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Germany's reputation for cutting-edge automotive engineering is secure, thanks to the new Audi R8 supercar and the 650-horsepower Audi R10 turbodiesel that has dominated the world's most prestigious sports car race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the past two years.

Both of these sleek speed machines will be among the featured vehicles when Lowe's Motor Speedway hosts the Sept. 13-16 Food Lion AutoFair.

Audi's on-track education has been applied to a production vehicle that USA Today declared "the best sports car, period." The 2008 R8, named for Audi's first Le Mans winner, is a mid-engine supercar with V-8 power, all-wheel drive and a lightweight aluminum body.

With window stickers ranging from $109,000 to $120,000, depending on transmission choice and other options, Audi is only planning to produce between 300 and 400 R8s per year. Car magazines have compared the new supercar favorably to Porsche's 911 Turbo and Carrera S models, in many cases favoring the Audi's handling and road manners.

With 420 horsepower coming from its 4.2-liter, four-valve V-8 engine, the R8 scoots from a standstill to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds and tops out at 187 mph.

After enjoying racing success with its all-wheel-drive models in Europe and the United States, Audi mounted a campaign to conquer sports car racing in 1999. Its original R8 won the Prototype class at Le Mans in 2000,

2001 and 2002, then swept the three podium positions in 2004. The R8 won Le Mans again in 2005, its final year of competition.

Audi's Le Mans hopeful for 2006 was the R10, whose very unusual twin-turbocharged diesel engine is a V-12 displacing 5.5 liters with an output of 650 horsepower. An immense amount of torque-more than 800 foot pounds-and much higher fuel economy than its gasoline-powered competitors resulted in the R10 winning back-to-back in the twice-around-the-clock race.

And although the R10 was not the first diesel-powered car to compete at the famous French course, it was the first to visit victory lane.

Audi dates back to 1899 when August Horch developed an automobile with an innovative "impact-free" engine, which he started selling under his own name in 1901. After a dispute with his supervisory board, Horch started another automobile manufacturer and named it Audi.

In 1932, the evolving automobile business led Audi to merge with Horch, DKW and Wanderer. The result was Auto Union, whose logo was a set of four silver rings of equal size linked side by side, although only the company's competition and speed record cars wore that emblem before World War II.

The end of the war marked a temporary end to the Audi line. With Germany's rebuilding under the Marshall Plan came the revival of DKW as a maker of small, front-drive, two-stroke automobiles, until Daimler-Benz acquired the company in the late 1950s. Only a few years later, in 1964, Volkswagen's sales success with the Beetle brought the funds needed to purchase the Auto Union companies.

The Audi name was re-born in 1965 and attached to a series of four-cylinder, four-stroke cars that sold well. The first truly modern model-the mid-size Audi 100 sedan-was introduced in 1968. By this time the American market had become interested in fuel-efficient European automobiles, and the 100's combination of subdued styling and sporty handling had great appeal.

Audi retained a conservative, buttoned-up image until 1980, when the turbocharged, four-wheel drive Quattro coupe debuted and immediately dominated rally competition around the world. The company continued to engineer performance into its cars toward the end of the 20th century and its uniquely styled TT coupe and roadster started a revolution in automotive design and packaging.

Other attractions scheduled for the Sept. 13-16 Food Lion AutoFair include a trio of cars from Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s personal collection; TV host John Walsh's unique amphibious vehicle; Bumblebee and Ironhide from the hit movie "Transformers;" Dale Earnhardt's No. 3 "pass in the grass"

Chevrolet from 1987; and world-class hot rods from Watty's Fabrications.

Food Lion AutoFair is the world's largest automotive extravaganza. The four-day event includes a car show featuring various makes and models from more than 50 clubs; more than 7,000 vendor spaces that offer a plethora of automotive parts and memorabilia and a car corral that features nearly 1,500 vehicles available for sale or trade.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5. For information, contact the speedway events department at (704) 455-3205.