The Audi R8’s supercar design secrets: birds and…balls?
Frank Lamberty talks to us about the incredible inspiration behind his unique German mid-engine sports car design.
The chance to design a mid-engine supercar is every car designer’s dream assignment, and often has to be won through competition. Young Frank Lambert won such a competition shortly after the Volkswagen Group acquired Lamborghini and assigned its management responsibilities to subsidiary Audi. Lamberty shared the experience with us during this year’s Monterey Car Week, just before we took the final few laps at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in his baby Audi R8 V10 Quattro.
Like Lamborghini’s two previous owners, Audi understood that the brand desperately needed a replacement for the V-8 Jalpa, which was discontinued in 1988. Chrysler developed a Gandini-designed V-10-powered P140 prototype, which subsequent owner Megatech continued to develop, including an Italdesign redesign called the Calà, but without a higher-volume model to help spread development cost, neither completes the business case. Audi sister ships are the ticket to help defray the costs.Lamborghini Gallardo andAudi R8 will share their expensive crash structures and much of their powertrains, with tuning and design tailored to each brand. That’s when Walter de Silva challenged his design team to design a unique German mid-engine sports car for Audi. This is the story of how and why it looks the way it does.
Defining “unique Germany”
By that time, Germany had produced very few mid-engine road cars.BMW M1Designed by Giorgio Giugiaro, it can be said that it is Italian. There have been some quintessential Porsches and some Audi concepts like the Avus Quattro and Quattro Spyder (both from 1991), and the 2000 Rosemeyer. But Lamberty sought an entirely new design. He pointed outPorsche 904 Racing has some influence on the side profile, with a clear linear demarcation between the passenger compartment and the engine bay. The Ducati 996 sports bike inspired certain other elements, with the R8’s front fascia taking influence from ferocious birds of prey such as hawks, with its piercing eyes flanking the beak-like grille rather than high on the fenders superior. This final design choice also helps drive a slightly higher hood line, providing usable front trunk space for weekend trips.
Tennis balls, not planed wood
Like most car enthusiasts of a certain age, Lambert grew up with a photo of a car.Lamborghini Countach adorned the walls of his childhood bedroom, but he mentioned that car and many of the designs in the Italian work could be achieved in the Pinewood Derby style by starting with a rectangular block of wood and carving it with a plane. In contrast, he describes his philosophy as more akin to starting with a pliable tennis ball, flattening it and stretching it. You can almost trace a tennis ball seam line at the top of the R8’s grille and headlights, up along the fender line and A-pillars, down along the signature side blades, and back to the splitter.
Those side blades
The side blades, available (and encouraged) in contrasting colors, serve a thermal management purpose, drawing air into the mid-mounted engine, but they also help emphasize the separation of the passenger compartment and powertrain, while also minimizing the visual bulk needed on the passenger side. A longitudinal V-8 or V-10 engine is installed between the rear axle and the rear axle. The curved vertical dividing line isthis Lamberti proudly admitted that this design feature was later borrowed for some modern Bugatti designs.
Lamberty’s design was licensed for development in 2003 as Project F03 (Audi’s featured concept car at the IAA show in Frankfurt). We later called itAudi Le Mans Quattro, the concept’s design entered the market with minimal changes. Not only did it become the Type 42 road car, which looked almost identical to the concept car and pioneered LED and laser headlight technology, but it also became a successful car.GT3 racingWinning all major endurance races, including six Nürburgring 24 Hours victories and two Daytona 24 Hours victories. All this in a car that shares at least 50 percent of its components as the road car.
This year will be the R8’s last, but it has clearly served its purpose, enabling Lamborghini to survive long-term and start building an SUV that guarantees its future. The original Gallardo hit the market more than three years before the R8, but for most of that time the (cheaper) R8 outsold it almost two to one.
Fully electric based on R8Audi E-Tron concept car (the first to bear this name) debuted at the 2009 Frankfurt Auto Show, has four-motor Quattro all-wheel drive that delivers 313 horsepower and an estimated 500 pound-feet of torque, which can propel the 3,500-pound car to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds. Its 42.4 kWh battery has a range of about 150 miles. Audi developed 10 prototypes but canceled production plans for the R8 EV in May 2013. No plans have been announced to replace the R8, but with the company having success in Formula E and about to start fielding teams in Formula 1, it’s hard to imagine Audi ever completely leaving the high-performance supercar realm.
We’ve heard rumors of a 650-horsepower tri-motor electric share for a few years nowMotor andE-Tron GT RS And the shape is likePB18 concept. But now there’s a usable electric supercar in the corporate world that has us dreaming of a car that’s completely off-kilter.Rimac refrigerator Running a simplified, smaller battery and some squashed tennis ball/eagle face/half side blade styling.