Audi have unveiled the new livery that the team will take to the 2011 Le Mans 24 hours. The new look graphics mark a return to the traditional silver dominated look that has long been a part of the companies rich motorsport tradition.
The new look will be seen in public for the first time this weekend when the new R18 takes to the track at Le Mans for the return of the traditional test day.
The R18 design represents a radical departure for Audi from their previous Le Mans winning cars with the closed coupe aiming to take full aerodynamic advantage of the new ACO regulations.
The livery of the cars is also makes a major feature of carbon fibre, the extremely light and, at the same time, high-strength material, which now plays an increasingly important role in the development of new production cars.
“Carbon fibre is ideally suited for lightweight design and construction,” explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “We have deliberately made this material and the ultra lightweight technology visual for Le Mans. Lightweight design has occupied us for many years in motorsport. Everything that we have learnt over the years and especially about lightweight design and construction during development of the R18 TDI will also be available for our customers in the future - either in the form of greater performance or in the shape of low fuel consumption and lower emissions.”
Although there is a minimum weight of 900 kilograms for LMP1 cars at Le Mans, the target is to produce a car weighing significantly less than this limit in order to optimise the weight distribution with the help of ballast and to lower the centre of gravity as much as possible.
“With the R18 TDI every component was optimised logically with regard to weight,” stresses Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology at Audi Sport. “The same applied to the chassis and the bodywork, the gearbox and the engine. We scoured the car for every superfluous gram.”
The carbon monocoque produced in a single-piece, for which a highly complex manufacturing process was developed and which is an impressive proof of the company’s lightweight design expertise, is not only revolutionary for a Le Mans sports car. The same applies for the bodywork which was lightened by 40 kilograms between the first and second version. “Such a consequent lightweight design is a high technical challenge,” says Christopher Reinke, Technical Project Leader at Audi Sport.
The V6 TDI engine in the R18 TDI is about 25 percent lighter than the V10 TDI engine in its predecessor. “On one hand through downsizing, but also to a certain extent because we explored completely new directions and chose an unusual engine concept,” explains Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Development at Audi Sport.
The new six-speed gearbox, which has a high amount of carbon-fibre composite material, and the complete LED headlights also help to save weight. It was also possible to omit the electric cooling of the light-emitting diodes in the headlights commonly found in production cars. Because the gearshift is no longer activated pneumatically but rather electrically, the R18 TDI requires no more pneumatic system.
According to the company, optimised airflow through the cockpit should make air-conditioning redundant. (I’d like to see that if it hits 30+ at Le Mans in June)
“The Audi R18 TDI is equipped with many innovative solutions,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich proudly. “It was built for regulations specifically targeting future technologies - and with the background enabling these technologies to be introduced into road going cars in the future. This is what makes sport prototypes so interesting for Audi. That we will now see the first impact of Audi ultra lightweight technology at Le Mans demonstrates just how motorsport and production line development go hand in hand at Audi. I’m convinced that ultra will be mentioned in one breath with terms like quattro or TDI in a few years.”
The first shots in the battle for the world’s greatest race begins Easter Sunday with the pre-event test day. Radio Le Mans will cover the event live starting Sunday evening Australian time.
With AudiSport Media Release