Audi has participated in grand prix racing before. Sort of.
Auto Union, together with rival Mercedes, was part of the state-subsidised German onslaught of motorsport in the 1930s. Audi was part of the Auto Union group. The mid-engined V16 and V12 Auto Unions – with design overseen by Ferdinand Porsche – were truly spectacular racing cars, quite unlike anything else which was racing at that time.
Auto Union’s star driver Bernd Rosemeyer won the 1936 European Championship (the equivalent of today’s F1 world championship). He was killed in 1938 attempting a speed record for Auto Union on one of the newly-built autobahns.
His replacement, the legendary Tazio Nuvolari, won the Donington Grand Prix in his Auto Union later that year. Nuvolari’s Auto Union was also the winner of the very last grand prix before the full outbreak of the second world war – in Belgrade, September 3, 1939.
The four-circle badge of Audi is a reference to the original conglomerate of Auto-Union, which had been formed in 1932 by the merging of four independent manufacturers: Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer. Post-war, those companies were separated by the annexation of East Germany and many of the former company’s assets had been re-appropriated.
From these ruins a new company was formed post-war in West Germany, initially manufacturing two-stroke DKW cars, but relaunching the Audi brand in 1965. These Audis retained the four-circle badge. For a time, the company was taken over by Mercedes but was sold on and subsequently bought by VW in 1966. Although under the VW Group umbrella, Audi has continued to be run as a separate company.
After redefining rallying in the 1980s with its legendary Quattro, Audi’s competition focus in the 21st century has been the Le Mans 24 Hours, an event which it has won 13 times.