well. And so the R8 LMS was born, a successful close-topped speedster designed for GT3 and other touring race series.

Evolution for the Modern Day

Like all Audi vehicles, the R8 has evolved to fit the times, and it remains as popular and beloved today as when it was first introduced. The styling has become more aggressive, the driving features more race-oriented, the interior more luxurious, and the overall vibe more sexy. It has become a staple in Hollywood, where celebrities are common R8 owners, and it had a notable appearance in the movie “Iron Man II.” The R8 is now offered in an updated V-8, or a V-10 that makes 542 hp and 398 lb-ft of torque. Increased use of carbon fiber and an innovative seven-speed sport transmission are just some of the myriad upgrades that the R8 has made; a face lift in 2014 was the cherry on the sundae.

A superstar on the track, on the street, and on the eyes. It’s been a beautiful evolution for the Audi R8.

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