Three Audi R18 TDI cars at the 79th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours
Successful final tests
Audi seeking tenth Le Mans victory
Exactly 183 days after its world debut in Ingolstadt the new Audi R18 TDI is facing a truly serious challenge: When the starting lights at the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours switch to green at 3 p.m. on June 11, Audi will have the chance for its tenth victory at the world's most important endurance race.
In the past twelve years Audi has won the Le Mans 24 Hours nine times in races that have included extremely strong rivals and has underlined its role as a technology leader in the process. The successes of the brand with the four rings have repeatedly been accompanied by technical innovations. In 2001 Audi combined turbocharging with direct injection technology. The TFSI, which made the Audi R8 nearly unbeatable, today plays a major part in downsizing production engines. In 2006 Audi achieved the first Le Mans success of a diesel-powered vehicle. And on the occasion of last year's one-two-three result, when the brand beat the distance record that had been in existence for 39 years, turbochargers with variable turbine geometry (VTG) were used.
The Audi R18 TDI is yet another car packed with technical innovations - ranging from the compact 3.7-liter V6 TDI engine with a mono-VTG turbocharger to full LED headlights through to its ultra lightweight design which at the 2011 race at Le Mans will also be visually evident: The three vehicles fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest sport plenty of puristic carbon fiber. Carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) is considered an important material with respect to the coming electrification of production vehicles. Audi started to use the extremely light-weight, high-strength material in motorsport as early as in the nineteen-eighties.
Despite the reduction in power output due to the smaller, highly turbocharged engines prescribed in 2011 the Audi R18 TDI thanks to efficient aerodynamics achieves the same top speed at Le Mans as the predecessor model, the R15 TDI, did. The lap times set on the 13.629-kilometer race track during the test day in early May were already impressive. According to the projections of Audi Sport's engineers the new LMP1 sports car should have made even further steps regarding speed and consistency.
6,000 kilometers without any problems
During the last tests which followed the R18 TDI's racing debut at the 1,000-kilometer race at Spa-Francorchamps the squad at Monza and Le Castellet primarily focused on reliability and on performance to be as consistent as possible. As the acid test for Le Mans, the car had to cover a distance of 6,000 kilometers - about 600 more than it did when it clinched last year's record victory. The R18 TDI mastered this requirement without any problem and while fine-tuning the car the team achieved another perhaps crucially important final step.
After the race at Spa Francorchamps the three race cars bearing chassis numbers R18-104 (Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Mike Rockenfeller), R18-106 (Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer) and R18-105 (Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish) were completely dismantled at Audi Sport in Ingolstadt and reassembled with utmost care, as the most minute detail could ruin the work of months.
From Spielberg to Le Mans
The three Audi R18 TDI cars have already arrived at Le Mans where they will be presented to the Technical Stewards for scrutineering in the city center of Le Mans on Monday afternoon starting at 16:20 p.m. Audi will be the penultimate team to be inspected as a part of the squad will travel to Le Mans directly from the DTM race at Spielberg - including Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich and Mike Rockenfeller, one of the three drivers that won last year's race.
The vehicles will be in action for the first time in the free practice session that starts at 4 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. The first qualifying session is on the agenda for the evening of the same day. The final grid positions will only be determined at midnight on Thursday. The race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
At its tenth Le Mans run with a factory commitment Audi is supported by strong partners: The roles of Alpinestars, Bosch, Castrol EDGE, MAHLE, Michelin, O.Z. and TAG Heuer largely exceed those of classic sponsors. Most of them have also been providing technical support to Audi Sport for many years - for example Bosch as a supplier of numerous important engine and electronic components and Michelin as a proven tire supplier. Like Audi both are using Le Mans for the technology transfer between motorsport and the production side of the house.
Before the race, spectators on location will again be able to catch a glimpse of the future of the automobile and of the Le Mans 24 Hours. As part of the presentation billed as "Le Mans vers le futur" the Audi e-tron Spyder and the Audi Q5 hybrid will be showcased - both as examples of the future electrification of the powertrain which Audi is consistently driving forward.
In addition, on the day before the race, Audi will present a particularly exciting new road-going sports car at Le Mans: the R8 GT Spyder which reflects ultra lightweight technology in many details.
The "Audi ultra lightweight technology" inscriptions will be featured around the race track as well. Audi is expecting about 1 200 guests - more than ever before - at the venue on the race weekend. For this purpose an additional mobile Audi Terminal was established in the area of the braking zone after the start and finish from which the guests will be able to enjoy a completely new view of the track. In total, the organizer expects a turnout of more than 250,000 spectators. Millions of fans around the world will watch the "race of the year" on TV.