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IAA 2003 LIVE: Audi Frankfurt Sports Night

Frankfurt, Germany – Holding the title as the largest industry event in Europe and possibly the most significant of its kind in world, the bi-annual auto show in Frankfurt, Germany is a place where new cars and concepts alike can easily get lost in the crowd. With the event basically on Audi’s home turf, only a few hours’ drive from their Ingolstadt headquarters, Audi had a point to prove with its latest Le Mans quattro concept car. And prove it they did via what the company referred to as the Audi Frankfurt Sports Night.

Held at ten o’clock this evening on the night prior to the opening Press and Media Day, one could say Audi’s Frankfurt Sports Night trumped the other European manufacturers at an event especially known for extreme competition for media attention between the German “Big Three”; the Volkswagen Group, the BMW Group and Daimler Chrysler.

As night fell, hundreds of journalists descended upon a temporary reception hall erected alongside Frankfurt’s Europa Boulevard, just across from the outcropping of buildings and show halls that act as Frankfurt’s convention center. Special arrangements were made to close the busy thoroughfare for several hours, and a large screen across the road from the bleachers counted down the minutes to what Audi had in store for those attending.

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After a short introduction by Audi’s head of communications, who conveniently rolled up in a red S4 cabriolet, those eager journalists watched and cheered as an Auto Union Type A Grand Prix racecar thundered past with all 16-cylinders contributing to that wonderful, albeit loud, music.

Once waved into its parking place along the street, Audi’s Pikes Peak short wheelbase Quattro racecar screamed down the same line, breezing by only several feet from the front of the roughly nine million dollar Auto Union.

Audi’s 90 IMSA racecar rocketed down the same line again (with its distinctive chirping waste gate), as did the an early V8 DTM racecar, A4 quattro STW Touring Car and finally the last year’s Le Mans winning R8 driven by none other than Tom Kristensen.

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With this 6-car portfolio lined up along Europa Boulevard in front of the grand stands, and underneath a Le Mans-emulating faux tire bridge, Audi had no problem emphasizing its long sporting lineage to the media attendees.

With all six cars parked and one space left in the middle, one final car zoomed past. It circled back and was waved into its space under the spotlight, and flanked on both sides by the Auto Union and the R8.

Audi’s newest concept, the Le Mans quattro, was met with grand applause. Its headlights, each with 17 individual LED units, shone and the spotlights glinted off of its Jet Blue paint and satin aluminum accents.

Out of the car stepped driver Martin Winterkorn, head of Audi AG, and from the passenger side appeared Audi racecar driver Emanuelle Pirro. The crowd erupted in applause again as Pirro was interviewed, asking Winterkorn to build the Le Mans quattro.

The potential for building the car is actually very good. As journalists were invited to step up and take a closer look, it was particularly evident how close to production the vehicle actually appears to be.

Winterkorn did coyly respond that Audi would very much like to build the car. He also suggested that it would be media and public reaction to the Le Mans quattro concept that will make the final decision.

Having seen the car in person, most Audiphiles and even mainstream automobile aficionados will hopefully agree to the car’s potential. As Emanuelle Pirro basically said, “With the serious level of motorsport that Audi has been campaigning, it is only natural that they follow that with such a car.”

We hope they do.



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For more photos of the car in this story, click on the link to our gallery at the right.


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