Audi will try to take home the bacon from the Le Mans 24 Hours by fielding its revised R15 TDI diesel race sports car on the track on June 12 and 13. In fact, Audi has also commenced an extensive testing program for the revised LMP1 vehicle in the United States.
According to Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, the carmaker considers the LMP1 as a better alternative to Formula 1 since this category features technologies and developments that are usually relevant to production vehicles.
He noted that since efficiency is very important at Le Mans, Audi is infusing such attribute to its production vehicles. This is the main reason why Audi has made efficiency as a focal point in the R15 TDI evolution project, especially in terms of aerodynamics.
Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology at Audi Sport, disclosed that for this year, the Le Mans regulations prescribe air restrictors with a smaller diameter as well as reduced supercharging pressure for diesel vehicles.
Mühlmeier remarked that because of the lower engine power, Audi Sport tried to make the R15 TDI’s aerodynamics more efficient as well as to improve its Cd value and downforce parameters.
Since the Le Mans organizers only announced the late revisions in regulations in November, Audi’s engineers had to work harder and were forced to completely revise the R15 TDI’s front section, resulting to a new, distinctive face featuring a split nose. For optimum efficiency, Audi revised the race car’s entire body shape.
Even its cooling and fuel tank system received modifications. Additionally, the carmaker optimized the V10 TDI engine for the smaller air restrictors and reduced its supercharging pressure, in compliance with the new Le Mans regulations.
According to Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Technology at Audi Sport, they aimed to keep the power loss to a minimum while adhering to limitations imposed by the regulations. Baretzky said they were able to achieve that objective through a lot of detailed work, and as a result the race car’s 5.5-liter engine still develops over 440 kW.
Mühlmeier added that following Le Mans 2009, Audi’s specs for the R15 plus included around 20 key items, topped by efficiency and reliability. Other items on the list included improved nighttime lighting of the track, which was achieved by installing a new headlight concept.
The revised R15 TDI diesel race sports car was rolled out on the Audi test track in Neustadt on March 3 and was then flown to the US for two weeks of extensive testing.
It will then undergo an extensive testing program with Audi Sport Team Joest, competing on a number of race tracks and test races in Europe like the 8 Hours of Le Castellet in France on April 11, and the 1000-km race at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium on May 9.
Interestingly, watchmaker TAG Heuer is now part of the Audi R15 TDI project, with its logo to be featured on the race car.