By Ian Wagstaff
2023 review by James Loveridge
“AUDI R8: The Autobiography of R8-405” by Ian Wagstaff is the 15th of Porter Press’s Great Cars series and is about the most modern car dealt with so far. In that it is the life story of a motorcar, Auto–biography is a very appropriate description.
It is divided into 6 Parts: 1. The background to the R8, 2. The start of the millennium, 3. Champion Season, 4. The drivers of R8-405, 5. Audi’s enduring story and 6. Historic times. It thus tells the story from genesis right through to the time the book was written – as comprehensive a history as you can want.
The first part tells the story of Audi’s competition history up to and as part of the pre-war Auto Union combine – interestingly there was an Audi Company back in 1909 – with its involvement in rallying and saloon car racing. Ferdinand Porsche’s involvement with Wanderer – one of the companies that created Auto Union – in 1913 is mentioned and no doubt he would think “Good to see they’ve still got the engine in the right place.” It then sets the scene for Endurance Racing and Audi’s participation with the R8.
Part 2 tells us what was happening in the world in the year 2000 then, after briefly describing the history of the 24 hours at Le Mans, details Audi’s involvement with three cars in the 2000 event under the auspices of the Reinhold Joest organisation. The race is summarised, some of the other entrants are pictured, and, as in all good stories, the Audis won. However it was not R8-405 driven by McNish, Ortelli and Aiello that won, it came second. Biela, Kristensen and Piro in R8-404 won. Incidentally, don’t be confused by the photographs on pages 70, 71 and 72 where 405 appears to be silver then white and then blue, it’s the same car. The story of Joest Racing is set out, showing their long relationship with Audi. The section ends with the setting up of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) in which Audi proved to be dominant.
Part 3 details R8-405, now spending most of its time in North America, in the ALMS series where it was run by Champion Racing, a team set up by enterprising Porsche dealer Dave Marej. Attention is given to the Panoz which proved to be a strong competitor to the Audis. The numerous events competed in are described in which the factory Audis performed very well, achieving many wins and the 2001 AMLS series. By this time Audi were running the newer 5 series Joest-run R8s but 405 performed well, getting some podium places and helping Champion Racing take third place in the series.
Part 4 sets out very fully the stories of the various drivers of R8-405: Alan McNish, Stephane Ortelli, Laurent Aiello, Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello, Andy Wallace, Johnny Herbert, Ralf Kellners and Dorsey Schroeder. As can be seen, this historic car benefitted from the skilled handling of some of the outstanding sports car drivers, several of them multiple Le Mans winners, of the period.
Part 5 takes us into Audi’s competition history after 405 stopped top flight racing, and their probable future. Was it an acknowledgement of its excellence that Audi decided to call their current road car an R8?
Part 6 tells the story of the car’s return to Europe and its life in private ownership. There is not a great deal of technical information about the car but the book ends with 24 pages of detailed photographs of this car in both its 2000 Le Mans livery and its later Championship Racing colours.
This 320-page, dust-jacketed, book, printed on gloss paper and with copious illustrations, is to Porter Press’s usual high standards, though the odd typo – a “that” for a “than” and a superfluous “as” – have crept in. It is a tribute to Ian Wagstaff’s assiduous research, and he is to be complimented on his achievement. It is thoroughly recommended.
The book is published by , Hilltop Farm, Knighton-on -Teme, Tenbury Wells, WR15 9LY at £69.
Publisher: Porter Press International, https://porterpress.co.uk/,
Price: £69.00 plus p & p.
Description: 320 pages, hardback with dustjacket. 285mm x 235mm. Profusely illustrated with over 350 images.