Audi R18 TDI to make its U.S. debut at the “Petit Le Mans” at Road Atlanta

Article by Christian Andrei, on September 27, 2011

On October 1, Audi is hoping to bring in the brand’s tenth win at the “Petit Le Mans” at Road Atlanta in the state of Georgia, the U.S. counterpart of the Le Mans 24 Hours where Audi won last June. Audi had used the R18 TDI diesel race sports car, which features ultra-lightweight technology, at Le Mans to score its tenth win at the famous race.

Audi has taken the win for the U.S. race for nine times. The Petit Le Mans is the most important endurance race in North America, comparable to the Daytona 24 Hours and the Sebring 12 Hours. Starting in 2000 to 2005, the Audi R8 has never been outperformed at this race, which spans more than 1000 miles or for a maximum of ten hours.

The Audi R10 TDI got three straight wins in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Audi won in the last two years when it had entered with the R15 TDI but the automaker is prepared to triumph at Road Atlanta with the new R18 TDI. Audi Sport Team Joest has entered two vehicles at the first overseas event of the R18 TDI. Because of the race’s length, there will be three drivers for each car.

Romain Dumas is supporting Timo Bernhard and Marcel Fässler, who have been working to create a driver team in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) since the round at Imola and have stood on the podium twice. Dindo Capello, who is the most successful driver of the American race with an impressive record of five overall victories (2000, 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2008), joins Mans record winner Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish. Last year, there was an unscheduled pit stop due to a strange incident involving the Italian. The fireproof balaclava slipped over his eyes when an insert in the helmet came loose, making Audi lose.

Audi has started to develop an entirely new LMP1 sports car with the aim of maintaining its momentum of wins at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Since the company first participated all the way back in 1999, it has managed nine wins for this most demanding of endurance race using the R8, the R10 TDI, and R15 TDI versions. As such, it can be said that the Four Rings is in the same league as the Ferrari.

For the upcoming season, the company will be using a closed coupe, since the last time it did so was in 1999. This season, the rule was to use smaller engines, unlike those in previous races. The reason for this is that for the 2011 Le Mans, the objective was to reduce the power of the engine. As such, this model will be powered by the TDI 3.7-liter V6 engine, allowing the company to build on the diesel concept, the same one that achieved victory in 2006.

Audi Sport’s Head of Engine Development Ulrich Baretzky reveals that for the company, the most efficient technology is still the TDI. This is one of the reasons why a large number of the company’s production models are equipped with a TDI unit, he says.

Through the use of the advanced V6 TDI engine for its Le Mans 24 Hours vehicle, the company has managed to utilize motorsport in order to conduct pioneering work for its production division. This is significant as the industry is currently moving to engines that are more economical and smaller, yet still powerful. The company is also developing for the Audi R18 a six-speed transmission which has been adjusted to fit a smaller engine.

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, shares that in the future, aerodynamic efficiency will play an important role in the Le Mans, unlike before. In line with this, having a closed car presents obvious benefits, he continues, and this has been confirmed by the computer simulations conducted by the company not only in the wind tunnel but also the early track tests.

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