Audi has unleashed its latest LMP1 racer, the R18. After winning the Le Mans 24 Hours nine times since 1999 with the R8, R10 TDI and R15 TDI, the Ingolstadt-based automaker aims for the top spot with a closed coupe again.
“In the future, aerodynamic efficiency will be even more important at Le Mans than it was in the past”, says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “A closed car has clear advantages in this respect. Our computer simulations have been confirmed in the wind tunnel and during initial track tests”.
Unlike its predecessor, which had a 5.5-liter V10 diesel engine, the new model uses a much smaller, 3.7-liter V6 TDI, mated to a modified six-speed transmission.
The R18 features a one-piece carbon fiber monocoque, which saves weight and increases stiffness. Audi says that the chassis and aerodynamics were developed with a lot of know-how borrowed from the previous R models.
The headlights are the most eye-catching parts of the R18. Boasting “optimized” LED technology, they incorporate Audi light designers’ personal touch: daytime running lights shaped like a “1”. According to the press release, this was intended to inspire associations with the brand’s historic logo.
The Audi R18 was given the green light in mid 2009, while engine testing began in summer 2010. The first track test took place at the end of November, with Allan McNish at the wheel.
The Ingolstadt-based maker plans to enter three cars in next year’s Le Mans, run by Audi Sport Team Joest.
By Csaba Daradics