Audi R18 for Le Mans

Since 1999, Audi has been participating in the Le Mans 24 Hours race; it has won nine times since then with the R8, R10 TDI, and R15 TDI, which means that it has equaled Ferrari in that metric.

Since 1999, Audi has been participating in the Le Mans 24 Hours race; it has won nine times since then with the R8, R10 TDI, and R15 TDI, which means that it has equaled Ferrari in that metric. And for the 2011 race, it has undertaken the development of a new car, the R18, the first closed coupe it will be fielding since 1999.

The reason? Aero.

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According to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport, “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.”

The development of the R18 began in mid-2009. Audi Sport engineers utilized learnings from the Audi R8C fielded in 1999 and the LMP1 from Bentley—which is also a Volkswagen Group company—which won Le Mans in 2003.

The vehicle features a single-component carbon-fiber monocoque rather than having a two-half design. This is being done for both stiffness and weight savings.

The car is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 TDI engine, staying with the diesel approach that has served it well. “From our point of view, the TDI continues to be the most efficient technology,” says Ulrich Baretzky, head of Engine Development at Audi Sport. It is mated to a newly developed six-speed transmission.

There is a bit of optimism exhibited by the Audi light designers for the R18. The LED daytime running lights form the shape of the number “1.”

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The Audi R18 and the R15 “plus plus” taking practice laps at Sebring.  The R15 will run at the 12-hour race in Sebring.   The R18 is being prepped for Le Mans.