Audi announced today its plans on entering the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 12-13 and they will be competing with an evolution of the R15 TDI diesel race sports car.
To keep it in line and make it a little bit more competitive, Audi tweaked the R15 TDI’s body shape in addition to giving it a modified cooling and fuel tank system. The V10 TDI engine gets smaller air restrictors yet still delivers a staggering 590 horsepower.
According to Dr. Wolgang Ullrich, head of Audi’s Motorsport division, Audi is more inclined to participate in Le Mans - compared to F1 - because the technologies behind making a competitive race car in this racing category is relevant to what they research on in Formula One.
"At Le Mans, efficiency is of paramount importance – and today, more than ever before, it is a key deliverable of production vehicles as well and it is one of Audi’s special strengths, " he said.
Updated 04/06/2010: Audi unveiled today new details on the R15 TDi race car that will compete at this year’s 24-hour race at Le Mans. The car features a new radical design that features more red. In addition, large areas of the Le Mans race sports car that is internally designated as "R15 plus" will be kept in a purist black carbon-fiber look. The Audi R15 TDI sporting its new design will make its debut at the Le Castellet 8 Hours on April 11.
Press release after the jump.
Press release 04.06.2010
Audi wants to surprise the spectators at this year’s 24-hour race at Le Mans (France) with a progressive design: the Audi Design Team created a fresh outfit for the innovative diesel race sports car that bears all the hallmarks of “pleasure in efficiency.”
Whereas silver was the dominant color of the Audi R15 TDI last year, the 2010 model boasts a radical new design that features more red. In addition, large areas of the Le Mans race sports car that is internally designated as “R15 plus” will be kept in a purist black carbon-fiber look.
“We’re happy that we were allowed to give the car such a progressive look,” say Markus Auerbach and Tobias Drews from the Audi Design Team. “We wanted to add a dash of surprise when the Audi leaves the pits at Le Mans. We practically opened up the bodywork and are exposing the light-weight construction and its uncompromising technical development – and with a little rock ’n’ roll for good measure.”
The Audi R15 TDI sporting its new design will make its debut at the Le Castellet 8 Hours on April 11. Audi Sport Team Joest will contest the 2010 season opener of the Le Mans Series in preparation for the Le Mans (France) 24 Hours on June 12/13. Another test race is planned at the 1000-kilometer race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium).
“The race at Le Castellet comes at a very early point in time for us and is nothing but a test in racing conditions,” stresses Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director of Audi Sport Team Joest. “Even though it’s a difficult logistical undertaking, we wanted to gather experiences with the R15 plus at a race as early as possible. Le Castellet offers the opportunity to do this.”
The 2010 version of the Audi R15 TDI completed a roll-out at the Audi test track in Neustadt at the beginning of March. The prototype was subsequently flown to the USA for initial tests which primarily featured aerodynamics trials. A five-day endurance test followed at Sebring (Florida) at which about 5 500 kilometers were reeled off without any technical problems worth mentioning.
In Europe, the final set-up work with a view toward Le Mans is on the agenda. Further track tests will now be followed by the first run in a race at which the result will be of secondary importance for Audi though. “Le Castellet will strictly be about gathering additional experience with the R15 plus,” emphasizes Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “Racing conditions simply can’t be simulated in normal track tests; that’s why we’re contesting a race at such an early stage.”
It is planned to field the R15 plus with chassis number 202. Audi Sport Team Joest has nominated Dindo Capello (Italy), Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Allan McNish (Scotland) as drivers. “However, we will only decide whether all three drivers will actually race at short notice,” says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.
Since Audi has performed several endurance tests for the Le Mans 24 Hours at Le Castellet in recent years, the team and drivers are intimately familiar with the circuit in southern France.
Audi, by the way, has very good memories of its most recent racing commitment at Le Castellet: in 1995, Frank Biela won the Touring Car World Cup there in the Audi A4 quattro against strong rivals.
The schedule at Le Castellet
Friday, April 9
12:40–13:40 hrs free practice 1
16:10–17:10 hrs free practice 2
Saturday, April 10
09:45–10:45 hrs free practice 3
13:40–14:00 hrs qualifying (GT vehicles)
14:10–14:30 hrs qualifying (prototypes)
Sunday, April 11
08:20–08:40 hrs warm-up
11:00–19:00 hrs race
Audi will fight for victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 12/13 with an evolution of the R15 TDI diesel race sports car. An extensive testing program with the revised LMP1 vehicle has just begun in the United States.
“From Audi’s perspective, the LMP1 is the better alternative to Formula 1 because this motorsport category features technologies and developments which are relevant to production vehicles,” explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “At Le Mans, efficiency is of paramount importance – and today, more than ever before, it is a key deliverable of production vehicles as well and it is one of Audi’s special strengths.”
Therefore, efficiency was a focal point during the R15 TDI evolution project – particularly in the complex area of aerodynamics. “This year, the Le Mans regulations prescribe air restrictors with a smaller diameter and reduced supercharging pressure for diesel-powered vehicles,” says Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology at Audi Sport. “Due to the reduction of engine power as a result of the regulations we have tried to make the car’s aerodynamics even more efficient than before and to improve the Cd value and downforce parameters.”
A late change in regulations that was announced only in November made the work of the engineers more difficult and forced Audi to completely modify the front section of the R15 TDI. Consequently, the diesel race sports car that is internally designated as “R15 plus” now has a new, distinctive face featuring a split nose.
The entire shape of the R15 TDI’s body has been revised for maximum efficiency. The same is true for the modified cooling and fuel tank system. The V10 TDI engine has been optimized for the smaller air restrictors and reduced supercharging pressure. “Our objective was to keep power loss to a minimum despite the limitations imposed by the regulations,” explains Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Technology at Audi Sport. “We managed to do that through a lot of detailed work.” The 5.5-liter power plant continues to deliver more than 440 kW.
“After Le Mans 2009, our specifications for the R15 plus listed about 20 key items,” says Dr. Martin Mühlmeier. “Efficiency and reliability were at the top of the list but we also looked at details like improved nighttime lighting of the track. We were able to meet this wish of the drivers with a new headlight concept.”
The evolution version of the Audi R15 TDI completed its roll out on the Audi test track at Neustadt (Germany) on March 3. The vehicle was subsequently flown to the United States for two weeks of in-depth testing. Before the race at Le Mans in June, Audi Sport Team Joest will complete an extensive testing program on various European race tracks and test races at the 8 Hours of Le Castellet (France) on April 11 and at the 1000-kilometer race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) on May 9.
A new partner has now joined the project: the logo of the renowned watchmaker TAG Heuer will be featured on the Audi R15 TDI. Some of the brand’s fame stems from U.S. actor Steve McQueen wearing a TAG Heuer watch in the movie “Le Mans.”