03 October 2008

Audi’s beating heart

Confidence or arrogance? Either way, Audi's stand at Paris totally rocks

Audi’s beating heart

I didn’t read any of the corporate blurb describing Audi’s stand at the Paris motorshow, but I checked it out and came to my own conclusions. For me, this is the most confident car company in the world right now and I liked this stand. A lot.

There was a beating ‘heart’ enclosure at one end, with stairs running up either side of it, and with huge red neon lights in the wall surrounding the R10 Le Mans racer - the actual car, still dirty, striped with scum from the track, rubber bits caught in its wheel wells, untouched after its last race. A huge beating heart sound came from this area, set to music, as the red neons flashed to the rhythm.

From there, two long lines of white and red cars streamed in a glittering, curved display under harsh lights. I assume it was meant to mean red and white blood cells, coming from the big V12 beating diesel heart of things that’s all about winning in motorsport and being fast and reliable and good generally.

I liked all this pizzaz, mostly because of the R10 in the centre of it. There it was, filthy, with bits of it slashed and hanging off. It looked great. Surrounded by so many perfectly immaculate, gleaming cars, this filthy racer - representing all that’s best about endurance racing: sweat, tears, blood, strain, the ultimate sporting endeavour, and who cares if it’ corny, they won! - the filthy R10 was made all the more likeable.

I stood there and looked at it for 20 minutes, and took loads of pretty rubbish photos with my mobile phone. Here are a few of them. Note the slash in the nose, the grime over the lights, the amount of dirt on the TDI Power logo on the plates on either side of the rear diffuser. Great to see in the midst of all this gleaming perfection.

Audi have got all this stuff dead right. It’s right that they’re racing a fast diesel and winning â€" right for their diesel attack on the American market, right for their sporting brand. Whether they can keep this winning streak going against such fierce opposition as Peugeot remains to be seen. Maybe it’s impossible, maybe not, but I’d like Audi to stay out there win or lose. Maybe that’ll be the biggest test of the marque’s caliber - how they react to being beaten.

But what a lineup of road cars to go with it. From the R8 all the way down to the A1 Concept, the cars are beautifully sculpted, superbly engineered and absolutely full of the right sort of stuff emanating from that filthy diesel racer. No, I don’t care if it’s corny, I Iiked it, and I don’t begrudge Audi its world-beating sales figures either.

Bill Thomas

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