Exactly 183 days after its world debut, the new Audi R18 TDI racecar is facing a serious challenge: When the starting lights at the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours switch to green at 3pm on June 11, Audi will have the chance for its tenth victory at the world’s most important endurance race.
In the past 12 years, Audi has won the Le Mans 24 Hours nine times. The success has repeatedly been accompanied by technical innovations. In 2001 Audi combined turbocharging with direct injection technology. In 2006 Audi achieved the first Le Mans success of a diesel-powered vehicle. And at last year’s one-two-three result, when the cars beat the distance record that had existed 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 will also be visually evident: The three vehicles fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest will show plenty of carbon fiber.
Despite the reduction in power output resulting from regulation changes, the Audi R18 TDI achieves the same top speed at Le Mans as its R15 TDI predecessor thanks to efficient aerodynamics.
During the tests which followed the R18 TDI’s racing debut at the 1000km race at Spa-Francorchamps, the squad focused on reliability and performance to be as consistent as possible. As the acid test for Le Mans, the car had to cover a distance of 6000km - about 600 more than it did when it clinched last year’s record victory.
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 Le Mans city center on Monday afternoon at 16:20. 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.
The vehicles will be in action for the first time in the free practice session that starts at 4pm on Wednesday afternoon. The first qualifying session is on 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 3pm on Saturday.
At its tenth Le Mans factory commitment, Audi is supported by strong partners: The roles of Alpinestars, Bosch, Castrol EDGE, MAHLE, Michelin, O.Z. and TAG Heuer 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 will again be able to catch a glimpse of the future of the automobile and the Le Mans 24 Hours. As part of the presentation billed as "Le Mans vers le futur" the Audi e-tron Spyder and Audi Q5 hybrid will be showcased - both as examples of the future powertrain electrification. On the day before the race, Audi will present a particularly exciting new road-going sports car: the R8 GT Spyder, which reflects lightweight technology in many details.
The "Audi ultra lightweight technology" branding will be featured around the race track. Audi is also expecting about 1200 guests, so an additional mobile Audi Terminal was established near the braking zone after the start/finish line for guests to enjoy a new view of the track.
In total, the organizers expect a turnout of more than 250,000 spectators. Millions of fans around the world will also watch the "race of the year" on TV.