Instead of just updating the R15 TDI LMP1 car for 2011, Audi came up with an all-new model called the R18. Audi R18 TDI Le Mans car looks totally different than its hugely successful ancestors, the R8, R10 and R15 TDI, and has adopted a new style with full roof which makes it more similar to LMP1 cars from Peugeot and Aston Martin.
The other drastic change in the Audi R18 is the powertrain, which is still a diesel, but instead of that monstrous V10 in previous models it gets a 3.7 liter V6! Another new development is the six-speed transmission in the Audi R18 which has been specifically modified for use with the smaller engine. As it turns out all forms of motorsports are heading toward the engine downsizing, even formula 1 which as we reported yesterday will use 1.6 liter Turbo 4-cylinder engines from 2013.
Audi R18 has a number of distinctive styling cues, chief among which is the LEDs of the daytime light form the shape of a “1” which is intended to inspire associations with Audi’s historic brand logo. It also has that shark fin at the back first introduced for the R15.
For the development of the closed R18, engineers at Audi Sport were able to draw on the experiences gained in 1999 with the R8C and in 2003 with the LMP1 of the corporate “sister brand” Bentley that was victorious at Le Mans. “Also the Audi A4 DTM, which for example, 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 racing debut of the Audi R18 is planned for the Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) 6 Hours on May 8, 2011. Prior to the event, the new prototype will be able to do its first laps on the race track at Le Mans during the official test day on April 24 and gather important data for the race on June 11 and 12, 2011.
Audi is planning to field three Audi R18 cars at Le Mans, which will be entered by 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 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.