For this year's 24h Le Mans race, Audi has prepared the second generation of the R15 TDI diesel race sports car, which had won in the same race in 2006. Audi tweaked the vehicle, trimming it and installing several updates that are focused on higher efficiency. The vehicle, dubbed the "R15 plus" has been able to maintain the output of its 5.5 liter V12 engine ( over 620 hp), despite the tougher regulations.
In addition, the aerodynamics were revised and trimmed to improve its speed. The radiator package was repositioned and the cockpit now offers improved ergonomics. Racing at night for this racecar is not a problem since it uses additional LED lights borrowed from the R8 supercar. The R15 plus has passed several tests covering over 40,000 kilometers since March 2010.
These sessions include two endurance runs of 30 hours each and aerodynamic test performed in the wind tunnel. The racecar also went through tracks and airfields simulations on an artificially dirtied race track. Its radiators were also tested on how they would face soiling. Furthermore, it underwent two test races in the Le Mans Series at Le Castellet and Spa-Francorchamps and a final test in Southern France at the end of May.
Audi Sport has come out with a LMP1 race car that is different from earlier Le Mans models as it utilizes creative freedom. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport, explains that the technical solutions that can be seen on the R15 TDI are not typical at all.
Ullrich adds that they did take new directions. For instance, the suspension on its front and rear has been raised in order to be more aerodynamic. With its weight optimized plus a wheelbase that has been lengthened, the R15 TDI is made more agile compared to the previous models.
There are also new approaches utilized in this sports car’s chassis. At present, Audi remains to be the only automaker to use a diesel car and win the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Ullrich shares that the R15 TDI will form the foundation of what will be a chance to win in 2009.
The R15 TDI will make its first appearance as a race car during the 12-hour race to be held in Sebring, Florida on March 21. Additionally, Audi Sport Team Joest expects to have three cars join the 24 Hours of Le Mans which is slated for June 13 to 14.