The R8R project began in 1997, when Audi began research into entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The first prototype was displayed in 1998, showing an open cockpit car which featured many Audi styling cues, yet lacked some of the practical necessities for sports car racing. The car, designed by Michael Pfadenhauer and Wolfgang Appel and built by Dallara, featured an Audi 3.6 litre twin-turbo V8 engine. Styling features included a large group of aerodynamic vents in the nose, as well as high sidepods which featured NACA ducts on their tops to feed the turbochargers. A large vent on the side also allowed air out from the front wheel well.