When the rules move to GT3 specs in 2016, Audi is likely to be a popular choice.
One of the exciting things about the world of sports cars is that typically when we see a brand-new production car, it’s followed closely by a brand-new race car based on that road car’s platform.
Which is exactly what happened this spring, when Audi introduced the 2016 Audi R8 at the Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland, and immediately rolled out the brand’s newest race car: The 2016 Audi R8 LMS, built to compete in the global GT3 class.
Beginning with the Rolex 24 At Daytona next January, the IMSA WeatherTech Championship’s GT Daytona class will shift to GT3 specifications. The FIA’s GT3 class of cars allows manufacturers to build a single model that can be raced worldwide, in dozens of series. And it allows race teams direct access to factory support, and to a healthy store of spare parts.
So for the rest of this year, GT Daytona teams have been comparison shopping, looking at the models available from manufacturers like Porsche and BMW. We can expect some teams, like Alex Job Racing, for instance, to stick with the manufacturer they have raced with in the past – Job has a 23-year relationship with Porsche, so it was no surprise that he will head a two-car Porsche GT3 team in 2016. But he even he says he looked at the competition before he signed the check.
Certainly one of those GT3 cars he cross-shopped was the Audi, given Audi’s lengthy and impressive history of pursuing domination on the race track. Audi is currently represented in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Daytona ranks by the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8, and quite successfully: The team won Petit Le Mans in 2014, and finished second in points.
With drivers Dion von Moltke and Christopher Haase, with help from Bryce Miller on the longer races, the team has scored three podium finishes so far this year with the Castrol EDGE Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS. At present Haase and von Moltke are second in the driver’s championship, just two points behind the leader. They haven’t committed to Audi in 2016, but few would be surprised to hear that announcement soon.
As for the new car: The 2016 Audi R8 LMS is lighter and safer, with better aerodynamics. A modified structure in the front and rear means the car meets the crash teat requirements that apply to the much lighter Le Mans prototypes such as the Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Despite the addition of more crash structure, the overall car is actually lighter.
The mix of aluminum in the Audi Space Frame (ASF), a structural CFRP component and the steel roll cage alone make the chassis lighter, while torsional stiffness of the stressed frame has increased by 39 percent.
Audi uses production parts in the new R8 LMS whenever possible, such as the 5.2-liter V10 engine with a power output of 585 horsepower is built on the same line as the production unit. It remains nearly unchanged and, with a scheduled rebuild interval of 20,000 kilometers, sets a new standard in racing.
The suspension uses wishbones strictly designed for racing for the first time and the six-speed transmission with paddle shifters is completely new, and significantly lighter than its predecessor while its efficiency has increased because the previous drop gear system has been eliminated.
The new aerodynamic concept Audi R8 LMS debuts a fully lined underfloor and a conceptually integrated rear diffusor. The wheel wells, which are open rearwards via a larger cross-section, contribute to improved airflow. The airflow rate and cooling area of the radiator at the front have increased by 10 percent.
To keep costs in line, roughly 50 percent of the race car’s parts come from the production car. How many will we see on the grid of the Rolex 24? We should know pretty soon.