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autoviva2010-12-28 12:12:51

R18: the new Le Mans challenger from Audi

R18: the new Le Mans challenger from Audi

Audi has unveiled its new racing car that will be attempting to clinch the brand’s tenth victory at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours. The Audi R18 that now joins the four rings brand sports cars lineup was presented at the Audi Sportpark in Ingolstadt.

Having been specifically developed for the most famous 24 hour race in the world, the R18 is the new chapter on a history of success of Audi at Le Mans. Since 1999 the German brand has won the race nine times with three different cars: the R8, R10 TDI and R15 TDI.

For the 2011 race, Audi will be contesting for the first since 1999 with a closed coupe again. According to Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich: “In the future, aerodynamic efficiency will be even more important at Le Mans than it was in the past. A closed car has clear advantages in this respect. Our computer simulations have been confirmed in the wind tunnel and during initial track tests.”

New engine regulations will start at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours, with the size of the powertains being reduced in order to achieve a substantial reduction of engine power. The R18 will be powered by a 3.7-liter V6 TDI unit, keeping in line with the diesel concept that had its first victory in 2006.

“From our point of view, the TDI continues to be the most efficient technology,” says Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Development at Audi Sport. “There are good reasons why the share of TDI units among Audi’s production models is as high as it is.”

While developing the new R18, engineers at Audi Sport used the experience gathered from the 1999 R8C, the 2003 LMP1 from Bentley and even a DTM racing car.

“Also the Audi A4 DTM, which for example, features a heated windshield, allowed us to shorten the development cycle with respect to the ventilation of the cockpit, the doors and the heating of the windshield,” explains Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Engineering at Audi Sport.

For the chassis and the aerodynamics of the new R18, the know-how was taken from the R8, the R10 TDI and the R15 TDI, while the use of identically sized front and rear wheels will be a first in an Audi Le Mans sports car.

One of the main features on the new Le Mans prototype is the headlights which are completely built with LEDs with optimized amount of light. Having been developed in close cooperation between Audi Sport and the Technical Development (TE) division of AUDI AG, the new generation of headlights will debut at Le Mans as warm-up for future use in Audi’s production vehicles.

Progressive electrification was also in mind on Audi Sport’s engineers while developing the Audi R18. Nevertheless this will be a process that will be made step by step. “But efficiency is always the crucial factor for us,” says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “No matter which form of energy recovery we may choose the key aspect for Audi – in motorsport as well as on the production side of the house – is that it provides a true advantage.”

Having started developing the new R18 in mid 2009, Audi has been running the V6 TDI engine on the dynamometers since the summer of 2010. With Allan McNish at the wheel, the R18 competed the first testing on a racetrack at the end of November.

The new Audi R18 will experience its racing debut at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) 6 Hours on May 8. Previous to that date, the new prototype will be completing the official test day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on April 24.

V 6 (120º vee)
226 cu in
Top Speed
6, sequential manual
Maximum power
540 hp
Single Seater
Fuel consumption (combined)
annual ownership cost




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