If someone asked me to name Audi’s most successful race cars 20 years ago, my answer would’ve been simple: the Auto Unions of the 1930s and the Quattro rally car. Come 2015 and things are a bit more complicated, as Audi has become a dominant force in the endurance racing scene since 1999. It all started with the R8R and the R8 LMP, before Audi switched to diesel power with the R10 TDI and the R15 TDI. In 2011, the Germans introduced the R18, also motivated by a turbodiesel engine, but this time around paired to an electric motor. The R18 alone won 15 major endurance events in 2014,including four 24 Hours of Le Mans races, taking Audi’s Le Mans tally to 13 and making it the second-most successful manufacturer after Porsche. With the 2015 World Endurance Championship right around the corner, Audi is launching a revised version of the R18 that aims to take the nameplate’s success to a new level.

As with each revision, the R18 received a reworked body with improved aerodynamics, a more powerful hybrid drivetrain, a less thirsty diesel powerplant, and new technology inside and out. The 2015 R18’s official track debut is set for April 12th at the 6 Hours of Silverstone race, but, until then, let’s have a closer look at what Audi had to share about its latest endurance track car.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2015 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro.

  • 2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro
  • Year:
    2015
  • Make:
  • Engine:
    V6
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    558
  • Displacement:
    4.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    3 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    200 mph (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The front wings are also new, as are the side pods and the more compact engine cover.

Although it may still resemble its predecessors, the new R18 e-tron quattro had every inch of its carbon-fiber body reshaped for reduced aerodynamic drag and better engine and hybrid system cooling, as well optimizing the crash structure. Up front, the most noticeable changes are the larger air inlets in the front wheel arches, the reshaped splitter and the all-new headlamps.

The firm says the headlamps have been redesigned around the new aerodynamic elements and equipped with both Matrix LED and Audi Laserlight technologies for the utmost visibility during those long night-time stints at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The front wings are also new, as are the side pods and the more-compact engine cover. Changes are less noticeable around back, but the new race car does feature a slightly revised diffuser, repositioned exhaust pipes, and more louvers in the fenders. The body panels are bolted onto the last year’s monocoque chassis.

As usual, Audi is preparing two body versions for the various tracks on the FIA World Endurance Championship calendar, which means a longtail R18 will be launched sometime before the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Interior

As always, there are no details about inside the R18 e-tron quattro and no photos to gaze at, but I assume the 2015 cockpit will be very similar to last year’s racer. I expect the interior to consists of a button-cluttered dashboard with no instrument cluster and a multifunction steering wheel packed with switches, knobs and controls. A small display provides the driver with vital information such as speed and rpm.

Holding the driver in place during those long endurance stints is a bolstered racing seat with a six-point Sabelt harness. Most surfaces inside the cockpit are either exposed carbon-fiber or wrapped in cloth and Alcantara. There’s nothing fancy about the interior of the R18 e-tron quattro, which is specifically designed to provide the best driver environment for endurance racing

Drivetrain

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro High Resolution Exterior
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The Germans estimate they have doubled the amount of energy from two to four megajoules per race lap at Le Mans.

The R18’s drivetrain is a carryover from last year’s car, meaning there’s a V-6 turbodiesel spinning the rear wheels and a pair of electric motors connected to the front wheels, but Audi made certain updates that increased its output as well as the energy recovered during braking.

The upgraded 4.0-liter, V-6 diesel delivers 550 horsepower, a significant improvement over last year’s unit, while also returning greater fuel efficiency. Audi doesn’t mention the amount of fuel the new R18 saves, but stressed that the car needs to use 2.5 percent less diesel fuel per lap than in 2014. The electric motors are also more powerful, now sending 268 horses to the front axle — a 40-horsepower improvement.

Audi engineers also redesigned the car’s energy recovery system. The Germans estimate they have doubled the amount of energy from two to four megajoules per race lap at Le Mans. As a result, Audi has increased the capacity of the energy storage system as well. The flywheel energy storage system mounted in the cockpit can store up to 700 kilojoules of energy, which is about 17 percent more than in 2014.

Competition

Toyota TS040 Hybrid

2014 Toyota Racing TS040 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 547120

Having won the 2014 World Endurance Championship for manufacturers, Toyota is the automaker to beat this season. The TS040 Hybrid, which will receive an update for 2015, won five of eight races last year, taking the manufacturer’s title by a comfortable margin. However, Toyota failed to stop Audi dominance at Le Mans, placing third at the end of the 24-hour endurance race.

Unlike the R18 e-tron, the TS040 uses a gasoline-hybrid drivetrain that consists of a 3.7-liter V-8 engine sending 513 horsepower to the rear wheels and two electric motors, one for each axle. Find out more about it in our full review here.

Porsche 919 Hybrid

2015 Porsche 919 Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
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Porsche has revealed its newest 919 Hybrid racecar. Check out all of its details at TopSpeed.com.

The 919 Hybrid debuted in 2014 to mark Porsche’s return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after after a 15-year hiatus. Unfortunately for Stuttgart, the 919 Hybrid had too many issues to win in France, finishing the race 11th. It also finished last in the WEC manufacturer’s championship behind Toyota and Audi, scoring only one win in the final race of the season. With an updated version underway, 2015 should be an improvement.

Unlike its main competitors, Porsche is counting on a 2.0-liter V-4 engine and two separate energy recovery systems. The V-4 seems like an odd choice for a manufacturer that built its tradition by racing flat-6 and flat-12 mills, but the four-banger has proven itself competitive throughout 2014. As with most hybrids, the front axle is powered by an electric motor that uses regenerative braking. The second unit, however, utilizes thermal energy generated by the exhaust and powers a generator. Read more about it in our review here.

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo

2015 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO High Resolution Exterior
- image 614796

The GT-R LM Nismo is new for 2015 and an oddball for the LMP1 class. The result of a radical approach, the Nissan is not only a FWD car, but it also had its engine mounted between the front wheels, making it the most unusual car to race at Le Mans since the DeltaWing. Driving the front wheels is a 3.0-liter, twin-turbo V-6 engine mated to a five-speed sequential gearbox and a hydraulic limited-slip differential. The mill cranks out 550 horsepower, but the electric motor backing it churns an additional 700 horses.

Although Nissan planned to use the GT-R LM Nismo throughout the 2015 WEC season, it seems the Japanese will skip the first race to focus on readying the race car for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That’s where Nissan plans to end the dominance of the mid-engine, RWD layout. Read more about it here.

Conclusion

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro High Resolution Exterior
- image 623321

Granted, the 2015 R18 e-tron quattro has pretty big shoes to fill. Its predecessors have won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row and another 11 WEC races on top of taking two manufacturer’s championships home in 2012 and 2013. A new Le Mans success and a new manufacturer’s title in the World Endurance Championship are a must for the R18, but it remains to be seen whether the updated race car will be able to hold its own against the Toyota and Porsche LMP1 hybrids.

  • Leave it
    • Stiff competition from Toyota and Porsche

Press Release

Audi is starting the 2015 season with a thoroughly revised R18 e-tron quattro. In the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and in the Le Mans 24 Hours as the season’s pinnacle event, Audi is going to compete with a hybrid sports car in the 4-megajoule class.

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro High Resolution Exterior
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A twofold quantity of hybrid energy, fundamentally revised aerodynamics, the next step in lightweight design and a lot of detailed work characterize the fifth generation of the Audi R18. “The possibilities of the revolutionary regulations that have been in effect for LMP sports cars since 2014 are far from having been fully used. The rules harbor so much potential that there is room for future developments,” says Jörg Zander, Audi Sport’s new Head of Engineering. “We expect that the technological progress resulting from the fierce competitive pressure exerted by four automobile manufacturers that are now involved will significantly improve lap times this season – while concurrently reducing fuel consumption.”

The new R18 e-tron quattro visually differs clearly from its predecessor even though its basic structure is closely akin to the previous model. The fresh look results from a new way of conducting airflow around and through the front end, in the area of the sidepods and at the rear of the LMP1 prototype. Large air inlets in the front wheel arches reduce aerodynamic drag of the body and have led to an all-new design of the headlights. The lighting units feature Matrix LED technology combined with Audi Laserlight – two innovations that improve active safety in road traffic and that Audi customers can now order for their production models as well.

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro High Resolution Exterior
- image 623323

While Audi has adopted the monocoque – the central safety cell of the race car – from the previous model, the hood with the front wing and wheel arches features a new design. As this body element incorporates the crash structure, Audi performed a new crash test for the 2015 season. Modified airflow through the sidepods with new radiator configurations for cooling the engine and the hybrid system further optimizes aerodynamic drag. The engine cover, which encloses the unit even more tightly and notably tapers off behind the cockpit, contributes to this as well.

This year, Audi is again preparing two body versions for the various tracks on the FIA WEC calendar. In combination with an optimized chassis and in close cooperation with tire partner Michelin, Audi has further improved the performance potential of its sports prototype this way.

Hybrid pioneer Audi is taking the next step in the area of energy recovery as well. The company is the only manufacturer to date to have won the Le Mans 24 Hours with hybrid sports cars. Since 2012, the R18 e-tron quattro has been unbeaten in the French endurance classic. For this year, the engineers have doubled the amount of energy from 2 to 4 megajoules per race lap at Le Mans. During braking, energy is recovered which the system subsequently feeds back to the front axle on acceleration. The electrical machine that performs this task now delivers an output of more than 200 kW (272 hp), which is a significant increase compared to last year. Therefore, Audi has increased the capacity of the energy storage system as well. The encapsulated flywheel energy storage system that sits in the cockpit alongside the driver can store up to 700 kilojoules of energy that it subsequently returns to the electrical machine – which is about 17 percent more than in 2014.

Despite these performance increases Audi has achieved the minimum weight of only 870 kilograms – notably in what is currently the world’s most complex racing category. The improved hybrid output, however, results in a restriction for the internal combustion engine. According to the sporting regulations the fuel-energy amount has to be further reduced if the engineers opt for higher hybrid output. As a result, the R18 e-tron quattro has to make do with 2.5 percent less diesel fuel per lap than in 2014.

2015 Audi R18 e-tron quattro Exterior
- image 623324

Not least for this reason, Audi has further developed the four-liter V6 TDI engine by performing a lot of detailed work to achieve the optimized consumption levels. The most efficient power-plant in the field now delivers 410 kW (558 hp). Due to its optimized consumption the developers have managed to more than compensate for the loss in output resulting from the reduced amount of fuel. As another new rule this year, only five engines per race car may be used during the entire season. The power-plant now delivering even greater fuel efficiency continues a major trend. In 2006, Audi’s TDI engine debuted at Le Mans, followed by eight victories until 2014. While lap times continually improved, fuel consumption decreased by 38 percent during this period.

As a result, the youngest generation of the R18 emphasizes the purpose which motorsport serves at Audi in many fields. Ever since the first Audi quattro was fielded in 1980, the brand has consistently been using circuit racing and rallying for the development of forward-thinking technologies that are subsequently used in production – from quattro four-wheel drive to TFSI gasoline direct injection, to the further development of TDI engines, through to innovations such as Matrix LED light and Audi Laserlight. At the Geneva Motor Show in March, Audi unveiled two other innovations with a reference to motorsport. For the first time, the brand showcased a hybrid model – the Q7 – that combines the e-tron quattro principle with a TDI engine. And the new R8* is the first model featuring the Audi Space Frame as a multi-material construction. In addition to aluminum, the frame includes a component made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP), a material that has long become a staple in racing.

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