With the new R18 Audi is aiming for its tenth Le Mans success in 2011: Since its debut in 1999, the brand with the Four Rings has won the world’s most important endurance race as many as nine times with the R8, R10 TDI and R15 TDI models.
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 simulations have been confirmed in the wind tunnel and during initial track tests."
Significantly smaller engines than those used before will be prescribed at Le Mans in 2011 as the rule makers aim to achieve a substantial reduction of engine power. By opting for a 3.7-liter V6 TDI unit, Audi retains the diesel concept that saw its first victorious fielding in 2006.
Unlike those of the closed Le Mans prototypes, the carbon fiber monocoque of the R18 does not consist of two halves but features a single-component design. This saves weight and increases stiffness.
The chassisChassisChassis 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 optimized amount of light, are a technical highlight. 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 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 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.
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.