Big things with little cars

Teutonic Tuesday: 2009 Kolles Audi R10 TDI LMP1

For 3 years from 2006, the Audi R10 TDI dominated both the American and European Le Mans series (including 3 consecutive overall wins at the Le Mans 24 hours race) in the LMP1 class.

In 2009 though, Audi decided to quit both the series and focus only on the 24 hours race at Le Mans with all new car - the R15 TDI. But the R10 TDI was destined to continue running as Audi soon announced former Jordan Formula One team principal Colin Kolles will run two privately-entered cars for the European Le Mans season.

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No privateer had raced Audis at Le Mans since 2005, but as part of the agreement with Kolles - Audi agreed to support his team with a service package including mechanics and members of Audi Sport’s technical staff.

The factory support from Audi and the sheer class of the R10 TDI meant that Team Kolles finished 7th and 9th overall at Le Mans, with the factory run R15 TDIs finishing 3rd and 13th overall. If that is not staggering, here is more.

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Le Mans team driver rosters usually have 3 drivers with stints that last 90 minutes to two hours, each racking up to 8-9 hours of total driving. But this #14 Audi R10 TDI had just 2 drivers and so finishing 7th overall with only Charles Zwolsman, Jr. and André Lotterer sharing the race stints is a staggering achievement.

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So what happened to driver #3? Who was it? The driver list on the car’s livery listed him as the first driver and so you can read his name clearly in some of these photos.

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Narain Karthikeyan was India’s first Formula One driver. After a stint with Jordan in 2005, he was dropped for 2006 and became a test driver for BMW Willams for that season. After a few years out of F1, Karthikeyan returned to the top rung to drive for the new Hispanic Racing Team aka HRT.

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Anyways, between his F1 stints, in January 2009, Karthikeyan was signed by Team Kolles to drive one of their R1o TDIs in the Le Mans Series. Perhaps it was their shared history at Jordan that had prompted Colin Kolles to sign Karthikeyan, but Karthikeyan definitely hit the ground running.

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Taking the the wheel of the R10 TDI LMP1 at Spa for his first race, Karthikeyan finished 6th in his first ever LMP1 drive. And just like that Team Kolles was among the teams contending for the Le Mans trophy.

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Tragedy stuck at Le Mans though. 10 minutes before the start of the formation lap, Karthikeyan was trying to jump over the pitwall to get to a rest room ahead of his planned double stint to start the race. And he fell, dislocating his shoulder. While the Audi team’s doctor cleared him to race (after the start), the race officials didn’t agree, leaving Karthikeyan to rue his freak injury. He has not made it to Le Mans since.

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As for the model, this is a nice one by IXO that I found a few years ago on Aliexpress. Has all the details and the quality synonymous with the IXO name as well. It came with a nice proper case and at $25 for a car that came with a backstory, I think I got a great deal!

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