Audi AG showed off their new sportscar prototype contender, the Audi R18 TDI, at the Audi Sportpark in Ingolstadt, Germany today. The new closed coupe will be the car they hope will allow them to score their tenth victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Prior to the world's most prestigious endurance race, Audi will test the LMP1 contender privately. Besides the first peek at the R18 diesel powered machine, it will not be seen again until the Le Mans open test scheduled this year in April. The first race for the German manufacturer will be in May for the Le Mans Series event, the second round of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, at Spa in Belgium.
The R18 is a closed-cockpit design, one not raced by Audi since the marque's Le Mans debut in 1999, when the German works team entered two open R8R models and two closed R8C cars. In the marque's debut at the famed race, neither R8C finished the race but the R8R twins took the chequered flag in third and fourth places.
"In the future, aerodynamic efficiency will be even more important at Le Mans than it was in the past," commented Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi. "A closed car has clear advantages in this respect. Our computer simulations have been confirmed in the wind tunnel and during initial track tests."
The design draws on the experience of the 2003 race-winning Speed 8 of the Bentley sister brand, but also adds a features like the rules-dictated fin atop the engine cover.
The new car stunned many with its "wicked look" as the main comment said by many. "I tested the R18 for the first time at the end of last month which was essentially the Coupe's initial roll-out combined with its maiden test," said Audi factory driver Allan McNish.
"The car ran very well without any technical problems. We encountered wet and dry running enabling us to collect a lot of information in all types of track conditions," added the Scot.
The R18 will compete in six of the seven rounds of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC), starting with the second event at Spa.
Audi has seen much success in motor racing, not only in the Le Mans-style sportscar endurance races but also in the DTM (German Touring Car Masters series). With the technology freeze still set for 2011, the DTM team's race engineers are focusing new tire development. Audi will again campaign nine cars with drives to be announced later.
"In 2010 the tires were a really crucial topic which caused us to fall a little behind our competitor," said Dr. Martin Muhlmeier, Head of Engineering for Audi Sport. "This mustn't happen again."
Audi's future in DTM is already in the works with the "R17" designation for the Audi A4 DTM which will run in 2012 with the series' all-new rules package, and competition from BMW in addition to Mercedes-Benz.
The new rules will also be used by a new US-based series supporting NASCAR and Grand Am, and eventually by the Japanese Super GT series, providing added opportunities for the "R17" outside DTM's core German-focused series.
Audi will start testing the new DTM car in the summer of 2011 in preparation for its 2012 debut.
|R2||Sport quattro rallye||WRC||1984|
|R3||200 quattro rallye||WRC||1987|
|R4||200 quattro Trans-Am||Trans-Am||1988|
|R5||90 quattro IMSA||IMSA GTO||1989|
|R6||V8 quattro DTM||DTM||1990|
|R7||80 quattro Supertourismo||BTCC, GTCC, ITCC||1989|
|R8||LM P900, LM P1||2000|
|R10||R10 TDI||LM P1||2005|
|R15||R15 TDI||LM P1||2009|
|R15+||R15+ TDI||LM P1||2010|
|R16||R8 LMS||FIA GT3||2009|
|R18||R18 TDI||LM P1||2011|
For the Twelve Hours of Sebring fans, there is a bit of disappointment as the R18 will not make its debut at the event. However, the team's R15+ cars will contest the overall victory at the Florida circuit in March, 2011 which will also be the first round of the ILMC.