Canceled Audi Skorpion Would’ve Been a Diesel Le Mans Racer for the Road

Audi very nearly had its own 911 GT1 or CLK-GTR, until it canned the project.
august_horch_museum via Instagram

Between 2000 and 2014, an Audi prototype took home overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans 13 times. If that dominance happened in the ’90s, it’s quite possible the automaker would’ve developed a roadgoing version of its champions; if not because it wanted to, because the regulations might have required it to. But in 2013, Audi was reportedly mulling such a halo vehicle, rumored to have been called “Project Scorpion.” Now, 11 years on, we’re getting a peek at it for the first time.

More accurately, it’s a peek at what the Skorpion, as it was internally known, might’ve looked like. A non-functional design study for the flagship was recently displayed in Audi’s Horch Museum in Zwickau, Germany. The facility has shared a few images of it, and much like that M1-inspired supercar BMW was working on just before the pandemic, it’s a bittersweet vision of what could’ve been.

Precious few details are revealed in the post, but here’s what we know. Skorpion was indeed planned as a street version of the R18 TDI series, in the vein of the 911 GT1 Strassenversion, or Mercedes CLK-GTR. It was intended to sit above the R8 in Audi’s range of road cars. At the time—between 2010 and 2013, according to the museum—the R18 was running a 3.7-liter turbocharged diesel V6 with hybrid power. Yes, this could’ve been a diesel hypercar, and likely the only one ever to exist. Audi had flirted with the idea several years earlier with the R8 V12 TDI concept, but that never saw production for cost reasons.

Perhaps that explains the Skorpion’s purpose. Back in 2013, Car and Driver reported that the company was planning to build 333 units—an ultra-low volume befitting of a wildly expensive vanity project dedicated to putting Audi’s race-winning diesel tech into the hands of a few deep-pocketed owners. The museum estimates that the vehicle’s internal combustion engine, whether powered by gasoline or diesel would’ve generated between 400 and 550 horsepower alone, sent to all four wheels or just the rear axle.

The Skorpion design study’s exterior essentially resembles that of a Le Mans prototype, only more compact, with a shortened wheelbase and chunkier body devoid of the copious air channels intended to maximize downforce that the R18 would’ve had. Personally, I wasn’t much a fan of the R18’s looks early in its career, but things got so much worse by the end. The 2016-era machine, with its flat, three-pronged nose, must sit alongside the entirety of the 2014 Formula 1 grid as one of the ugliest race cars of all time. Compared to that, this Skorpion may as well be a Lamborghini Miura.

This is how the Audi R18 looked by the end of its tenure, in 2016. Yuck. Sjoerd van der Wal/Getty Images

By 2013, it seems Ingolstadt’s dreams of a production diesel hypercar were once again dashed. And, let’s be real for a minute—even if they weren’t, they certainly would’ve been about two years later when Dieselgate rocked all of the Volkswagen Group’s plans. We’ll lament the Skorpion’s cancellation forever, but if you happened to see the rumors and renderings about a decade ago and have been wondering this whole time what became of them, well, here’s your closure.

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