Audi’s lineup for the 2011 Race of Champions at the ESPRIT arena in Düsseldorf that takes place on December 3-4, 2011 is its strongest one yet. Audi has tapped four of its “factory” drivers to race against the likes of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.
Furthermore, the brand will be unleashing the 525hp Audi R8 LMS (the strongest competition vehicle in the field) in this race that will be participated by the best race and rally drivers in the world. Last year, the event was seen by over 64,000 spectators. Those who were invited include Filipe Albuquerque (Portugal), Mattias Ekström (Sweden), Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Timo Scheider (Germany).
Audi is regarded to have very good chances at the Race of Champions. Mattias Ekström, the two-time DTM Champion, has won the Race of Champions three times already. In Paris in 2006, the Audi factory driver beat Sébastien Loeb, who had become the eight-time World Rally Champion. And in 2007 in London and in 2009 in Beijing, the Swede won against Michael Schumacher.
Last year, Ekström wasn’t able to join because of a scheduling conflict as he had to go to the DTM finale at Shanghai (China). But even so, an Audi racer still won last year. Filipe Albuquerque, who worked for Audi Sport Italia that time, won over everyone. Simply put, the Race of Champions is where the best race and rally drivers in the world race each other using identical vehicles.
While the new Audi R8 LMS shared several underpinnings as the R8 road car, it is laden with modifications that were necessary to comply with the regulations and to meet safety requirements. For instance, the Audi GT3 racer now features a rear-wheel drive system, as specified by the regulations, thereby setting aside the all-wheel drive system of the R8 road car.
As for power, the new Audi R8 LMS gets its juice from a 10-cylinder engine that powers the Lamborghini Gallardo, thereby anticipating the inclusion of a V10-powered R8 road car in 2009. This 5.2-liter all-aluminum unit engine provides over 500 bhp of output to the rear wheels through the standard six-speed transmission, which has been revised to enable paddle operation behind the steering wheel.
However, the Audi R8 LMS racer still features the aluminum spaceframe chassis that underpins the R8 road car, with stability and shock-absorption handled by double wishbone suspensions with coil springs and hydraulic dampers. Braking on the Audi R8 LMS racer is handled by ventilated ceramic discs that are offered as an option on the R8 road car.
The R8 LMS also features an array of driver assistance system like a race-specific ABS and an adjustable traction control system. Although the GT3 car may look like the R8 road car, its body work is bespoke, with body panels constructed from a combination of aluminum and carbon fiber. The racing version also features larger intakes, front splitter and deeper sills.
Audi R8 LMS racer has a large rear wing that had a similar visual profile as the one found on the R10 TDI. By the end of 2008, the first two prototypes of the GT3 racer had been assembled and then extensively tested by Christian Abt and Frank Biela.
One of these prototypes – driven by Abt -- was ruined following a brake failure. Audi unveiled the new R8 LMS and announced its customer racing program at the Essen Motor Show in December. Audi built just 12 examples of the R8 LMS for the first season, and were quickly sold out.