The Audi R18 e-tron Quattro and the Audi R18 Ultra will make their racing debut on May 5 in Belgium, with the automaker to treat the 2nd FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) round at Spa-Francorchamps as a "dress rehearsal" for the Le Mans 24 Hours. This is the first time that two new automobile models will demonstrate their capability on one of the most challenging race tracks in the world. Moreover, this event is significant for Audi Sport, not only because of the double automobile debut, but also because of a race vehicle not solely run by an internal combustion engine -- a first in Audi's history.
Specifically, the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro is the first diesel hybrid sports vehicle with all-wheel drive, introducing a new era in car racing. Aside from this, there are other features that make the vehicle a catalyst for a revolutionary trend. A key requirement to make this a reality in the first place is the ultra-lightweight design, which is a core competence of Audi. The hybrid race vehicle model is founded on the Audi R18 ultra, which showcases a substantially identical design but run by a V6 TDI powerplant. This vehicle is the lightest LMP sports automobile ever created by Audi.
Two vehicles each of the two new automobile models will be making their racing debuts in Belgium. The premiers of the vehicles coincide with four other debuts. Audi Sport Team Joest is fielding four LMP1 race vehicles for the first time. It was in 1999, when Audi was last seen using four automobiles on the grid at a sports vehicle race under a factory commitment. Back then at the Le Mans, the car models were the Audi R8C and R8R, largely considered the "progenitors" of sports prototypes today, even if they were being fielded by two different teams.
The newly signed reserve driver Marc Gené from Spain will also make his debut. He will be standing in for Timo Bernhard, who is currently taking a break because of accident injuries. Moreover, the previous DTM driver Oliver Jarvis from Great Britain and the former test driver Marco Bonanomi from Italy will have their first sports vehicle race for Audi's factory team.