Audi to unveil new R18 at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay News | Latest Industry News

- New Audi R18 to debut at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours

- Audi aiming to reclaim DTM title

- Customer sport programme to expand into Asia


Singapore 14 Dec 2010 - The new Audi R18 has been specifically developed for the Le Mans 24 Hours and will be introduced to racetracks in 2011. A new DTM car is also being built at Audi Sport while Audi extends and restructures its customer sport programme in Asia. Following a string of victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours, Audi aims to continue this winning trend with a completely new Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) sports car development.


Since its debut in 1999, Audi has won the world’s most important endurance race as many as nine times with the R8, R10 TDI and R15 TDI models. In doing so, Audi has equalled this feat in the race’s roll of honour with Ferrari. With the new R18, Audi is aiming for its tenth Le Mans success in 2011. For the first time since 1999, Audi will contest Le Mans 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 Audi to unveil new R18 at the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours Corporate Communications simulations have been confirmed in the wind tunnel and during initial track tests.”


Significantly smaller engines than those used before will be utilised at Le Mans in 2011 as the rule makers aim to achieve a substantial reduction of engine power. By opting for a 3.7-litre V6 TDI unit, Audi retains the diesel concept that saw its first victorious fielding in 2006.


“From our point of view, the TDI continues to be the most efficient technology,” says Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Development at Audi Sport. “There are good reasons why the share of TDI units among Audi’s production models is as high as it is.”


Through the innovative V6 TDI engine for the Le Mans 24 Hours, motorsport is yet again performing pioneering work for the production arm at Audi, where there is a growing trend towards smaller, more economical but yet powerful engines. Another new development is the six-speed transmission in the R18, which has been specifically modified for use with the smaller engine. Numerous detailed solutions With regard to the chassis, Audi Sport wants to live up to the promise expressed in the brand’s “Vorsprung durch Technik” tagline.


Unlike those of the closed Le Mans prototypes, the carbon fibre monocoque of the R18 does not consist of two halves. Instead, it features a single-component design that saves weight and increases stiffness. For the development of the closed R18, engineers at Audi Sport were able to draw on the experiences gained in 1999 with the R8C, as well as 2003 with the victorious LMP1 of the corporate “sister brand” Bentley.


“Also, the Audi A4 DTM, which features a heated windshield, allowed us to shorten the development cycle with respect to the ventilation of the cockpit, the doors and the heating of the windshield,” explains Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Engineering at Audi Sport. The chassis and aerodynamics package contains a lot of know-how from the R8, the R10 TDI and the R15 TDI, whereas the fitting of identically sized front and rear wheels is new to an Audi Le Mans sports car. This configuration allows a more balanced weight distribution.


The R18′s headlights, which are the first to completely consist of LEDs with optimised amount of light, are a technical highlight. The new generation of headlights was developed in close cooperation between Audi Sport and the Technical Development (TE) division of AUDI AG, and using it at Le Mans will further prepare it for future use in production vehicles. Audi’s light designers had the chance to make their mark on the development as well: The LEDs of the daytime light form the shape of a “1″ which is intended to inspire associations with Audi’s historic brand logo. The Audi R18 has been designed for progressive electrification, which Audi Sport is planning to drive forward step by step.


“But efficiency is always the crucial factor for us,” says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “No matter which form of energy recovery we may choose, the key aspect for Audi  in motorsport as well as on the production side of the house is that it provides a true advantage.” The development of the new Audi R18 started in mid 2009. The V6 TDI engine has been running on the dynamometers since the summer of 2010. The R18, with Allan McNish at the wheel, completed its first test on a racetrack at the end of November.


The racing debut of the Audi R18 is planned for the Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) 6 Hours on May 8. Prior to the event, the new prototype will be able to do its first laps on the racetrack at Le Mans during the official test day on April 24, and gather important data for the race on June 11 and 12. Audi is planning to field three Audi R18 cars at Le Mans as part of Audi Sport Team Joest, the most successful Le Mans team of all time.


In addition, Audi Sport Team Joest will contest the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC), consisting of a total of seven endurance races on three continents (including the Le Mans 24 Hours) with two cars. At the opening race at Sebring on March 19, the team will use two R15 plus cars.


“Sending the R18 into a race at such an early point in time would be difficult in terms of logistics and interfere with our development program,” explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. Dual project in the DTM Parallel to the commitment in the sports prototype class with the R18, Audi aims to bring the DTM title back to Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm.


As the DTM technology freeze continues in 2011, the main focus for the engineers at Audi Sport during the winter will be placed on development work with the DTM’s new exclusive tire partner. “In 2010 the tires were a really crucial topic which caused us to fall a little behind our competitor,” says Dr. Martin Mühlmeier. “This mustn’t happen again.”


As before, Audi Sport is again planning to field a total of nine vehicles entered by the proven Audi Sport teams Abt Sportsline, Phoenix and Rosberg. The driver line-up will only be decided in January of next year. But not only the twelve DTM events (including one show race at the Olympic Stadium in Munich) have to be tackled in 2011: in addition, Audi Sport is working on the successor model of the current Audi A4 DTM, internally designated as the R17, for the new Technical Regulations that will come into effect in 2012.


The first tests are planned for next summer. Customer sport to be expanded and restructured Launched in 2009, AUDI AG’s customer sport program will be expanded and restructured. The responsibility for the further development of the Audi R8 LMS, sales of the vehicles, and technical support for the worldwide customer and importers teams have been delegated to quattro GmbH.


Whereas the main focus was previously on Europe, the Asian market will be served as well in 2011. The participation in the 24 Hour races at the Nurburgring (June 25/26) and at Spa-Francorchamps (July 30/31) spearheads the customer sport commitment with the Audi R8 LMS. Audi will also support entries at other endurance races such as the 12 Hours at Bathurst (Australia) as part of its customer sport commitment.


In addition, Audi is planning a modular customer sport concept that will include an endurance version of the TT RS and a GT4 version of the Audi TT. The TT RS has already successfully completed first runs on the Nurburgring Nordschleife and will continue to be developed during the winter. A concept of the TT GT4 was presented at the DTM race meeting in Shanghai. Delivery of the first customer vehicles is planned for 2012.

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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