Audi R8 factory. Click image to enlarge
By Russell Purcell
R8. Born of Powerful Ideas
It isn’t very often that an automobile generates as much hype as that created by Audi’s groundbreaking R8. It is even rarer that the automobile in question actually lives up to the hype. The R8 does that and more. To commemorate the development of the R8, Audi commissioned a limited-edition book to tell the story of this car’s development from concept to turn-key dream car.
“R8. Born of Powerful Ideas” is a very substantial book. It is about 13-inches square and its hardcover is wrapped in silver linen, as is the protective box sleeve it is housed in. Both are embossed with the R8 logo.
Book cover and case. Click image to enlarge
This book was conceived as part of the worldwide product communication to introduce Audi’s all-new super car. As such, one might expect it to read as most corporate publications do – with bland precision. This cannot be said of this book, as Audi brass wanted the book to be as innovative as the car itself. The book flows well, as the reader is lead through the development of the car and given a look at some of the people, ideas and concepts that were combined to create this award-winning automobile.
The first section of the book introduces us to the concept and design goals of the R8, as well as to the key people that helped sculpt the corporate vision into a sports car that offers “an excellent driving experience 365 days a year.” With the R8, Audi had a car that would help introduce the brand to a whole new audience, as well as honour the company’s phenomenal sporting successes at Le Mans.
Tracks like Nardo in Italy, and Le Mans in France were used to refine the car’s handling and monitor its performance, and the reader is given a personal account of the first laps turned by Audi factory driver Tom Kristensen (now an eight-time Le Mans winner) at the latter. After professing that “it was love at first sight,” we learn that Tom is genuinely honoured to have played a part in the development of this car. We learn that he likes the fact that Audi’s quattro all-wheel drive system allows one to drive this car “to the limit under all conditions and still stay in your comfort zone.” If you get Tom’s approval, you have done something right. The images accompanying this section show Kristensen re-living Le Mans glory behind the wheel of the road-going R8. Very cool indeed.
Technical plates. Click image to enlarge
After browsing through this section of the book you come away with a better understanding of how the R8 took form. Concepts from as far back as 1991 hinted at both its eventual shape and the company’s increased interest in aluminum, as both the Quattro Spyder and Avus Quattro emerged on the world stage to fascinate journalists and get tongues wagging about Audi’s apparent new direction. 2003 brought the Le Mans concept from out into the open – it shared many of its details with the RSQ fantasy car used as a centerpiece in the movie iRobot. It was this pair that helped spark the anticipation that Audiphiles had been feeling since Audi returned to the track with the R8 program and started to embrace its sporting heritage.
Technical drawings and schematics of the go-fast bits as well as the potent 4.2-litre V8, innovative drive train, and aluminum space frame are explained in great detail, revealing the incredible scope of developing a car as capable as the R8. A series of large photo plates follow a car through the assembly process, with a text commentary explaining each step along the way. I was impressed to learn that every R8 is largely hand-built, a rarity in this age of computers and robotic assembly lines.
This is by far my favourite section of the book. We learn that ten R8s were brutalized during testing, and that these cars proved their mettle by covering almost 1.5-million kilometres in total. None had it tougher than the car that underwent final road trials in the American Southwest, as engineers had to endure 48-degree temperatures as well as the prying eyes of auto paparazzi while completing a 5,000 km loop from Los Angeles to Phoenix. A two-page plate features the test car cloaked in one of the snug-fitting tarpaulin disguises used by the test team to hamper the efforts of roving photographers.
We also learn of the military precision and attention to detail that makes Audi’s test team one of the best. After surviving the blazing sun of Death Valley, California, and talking their way out of a speeding ticket, durability testing continues with a thrilling climb of Pikes Peak in anger, wheels spitting gravel and all!
Action photo spread. Click image to enlarge
The book takes a couple of brief departures that focus on the architecture of Canadian-born Frank O. Gehry (he penned the Guggenheim Museum) and his use of automotive design software to help design buildings, and an almost whimsical look at the number eight and how it seems to be intertwined with many aspects of our lives. Both subjects seem out of place, but I found the latter one somewhat intriguing.
The R8 story comes to a close with a look at Audi’s long and varied participation in motor sport, from the early days of Auto Union through the domination of world rally and the most recent successes at Le Mans. The claim that the R8 possesses the “DNA of a champion” is a nod to the dominant R8 prototype race car from which the road-going “halo” car derives its name. The old saying “Race on Sunday, sell on Monday” appears to be true, as Audi sales are up and market share is expanding.
“R8. Born of Powerful Ideas” recently won two coveted honours from the Type Directors Club (TDC) of New York. The club honoured the special edition book with the Award of Excellence for its successful use of typography. The jury was particularly impressed by the book due to its “fresh and bold” typography design. A total of 2,100 works were entered from 33 countries.
The publication also received a “Judge’s Choice” honour, which is a personal recommendation from judge and designer Noreen Morioka, who recommended the Audi special edition as an outstanding project.
“R8. Born of Powerful Ideas” was created by the Stuttgart-based agency, design hoch drei, and the Delius Klasing Verlag publishing house in Bielefeld as part of the worldwide product communication accompanying the introduction of the Audi R8.
The original plan was to create a limited edition book that would only be available to Audi R8 buyers, but word has it that it will be sold in small quantities at select bookstores sometime in late 2008. There is also a possibility that it will find its way to the Audi Boutique catalog at your local dealer showroom. If you can get your hands on one, this book is well worth adding to your automotive library.