Audi is ready to win the 2016 season with its revamped R18 race car.

Until the 1980s, Audi wasn’t an important name in motorsport, with its most successful race cars having been built in the 1930s when the brand was part of Auto Union. Things changed dramatically when the Quattro was introduced in 1980, spawning models that went on to dominate the rally scene and the Pikes Peak hill climb. After laying low in the 1990s, Ingolstadt decided to tackle prototype racing and created a series of vehicles that went on to dominate the competition, as well as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Its most important racer, the R18, hit the motorsport scene in 2011 and went on to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row before being defeated by the Porsche 919 Hybrid in 2015. For 2016, Audi has redesigned the R18 from the ground up.

Launched at the Audi Sport Finale at the Audi Training Center in Munich, the R18 is a significant departure from its predecessor. The LMP1 prototype features not only new aerodynamics, but a modified hybrid system and an optimized TDI engine as well.

“With our new Audi R18, we’re setting a clear signal: Audi continues to put the pedal to the metal in motorsport, deliberately relying on TDI – the world’s most successful automotive efficiency technology – at Le Mans,” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport.

Long story short, the TDI powertrain has become more powerful while requiring less fuel. For 2016, Audi is switching to a higher hybrid energy class, so to compensate for the need to process even more energy, the hybrid system now relies on a lithium-ion accumulator as opposed to the flywheel energy storage system that was used from 2012 to 2015 and has redesigned the cars motor generator unit. So, with that said, let’s dive on in and look at what is going on with the 2016 Audi R18.

Updated 03/22/2016: Audi dropped the final specifications figures on its brand new R18 race car that will race in competitions like FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Audi R18.

Exterior

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2016 Audi R18 High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Audi R18 High Resolution Exterior
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The biggest design changes are visible at the front, where Audi redesigned every little detail in order to improve aerodynamics. The pointy nose sits higher, the fenders have a slightly boxier design with the headlamps mounted farther from the wheels. Compared to last year’s car, the splitter is also closer to the ground, the air ducts have been repositioned closer to the nose, while the traditional canards have been replaced with winglets mounted atop the fenders. Likewise, the headlamps have been reshaped and gained vertical, red LED strips at the extremities.

The biggest design changes are visible at the front, where Audi redesigned every little detail in order to improve aerodynamics

The rear end isn’t as radical as the nose, but Audi made quite a few modifications. The horizontal strakes behind the rear wheels are gone, while the panels underneath sport a pair of square taillights. On the previous model, the taillights were thin LED strips mounted vertically on the wing. Speaking of the wing, the main posts have been reshaped into a more complex design, with thinner surfaces at the bottom. The diffuser is also different. The large fin between the roof-mounted air scoop and the wing remained unchanged.

From an aerodynamic standpoint, the body has been designed to reduce undesirable vortices and turbulent airflow

More modifications are visible on the sides in the form of reshaped fenders, new air vents underneath the doors, and redesigned cockpit windows. Finally, Audi created a new livery for the presentation car, which no longer features the white and gray hues seen on the previous model, but only black and red.

From an aerodynamic standpoint, the body has been designed to reduce undesirable vortices and turbulent airflow. In the front, the nose is slimmer than previous models, and airflow is directed over the top of the car and between the wheel wells. From there, the air enters the cooling ducts in the body shell, where it approaches the underfloor. Air is then discharged at the rear through the diffuser, creating huge amounts of downforce under the race car. Also, the openings in the front wheel arches have been increased in size by 45 percent to help reduce lift in the case of lateral airflow.

Interior

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As usual, Audi didn’t release photos or details of the interior, but its safe to assume that the 2016 cockpit is very similar to last year’s race car. The cabin should sport a simple dashboard with numerous buttons, switches, and knobs, a display instead of the standard instrument cluster, and a multi-function steering. A bolstered racing seat with a six-point harness will hold the driver in place during those long endurance events, while an FIA-approved rollcage will keep him safe in the unfortunate event of crash. Since LMP1 prototypes are by no means fancy on the inside, most surfaced should be exposed carbon-fiber and Alcantara.

Drivetrain

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For 2016, Audi is stepping up to the 6-megajoule hybrid class, which means the hybrid system used from 2012 to 2015 just wouldn’t cut the mustard. To start off, the flywheel energy storage system has been axed in favor of a lithium-ion accumulator that is encapsulated within the high-strength safety structure in the monocoque. Up front, a redesigned motor generator unit (MGU) will be responsible for not only driving the front wheels but converting the rotary motion of the front wheels into electrical energy that is stored in the aforementioned lithium-ion accumulator. Essentially the MGU generates electricity when the driver brakes before entering a turn. As the drive accelerates when exiting the turn, electrical current flows the opposite way, allowing the MGU to drive the front wheels and help accelerate the race car.

The MGU on the R18 has been designed for an output of 476 horsepower in an effort to recover as much energy as possible

Le Mans regulations allow for any desired amount of energy recuperation but limits the output of energy to just 408 horsepower. The MGU on the R18, however, has been designed for an output of 476 horsepower in an effort to recover as much energy as possible. Because the system will be limited to an output of 408 horsepower, the hybrid system will be governed, making the stored energy from the hybrid system available for a longer period of time.

Speaking of the MGU, in 2012 that unit put out just 204 horsepower of electrical output, and now we’re looking at the ability to pump out almost 500 horsepower. That’s a pretty wild achievement. The MGU for this year is similar to those used in previous years, but the power electronics, stator, and rotor are all newly developed to bring such an increase in power output. Power is transferred from the MGU to the front wheels via a limited slip differential, allowing torque transfer with minimal loss of torque.

Now, let’s take a look at the diesel-powered TDI engine. In 2011, the TDI powerplant displaced 3.7 liters, but in 2014, it was reworked to displace four liters. The same 4.0-liter TDI V-6 is still used in the 2016 R18, but it underwent a few changes. It still has the 120-degree cylinder angle, has four valves per cylinder, a Garrett VTG turbocharger, direct diesel injection, an aluminum crankcase, and is fully stressed. Total output: 514 horsepower and more than 626 pound-feet of torque. Individual external components have been rearranged to accommodate for the new aerodynamic design, and the engine now uses a lighter and more efficient turbocharger. All told, the current V-6 TDI consumes 32.4 percent less fuel than in 2011, and at Le Mans it uses 46.4 percent less fuel – if that isn’t something to brag about, I don’t know what is.

During the time acceleration boost is provided by the MGU, the R18 is all-wheel drive.

When combined with the 408 horsepower (regulated at Le Mans) produced by the MGU, total system output is 914 horsepower. When unregulated, the MGU can pump out 474 horsepower bring the total system output up to 988 horsepower. During the time acceleration boost is provided by the MGU, the R18 is all-wheel drive. Once the MGU runs out of energy, the 4.0-liter sends power to just the rear wheels via a six-speed racing transmission with a CFRP clutch. Like the front, there is a limited slip differential in the rear, with power sent from the diff to the wheels via constant-velocity tripod-type plunge joints.

Steering is handled by a servo-assisted rack and pinion system. Both front and rear suspension setups are independent on upper and lower wishbone assemblies. Upfront a pushrod system is used, while a pullrod system is used in the rear. The dampers are adjustable, and two wheel tethers are used per wheel to help prevent the loss of wheels in the event of a collision. The R18 uses a hydraulic dual-circuit braking system with monoblock light-alloy brake calipers and carbon fiber brake discs in the front and rear. The car rides on OZ magnesium forged wheels that are wrapped in 31/71-series 18-inch Michelin radials. Maximum fuel capacity sits at 49.9 liters.

Competition

Porsche 919 Hybrid

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

Having won both the World Endurance Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2015, the 919 Hybrid is the car to beat in 2016. Powered by a 2.0-liter V-4 engine and two energy recovery systems, the 919 is likely to receive a number of changes for 2016, but Porsche has yet to reveal its updated prototype. However, the LMP1 racer is expected to sport a similar design and improvements in recovery and storage system areas, as well as a mild output improvement.

Find out more about the Porsche 919 Hybrid here.

Toyota TS050 Hybrid

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2016 will see a new Toyota prototype hit the track, with the Japanese having already confirmed it will abandon its existing 3.7-liter V-8 powerplant for an engine of undisclosed configuration at this time. The brand will also switch from a super-capacitor to a battery energy-storage system and prepare a new aerodynamic package for the TS050. A turbocharged gasoline engine is likely as Toyota aims to move in the eight-megajoule subclass of the hybrid category.

Read our full review on the Toyota TS050 Hybrid here.

Nissan GT-R LM Nismo

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Launched in 2015, the GT-R LM Nismo is a radical take on the LMP1 class. Using a front-mounted engine that sends power to the front wheels, the Nissan is the opposite of what Audi, Porsche, and Toyota bring to the track and a rather exotic appearance for the entire motorsport scene. Although the Japanese race car failed to make an impression in 2015, it’s expected to return better results in 2016, when it will be able to run a full season.

Read more about the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo here.

Conclusion

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Having been defeated at Le Mans for the first time in five years in 2015, it’s no surprise that Audi decided to give the R18 a comprehensive makeover. With an updated MGU, a reworked diesel engine, and a new energy storage system, the R18 is now faster and more efficient that last year’s model. Plus, you’ve got to hand it to Audi for jumping into the 6-megajoule hybrid class after suffering that loss last year. Thanks to the reworked aerodynamics and the light turbocharger, there is no loss of torque despite the lower fuel consumption and we’re excited to see how thing pan out for this season. Did Audi do enough to combat Porsche, Toyota, and Nissan? Well, we’ll have to wait to see, but it should be an interesting season. That is one thing you can be sure of.

  • Leave it
    • * Strong competition from Porsche and Toyota
    • * The 919 Hybrid is tough to beat
    • * It’s not going to win any beauty contests

Press Release

For the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the Le Mans 24 Hours, Audi is emphasizing focal areas in the 2016 season: The Audi R18 that has been redesigned from scratch has almost nothing in common anymore with its predecessor. It features a more radical aerodynamics concept, including a new safety cell, its hybrid drive system is battery-operated for the first time, the V6 TDI engine has been revised, and new system solutions have been added. As a result, Audi’s LMP1 sports car is a vehicle that is more powerful and – once more – clearly more efficient than its predecessor. While the new R18 is Audi’s strongest race car to date, it consumes less fuel than any of the generations before it.

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Power output of more than 1,000 hp delivered by the TDI and hybrid powertrain, ten percent less fuel consumption than before – Audi is achieving new best marks under the efficiency regulations. The FIA WEC regulations have been providing automobile manufacturers with incentives to build increasingly efficient race cars since 2014. Starting in the 2016 season, this competition will intensify, as the upper limit for fuel consumption will considerably decrease by 10 megajoules per lap at Le Mans. “The result is a race car that manages energy even more effectively than before. This is an objective we’re pursuing for our road-going automobiles as well,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “This type of motorsport continues to set an example for automotive engineering. For Audi, production relevance has been a core topic of all racing programs for 35 years.”

All development engineers at Audi Sport were challenged to enhance the efficiency of the Audi R18. As a result of switching to the 6-megajoule class, the hybrid system, due to the regulations, now recovers 50 percent more energy. The car’s aerodynamics concept is fundamentally new. Nearly all vehicle systems have been refined or redesigned. Consequently, energy consumption decreases, the race car has become lighter, and allows for more favorable packaging of the component assemblies. This has resulted in an R18 which even visually clearly differs from its predecessor.

New structure for optimized aerodynamics

No other race car embodies the philosophy of optimized aerodynamics as consistently as the LMP1 sports cars that render a futuristic impression. When looking at the new Audi R18, a significantly altered exterior strikes the eye. The proportions of the front end and the cabin within the overall vehicle length have changed and the conspicuous nose of the race car is clearly slimmer than before.

“The new proportions influence weight distribution and aerodynamics,” explains Jörg Zander, Head of Engineering at Audi Sport. “Our most important objective was to improve airflow.” At the front end, airflow has to be directed across the top of the race car and between the wheel wells, enter the cooling ducts through the body shell, and optimally approach the underfloor. “In this process, vortices must be avoided, as this costs energy,” says Zander. Undesirable vortices and turbulent flow would reduce the energy in the airflow and increase resistance. The smaller the space which the monocoque – the central stressed structure and safety cell of the race car – occupies in this area the larger are the clearances for low-loss airflow. Thanks to the new proportions, the new Audi R18 directs airflow even more effectively to optimally approach the underfloor. At the rear, the air exits again through the diffusor. As a result, it produces a major portion of the downforce under the race car, which is beneficial in cornering. Audi developed a new monocoque, modified the proportions within the prescribed maximum length of 4,650 millimeters, and designed all the component assemblies accordingly.

New as well are the dimensions and positions of the prescribed openings in the front wheel arches. They are intended to reduce undesirable aerodynamic lift effects in the case of lateral airflow. Their areas have been enlarged by 45 percent compared with the 2015 season.

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Creative detailed solutions in the chassis

This new concept requires innovations in many other areas. The suspension is a case in point. Due to the new monocoque, the mounting points for the front suspension have significantly changed. To make them more compatible with the position of the drive shaft for the hybrid system, the new mounting points have been rearranged. Suspension kinematics has been significantly revised. Wishbones featuring a new design are now used for wheel guidance. The lift and roll spring-damper elements are actuated via pushrods at the front. The rear suspension kinematics has been optimized as well. As in the case of the previous-generation vehicle, the spring-damper elements are controlled using pullrods. Optimum balance of the race car in all speed ranges is guaranteed by balancers of the Linked Suspension System (LSS) in the chassis.

The transmission is a new design as well. Audi’s simulations revealed that the optimized engine allows a very good gear ratio spread with minimal rpm jumps even in combination with a six-speed instead of the previous seven-speed unit. As a result, the engineers managed to further reduce the weight of the transmission. In the other areas of the vehicle’s structure, Audi rigorously pursued its lightweight design approach as well, while retaining the high torsional stiffness of the chassis.

In addition, new solutions for the actuators of individual systems of the Audi R18 help reduce weight. While in the previous-generation vehicle electrical actuators were still operating in the braking, transmission and engine systems, the new Audi R18 uses an all-new development of a high-pressure central hydraulic system. The regulations prescribe a minimum weight of 875 kilograms for the LMP1 hybrid sports cars. In spite of a more powerful and therefore necessarily heavier hybrid system, Audi does not exceed this limit.

New approaches to hybrid drive

Hybrid pioneer Audi, the first manufacturer to have won the Le Mans 24 Hours with an energy recuperation system, was using a flywheel energy storage system from 2012 to 2015. Now the time is ripe for the next step. In the future, a battery will be accumulating the energy. Electrokinetic technology is being replaced by an electrochemical storage system. “The flywheel accumulator definitely proved viable for the lower energy classes,” explains Thomas Laudenbach, Head of Electrics, Electronics and Energy Systems at Audi Sport. “But due to the fact that we now have to process even more energy than before, a technology change suggested itself.” The previous flywheel accumulator guaranteed high power density. Now, favorable energy density has to be achieved as well, as Audi is switching to a higher hybrid energy class. Starting in the 2016 season, the amount of energy will increase by 50 percent to 6 megajoules. When comparing this level with the one from the 2014 season, the engineers have even tripled the amount of recuperated energy within this period of time.

For the first time, Audi will be relying on a lithium-ion accumulator as the hybrid energy storage system. Since 2009, the batteries for the electrical system of the LMP sports cars with the four rings have been based on this technology. The production-based cells of the new hybrid storage system use advanced and powerful cell chemistry and are serially connected. The system is located within the high-strength safety structure in the monocoque and separately encapsulated once more. Electrical and electronic safety systems monitor various parameters – from individual cells through to the overall high-voltage system – and will intervene if necessary. The shutoff logic naturally includes crash detection.

The energy stored by the system is generated by an MGU (Motor Generator Unit) at the front axle. The Audi R18 converts the rotary motion of the front wheels into electrical energy when the driver brakes before entering a turn and feeds it into the storage system. This way, the hybrid sports car utilizes energy that would otherwise be lost. If the race driver accelerates again on exiting the turn, the current flows in the opposite direction to power the MGU. As a result, the front axle of the R18 helps accelerate the race car again. A low-temperature cooling circuit, which is separate from the engine cooling system, cools the battery cells, MGU, and power electronics.

From the 2016 season on, there will be a track-specific limitation imposed on power output in addition to the previous energy classes. Although the MGU may recuperate any desired amount of energy, it may now only supply 300 kW (408 hp) in the race at Le Mans. Audi has designed its MGU for an output of more than 350 kW (476 hp) in order to recover as much energy as possible. The reason is that even when braking at high speed, the braking phases of an LMP1 race car last only three to five seconds. The high system output helps efficiently recover the required energy. At Le Mans, the system may only supply 300 kW during subsequent acceleration. Accordingly, the energy from the hybrid system will be available for a longer period of time. This limit does not apply to the other FIA WEC rounds.

By opting for the 6-megajoule class, Audi has presented its most powerful MGU so far. In 2012, Audi started with about 150 kW (204 hp) of electrical power output. To date, this level has far more than doubled. Conceptually, the previous and the new MGU are akin to each other. However, the power electronics, stator, and rotor are new developments. This generation of the hybrid drive system delivers high output and develops strong torque, as a result of which the loads acting on the components that transmit power to the front axle increase accordingly. Audi uses a limited slip differential at the front axle to transfer torque with minimal loss.

Less energy for the powerful and more efficient V6 engine

The developers of the hybrid drive system were allowed to increase output. The engine development team headed by Ulrich Baretzky was confronted with the opposite challenge for the 2016 season. The 4-liter V6 power-plant receives clearly less fuel, which initially reduces its output. Two factors have to be considered in this respect. Audi switched to a higher hybrid energy class – and the regulations allocate less fuel to race cars which recuperate large amounts of energy. This aspect results in a minus of about three percent. At the same time, another change is taking effect. The speed of the LMP1 race cars continually increases. To control it, the officials of the FIA, the WEC and the Le Mans organizer ACO allocate clearly less fuel energy to the hybrid race cars. “This is a development which, as a manufacturer, we principally support in order to control the lap times,” says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.

The basic concept of the V6 TDI engine dates to 2011. With its double-flow VTG mono turbocharger, 120-degree cylinder bank angle, the exhaust gas side within the V angle, and innovative detailed solutions the unit tends to be regarded as unusual. The initial displacement volume of 3.7 liters increased to four liters in 2014. “We’re now using the basic engine concept for the sixth consecutive year. This shows how sound the basic idea still is,” says Ulrich Baretzky. “Due to efficiency increases, we partially compensate for the lower amount of fuel.”

Among other things, the turbocharger is now lighter and more efficient. Externally, the V6 TDI has changed as well. Individual components are now arranged differently in order to make room for the new aerodynamics concept. The prescribed limitation of the charge pressure to a factor of 4 does not change the engine’s torque of more than 850 Newton meters. The higher efficiency pays off, as the fuel cell capacity of the race car has been reduced further as well – by eight percent to 49.9 liters.

Overall concept clearly more efficient

The efficiency increases of the race car are remarkable in a historic comparison. The current V6 TDI consumes 32.4 percent less fuel than the first generation did in 2011. This progress is even more substantial in a comparison with the original year of 2006. Back then, Audi used TDI technology for the first time. Thanks to this technology, the brand with the four rings has since clinched eight victories, a distance record, plus two world championship titles. Today, Audi’s LMP1 race car with the current engine uses 46.4 percent less fuel at Le Mans. Still, it achieves lap times that are ten to 15 seconds better than a decade ago. All of this is possible thanks to the sum of all the advances that have been made in the areas of aerodynamics, lightweight design and the powertrain.

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Distinctive safety

In terms of safety, the LMP1 race cars will continue to set standards in the future as well. Audi complements the exacting requirements of the regulations by in-house research that far exceeds these rules. In the field of active safety – in other words the detection of hazards and accident prevention – the Audi drivers can draw on a wealth of tools. While the driver information monitor in the cockpit to display race control flag signals is prescribed, Audi assists its drivers with a number of additional solutions. For instance, Matrix LED headlights combined with Audi laser light optimize the light beam of the race cars that can reach speeds of up to 340 km/h. Since 2015, Audi customers have been able to order laser light in the second generation of the Audi R8 as well. Matrix LED technology has been making its way into a growing number of model ranges.

Particularly good rearward vision is provided by a lightweight and energy-efficient camera system in combination with an ultramodern AMOLED screen that serves as a digital rear view mirror. Since the 2001 season, the drivers and pit crews have been keeping their eye on tire inflation pressure using a tire pressure monitoring system. And, last but not least, the Audi R18 automatically controls brake force distribution with respect to the hybrid system in the respective operating condition.

In the event that an accident cannot be avoided, the passive safety systems take effect. The monocoque consists of a high-strength CFRP structure with an aluminum honeycomb core and has a front crash nose for energy absorption. In 2011, Audi was the first manufacturer to use a single-piece monocoque. The cell has been provided with additional side impact protection, as Zylon layers integrated into the cockpit walls prevent the intrusion of objects. In rear-end collisions a CFRP structure at the transmission absorbs the impact energy. Double wheel tethers have been successfully used since the 2014 season and reduce the risk of wheels separating from the race cars in accidents. Due to their rotary motion, wheels have high levels of kinetic energy. The high-voltage protection systems ensure that the electrical currents in the hybrid system can be safely controlled. There is no other motorsport discipline that uses an equal amount of high technology to protect the driver before or during an accident.

Be it in terms of the performance capabilities and safety of the race cars or the furthering of efficiency and innovations: in the sum of all technological features, the LMP1 class remains unique around the globe and therefore of utmost relevance for the future of the automobile.

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