It was an obvious move. So obvious that
Wolfgang Ullrich, boss of Audi Sport,
invokes colloquial English to describe the
decision to sign up Joest Racing as a
partner for its move into the prototype
ranks in 1999: “It was a no-brainer to
use Joest when we started out in
endurance racing,” he says.
Ullrich knew Audi needed experience
fast as the marque made the switch from
touring car racing. With the exception of
its IMSA GTO class 90 Quattro of 1989,
all of Audi Sport’s racing and rallying
programs had been based on machinery
that started life on the production line.
That explains Joest’s recruitment, and
Ullrich also brought in Tony Southgate as
a design consultant, and purchased
the facilities of the Anglo-Japanese
TOM’S GB squad in the UK, which was
renamed Racing Technologies Norfolk.
Southgate and RTN would team up
for a two-pronged program in Audi’s
inaugural year of sports car racing.
Alongside the two Joest-run R8R
LMP900s at Le Mans, a pair of R8Cs
built to the GT1 rules were fielded by
the Audi Sport UK squad. Audi was
hedging its bets at a time when the
regulations were framed to give LMP
and GT1 machinery an equal chance of
victory. “It wasn’t clear which was the
correct way forward,” explains Ullrich.
Audi chose the LMP route, built a new
R8 for 2000 and took three consecutive
wins with Joest. And when it didn’t
have a full factory program, it loaned
out Joest and his crew to run a car
designed at RTN, the Bentley Speed 8.
Hedging its bets... Audi came to the 1999
24 Hours of Le Mans with open-top LMP cars
(TOP) and GT1 coupes (ABOVE) in its arsenal.
AUDI CHOOSES JOEST
than 140 liters of fuel to spare at the finish.
Joest, Ludwig and Porsche 956/117
had pulled off an amazing double.
Rewind a year, and 117 had been
delivered just before Le Mans ’ 84 – ”Maybe
two or three weeks,” recalls Joest — and
then undergone a complete strip down and
rebuild. There were fuel pressure issues in
practice and then another problem in the
opening minutes of that ’ 84 race.
Incredibly, 956 /117 might have made
it three wins in a row. The car, again shared
by Ludwig, Barilla and Krages, was leading
in 1986 when the safety car was deployed
during the night as a result of Jo Gartner’s
fatal accident. The course vehicle was on
track for two and a half hours and the
Joest Porsche ran too lean for an engine
way short of its operating temperature.
Joest Racing didn’t quite pull off the
three-peat, but a double for a privateer was
still a phenomenal achievement. Someone
at the time no doubt even called it
unrepeatable, yet Joest’s team would do it
again in 1996 and ’ 97 – the first year with
factory assistance, the second with overt
opposition from Weissach (see page 106).
Not long after that, Audi came knocking
on Joest’s door and the rest, as they say,
is history. Or, rather, more history.
Joest didn’t make it
a three-peat in ’ 86,
but an all-American
lineup of George
Follmer, John Morton
and Kenper Miller
(LEFT) did provide
with third overall. M u
“When the engine was hot
out on the circuit it misfired,
but in the pits we struggled
to find the problem”
“We had a crack in a spark plug that
caused an air leak,” recalls Piedade. “When
the engine was hot out on the circuit it
misfired, but in the pits we struggled to
find the problem. Michel only found it at
the second stop. It looked like we were out
of contention after only 10 or 15 minutes.”
Ludwig and Pescarolo, who would
return to the Le Mans winner’s circle 10
years after completing three wins with
Matra, eased their way up the leaderboard,
making it to the front in the 17th hour.
Ludwig, Barilla and “Winter” celebrate their 1985
Le Mans win in front of a sea of humanity. The
ramshackle charm of the old, cramped pits complex
only added to the incredible post-race atmosphere.