Nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen drove the 2014 challenger from Place des Jacobins to the 24 Hours of Le Mans circuit for a fantastic media event.
March 25, 2014 – Audi began the 2014 WEC season with a spectacular appearance. The new Audi R18 e-tron quattro did not do its initial kilometers at Le Mans on the legendary race track in Western France but in public traffic. Audi factory driver Tom Kristensen, with nine victories under his belt the record holder of the Le Mans 24 Hours, drove the diesel hybrid sports car from the Saint-Julien du Mans cathedral in the city center to the famous race track.
Accompanied by TV cameras and photographers, and featured in a live worldwide broadcast on the internet, Audi’s new LMP1 race car completed the near-ten-kilometer distance through the city in a motorcade, did a lap on the Circuit Bugatti and arrived in front of the race track’s modern Welcome Center amid the applause of the invited international journalists and guests. “I’ve been competing at Le Mans since 1997 but this was absolutely new for me, too, and very exciting,” said Tom Kristensen, who in 2006 had driven the revolutionary Audi R10 TDI on its world premiere – in Paris – in public traffic as well.
The next color is black. It is used for the front and rear wings, as well as on sections of the fenders and sides with highly defined geometric contours. “We opted for matt black, as it nicely contrasts with the gloss white,” says van Braeckel. “Black stands for light-weight design. The black look of the large fin on the engine cover is intended to represent something like a backbone.” A unique red – Audi’s performance color – completes the graphics. Special characteristics include the reflecting surfaces of the elements, Audi’s logos and inscriptions that are exclusively applied to these areas, as well as the pronounced longitudinal orientation of the color in the overall concept. “The reflective livery is particularly impressive at night and provides the spectators with an enhanced experience,” explains van Braeckel. “Due to its longitudinal orientation the graphics express the speed that is so typical for Le Mans. Even the rims include a red segment. Due to the wheel rotation, it achieves a very dynamic effect.”
The Audi R18 e-tron quattro did not only cause a sensation on its drive through Le Mans due to its striking livery. At the beginning of a fundamentally new technological era, Audi published the key technical data of the race car’s powertrain as well. For instance, the cubic capacity of the V6 TDI power plant was increased from 3.7 to four liters in order to further optimize the engine that had already been very efficient. After testing various energy recovery systems, Audi decided to compete in the class of up to two megajoules of recuperation energy at Le Mans. The energy exclusively flows through a motor generator unit (MGU) at the front axle and is stored in a flywheel energy storage system. “We opted for this concept following extensive testing,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “In our opinion, it provides the optimum balance between efficient energy use, size, weight, energy conversion efficiency, responsiveness, drivability and a favorable operating strategy – combined with durability, which is the basic prerequisite for success at Le Mans.”
On March 28 and 29, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro will be participating in the official test of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Le Castellet (France) before World Champions Audi begins its title defense at Silverstone in the UK on April 20.