ONE of the two factory Audi R8 LMP 900 sportscars that competed in the one-off Adelaide ‘Race of a Thousand Years’ Le Mans Series race in 2000 has popped up on the market, though not in the markings it wore during its time in Australia.
The car, chassis 405, was driven in Adelaide by Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro as car #78 in Adelaide and was the sister car to the eventual race winner, the ‘crocodile car’ #77 entry driven by Allan McNish and Dindo Capello.
The race, run on New Year’s Eve – December 31, 2000 – on the full-length Adelaide Grand Prix street circuit, was the final round of that year’s American Le Mans Series.
It was intended to be a 1000-kilometre race however was stopped short due to time constraints, two hours before midnight, with 225 laps and 850.5-kilometres completed.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the one-off event. A multi-year contract was in place for the Adelaide ALMS race, however there was only one race held.
The McNish/Capello car dominated, winning by 21 laps over the privateer Konrad Motorsport Lola-Ford of Franz Konrad, Charles Slater and South Australian Alan Heath.
The car currently offered for sale by Fiskens in England is the fifth of six R8s built for the 2000 season and qualified second on the grid for the ‘Race of a Thousand Years’ in Adelaide with Biela clocking a lap time just 0.17s slower than pole-sitter Capello.
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The #78 Audi led the opening 16 laps of the race in the hands of Biela, though McNish grabbed the lead on lap 17 and the #77 car was never headed.
The #78 car endured a tougher race. Pirro hit the wall trying to lap the Konrad Lola while sitting in second place and a lap behind his leading teammate.
The former F1 and BMW factory touring car star limped back to the pits and Biela took the wheel and eventually returned to the track after repairs were made to their R8. They were eventually classified 15th overall in the 25-car field with 170 laps completed.
Their Adelaide car, chassis 405, was reportedly used extensively by the factory Audi team during the 2000 season.
It has been returned to its 2000 Le Mans 24 Hour livery as it was driven to second place by McNish, Stephane Ortelli and Laurent Aiello. The car, carrying the #9, started the French classic from pole position that year and also set the fastest lap of the race.
The car became the #78 car after Le Mans – Biela and Pirro used it to win the ALMS rounds at Texas and Las Vegas and finished third in the Nurburgring 1000.
They were joined by Tom Kristensen for the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, where they finished runners-up, and the car finished out its time as a factory Audi Sport entry in the Adelaide race on New Year’s Eve.
The 3.6-litre V8, twin-turbo prototype remained in the ALMS in 2001 in the hands of Champion Racing and its driver line-up that year included Johnny Herbert.
It was sold to an enthusiast in the United States and restored to its 2000 Le Mans configuration before later being sold to a British enthusiast. It appeared at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2017.