March 21, 2006 Audi achieved Motorsport history on the weekend when its diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI sportscar driven by Allan McNish, Dindo Capello (Italy) and Tom Kristensen won America’s most important sportscar race, the Sebring 12 Hour sportscar endurance motor race at Sebring (USA) – the first victory in an open motorsport event for a diesel-powered car. "Flying Scotsman" McNish showed the potential of the 650-hp V12 TDI engine with a record-breaking pole-position time in qualifying. Because the heat exchanger had to be replaced after the morning warm-up, Capello was forced to start their R10 TDI from the pit-lane starting his chase from the back of the field. It took Capello only half an hour before he had moved from 35th and last position to second just behind the "sister" car of Frank Biela (Germany), Emanuele Pirro (Italy) and Marco Werner (Germany). Shortly before the end of the second hour, the McNish/Capello/Kristensen Audi took the lead and remained at the head of the field to the chequered flag – McNish also setting a new race lap record. The diesel Audis now head to the Le Mans 24 Hour event in June
30 degrees Celsius in the shade, high humidity and asphalt temperatures reaching up to 43 degrees, caused especially difficult circumstances on the Florida track which is one of the most demanding in the world.
The Biela/Pirro/Werner Audi R10 TDI that had started alone from the front row led the race for the first two hours but did not reach the finish after it was withdrawn just before one-third distance due to an overheated engine.
Shortly after the start of the race, the telemetry system of this car, that transmits data from car-to-pit, had stopped working. As a consequence, Audi Sport’s engine technicians received no data.
When Werner reported high water temperatures via radio during the fourth hour of the race, the second placed R10 TDI was called into the pits. The team discovered the radiators were completely blocked by tyre rubber. After cleaning the radiators, the temperature sank immediately.
However, Team Audi Sport North America decided - as a precautionary measure - to withdraw the second placed R10 TDI from the race because the engine had been running with significantly high temperatures for an extended period.
For Audi, it was a seventh consecutive Sebring race victory while Kristensen became the first driver to win America’s most famous endurance race for a fourth time, achieving another record after his record seventh Le Mans victory from last year.
Prof Dr Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of AUDI AG, witnessed the history-making victory. He commented: "Audi has once again written motorsport history, this time by being the first manufacturer to win an endurance race with a diesel powered sportscar. This impressively confirms the efficiency of the modern TDI technology. It is especially remarkable that this success was achieved at the very first race of the new Audi R10 TDI. The whole team from Audi Sport and the Technical Development of Audi has once again done a great job. I thank everyone who is participating in this ambitious project."
Meanwhile McNish, who claimed a "Grand Slam" by setting both the fastest qualifying and race laps combined with his second-ever Sebring race win, added: "The whole team should be very proud - we have created a little piece of history. In a few years time, people will look back and realise this was a monumental moment, not only in Audi Sport history, but also in motorsport where the first ever Diesel engine won an international race. We all worked very hard for this one."
The next race for the Audi R10 TDI, which features an all-aluminium V12, turbocharged 5.5-litre diesel engine producing 650-hp, is the Le Mans 24 Hours (17-18 June) - the twice around the clock marathon Audi has won five times since making its début in 1999.