Short, squat and more powerful than Absinthe, this thing looks ready to eat the establishment. It will look even better, too, when Audi get round to fitting the carbon-fibre grille and vent slats that are already an optional extra on the saloons.

The big boys come out to play

The French are a jingoistic crowd and the home town heroes of Renault and Peugeot were well represented, but just as in the 1940s Germany came in to home territory and left them thoroughly whipped with the star of the show - the Audi R8.

A mid-engined beast of a car that has grown from the three-year-old Le Mans concept that was so loved Audi was virtually forced to build it, the R8 that has been snapped in various incarnations during the development stage still blew the throng of journalists away when it finally broke cover in finished form at the Expo centre.

Short, squat and more powerful than Absinthe, this thing looks ready to eat the establishment. It will look even better, too, when Audi get round to fitting the carbon-fibre grille and vent slats that are already an optional extra on the saloons. With those in place, this might just be the best looking car launched this year.

And seeing as that beast of a 4.2-litre V8 will knock out 420bhp in this guise, the R8 is going to fly. The 0-60mph time of 4.6s sounds more conservative than the Bible belt, although the 188mph top end speed should be more than enough. More than the 155mph that is the agreed top speed for the German marques, too, so there could be consequences in the form of 200mph BMW M cars in the near future. Now that would be a shame…

It weighs in at 1600kg, but then Audi would hardly have turned out a pared down racer - that's not the way it works in Ingolstadt - and the interior is lavishly decked out with Sat Nav, a rear-view camera, leather and lashings of carbon-fibre.

Only time will tell if the buying public will take a supercar with four rings on the front, and how Lamborghini will react if any sales go South when this cheaper and only mildly slower stablemate hits the road. But if they will then this could be the start of something truly beautiful. Go on, do it. We would, but we already know we can't afford one…

Then there was Alfa Romeo's Competizione 8C, the production version of a design prototype that first appeared two years ago that is so visually stunning it would moisten Michael Angelo's David's pants, if he ever wore any. Another V8 sits in the front in far more conventional fashion than the Audi, but with 450bhp it's hardly left behind in the power stakes. It's quicker to 60mph, too, at 4.4s, and manages a 186mph top end.

The only rear-wheel drive in the Alfa stable is going to be a legend that could restore the marque to greatness. It's easy to forget that Alfa once ruled the motorsport world, but driving this car is likely to make believers of us all once again.

Under normal circumstances, the Porsche GT3 RS would have been the absolute star of this show, as this was the first chance to see it in the flesh. I'm still not sure about the bright orange livery, but at least it means the 'any colour as long as it's white' approach has been consigned to the bin.

Inside it's stripped out and spartan, but a little more clothed than the last generation and while the wafer-thin carbon-fibre race seats won't appeal to some, this machine looks like it might just have a softer edge than the ultra-hardcore 996 model. With the PASM system fitted it comes with an in-built comfort mode, and might just be the first accessible GT3.

Whatever the case, the rollcage, 415bhp engine and 0-60mph time of 4.2s, together with the heritage of the RS name, would have customers queuing round the block even if they doubled the price. It's an icon, it's getting even better and is going to be just nuts on the race track.

Peugeot has been at the circuit-based loopy juice, too, producing the Spider 207. Developed from the 20Cup three-wheeler concept, this is a more conventional approach to automotive engineering and is set to form a one-make racing category to support the Le Mans Series.

Looking like the best sports prototypes of the 1970s, this 1.6 litre is only good for 175bhp, but that doesn't matter if all the cars are the same and weigh less than a fly's lunch - or 720kg to be precise.

Expect lots of close racing, more overtaking than you'll see in a whole year of Formula One and ambitious drivers looking to make a name for themselves and instead making large buffoon-shaped imprints in the tyres. Trust us, it will be good!

Peugeot's diesel Le Mans car, or a model at least, was also at the show. It's hard to believe that just a few years ago only accountants, sales reps and truck drivers had a diesel. But the world is changing and there's not much doubt that, if the manufacturers want to take it that way, the sportscars of the future will burn oil.

At the other end of the scale, MINI brought its all-new Cooper S and the whole show almost missed it. There's a reason for that, though, it looks exactly the same as the old one. MINI swears its bigger to accommodate safety changes and that every body panel is different, plus the interior has been completely revised with more space, luxurious materials and more. But they could just be lying, it could be the same car with a fresh PR push for all we know.

These are just four of the mad, bad and dangerous cars in Paris, and there's more on the way…

Be part of something big