The latest vehicle ready to tackle the Le Mans 24 Hours circuit has been unveiled by Audi, as the manufacturer aims to scoop a hat-trick of wins in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).
Audi has developed the new prototype, the R18 e-tron quattro, completely from scratch, with a number of the technical innovations used in production models included in the design.
According to the manufacturer, the model is the “most complex race car” they have ever built, and presents a hybrid sports car appearance and an improvement from the World Championship-winning version that has competed in the last two years.
While this is how it looks from the outside, the vehicle has had to completely redefine itself due to the most recent LMP1 regulations that will be implemented in 2014.
Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich said the car heralds a new generation of Le Mans prototypes and will be able to achieve quick laps without using too much energy – as is the need for all new racing models for the endurance event.
As part of the new developments in the model the R18 features a newly developed V6 TDI mid-engine, which is used to power the rear wheels.
Furthermore, the e-tron quattro hybrid system located at the front axle uses an Energy Recovery System Kinetic to store any kinetic energy created to be used for extra power.
It also features an optimised flywheel energy storage system and a hybrid system with an electric turbocharger in the internal combustion engine.
According to Audi, the car sets a “benchmark” in terms of efficiency, as it has to achieve what its predecessor did using just 70 per cent of the fuel used.
The racer has an extremely low centre of gravity, as expected for its racing purpose, and features high wheel arches and low angled nose in front of a bubbled driver’s cockpit.
Vertical strip lighting on the arches gives the model an aggressive bite, far away from the environmentally friendly alternative it provides to previous Le Mans challengers.
Chris Reinke, head of LMP at Audi Sport, said the car is a “revolution in thinking”.
“A fundamental approach to motorsport is being abandoned. Instead of power output, energy consumption will be subject to limitations – this is in line with the spirit of our times and opens up great technical freedoms to the engineers. In 2014, we’ll be seeing a wide variety of concepts on the grid at Le Mans,” he added.
While some of the design features were defined in 2012 and the components were brought together towards the end of the same year, it is likely to undergo further changes when it goes through track testing.
Audi are likely to tinker with the all new powertrain in order to ensure it is race-ready, and will be determined to make the model just as competitive as their previous vehicles have been in recent years.
Areas of vision and interior ergonomics have also been improved on the car, which will make its race debut at Silverstone in April 2014 as part of a six-hour race.
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