Sharing the same name as the 2013 competition car, the 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro is technically a completely different vehicle. Changed through FIA rules and by the ingenuity of Audi, this year’s race car is designed to be safer as well as capable of utilizing a greater amount of electric assisted propulsion. Arriving at Le Mans ahead of the 2014 FIA WEC season even starts, Audi took the new R18 e-tron on a recreational journey on French streets in the hands of legendary driver Tom Kristensen. The initial 10-kilometer trip on public streets involved the media along with numerous spectators who acquired what might be the closest contact general citizens will receive to a running 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Later, Kristensen piloted the R18 e-tron Quattro for a lap around the Circuit Bugatti (a permanent race course connected to the larger Circuit de la Sarthe). Describing the experience, Tom Kristensen commented, “I’ve been competing at Le Mans since 1997 but this was absolutely new for me, too, and very exciting,”. In 2006, Kristensen was part of a similar promotional drive through the streets of Paris with an Audi R10 TDI prototype.
The true test of the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro comes with the start of the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship. The WEC season starts with the Silverstone 6 Hours race on April 20th. The 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for June 15th will be the location Audi truly wants their colors to shine.
Information and photo source: Audi AG
Winning six of the eight races on the 2013 schedule for the FIA World Endurance Championship, it would be easy to assume the Audi R18 e-tron quattro fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest was a dominant car in the LMP1 category. What does the LMP1 manufacturers’ championship winning mean to Audi? It is time for the German car brand to completely reengineer their race car. With the Toyota TS030 Hybrid proving to be a strong competitor and Porsche’s entrance to the LMP1 category on-course for next year, Audi simply cannot rest on their laurels. Keeping the Audi R18 e-tron quattro name for 2014, the race car appearing on the race track will be a drastically different car from the one that last raced at the Bahrain International Circuit last month.
Conforming to 2014 rule changes made to the World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 category, the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro is safer and more energy efficient than the newly-retired vehicle. The body of the 2014 race car will be 10 centimeters slimmer but will also be 20 millimeters higher than the 2013 R18 e-tron quattro. The increased vehicle height is created for improved cockpit room and contributes with other design changes that improve visibility. A greater level of protection greets the pilot of the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro with a stronger-than-ever carbon fiber reinforced polymer cockpit structure. A narrower underfloor is lined with additional layers of fiber and the prototype sports car’s monocoque is built to handle more severe loads. Crash energy-absorbing zone is built into the R18 e-tron quattro prototype’s rear in order to greater reduce the impact to the driver.
One notable difference for sports car fans observing the Audi R18 e-tron quattro in 2014 is the presence of a front wing. New regulations permit the features as a cost-cutting solution to front diffusers. While gaining in one area, the 2014 LMP1 race car loses an aerodynamic aid at another area. The 2014 rule changes for LMP1 ban the process of using engine exhaust to flow over the rear diffuser. A practice that generated greater downforce, such use of exhaust gas had already been prohibited in Formula 1.
The powerplant of the 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro prototype sports car receives some of the most extraordinary improvements. Under the new World Endurance Championship LMP1 class rules, the powerplants of 2014 sports cars will be regulated based on energy consumption. The V-6 TDi engine returns with an electric turbocharger feeding the combustion chambers by converting thermal energy. This concept of electric forced-air induction is exceptionally new and has been up until now largely experimental. The electric turbocharger is aligned with the flywheel energy storage system so it is possible to feed electrical drive system when the TDi’s maximum boost pressure is met. The new Audi R18 e-tron quattro’s hybrid drive system works similar to the original vehicle that ran the past two sports car seasons. Electric drive is focused at the front while direct TDi engine performance is delivered through the rear wheels. Regenerative braking will continue to play a big part in recharging the electric drive storage system of the R18 e-tron quattro in 2014 trim.
Overall, the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro has been lightened by 45 kilograms. Weighing 870 kilograms (1,918 pounds) in total, Audi’s has succeeded applying in their lightweight production car philosophy to their new prototype. Other improvements made to the 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro include wheel tethers. Wheel tethers work to reduce the chances of a wheel/tire combination flying away violently from the vehicle in case of a crash. With each tether capable of withstanding a weight force of nine metric tons, two are installed on each wheel to set places on the 2014 race car.
Entering an all-new technological realm with electric turbocharging and other safety refinements, what can race fans expect from the Audi R18 e-tron quattro for 2014? Please keep in mind, Milestones already reached by Audi since 2000 includes the first 24 Hours of Le Mans overall-winning vehicle to be equipped with gasoline direct injection, turbo diesel power as well as a diesel/electric hybrid powertrain.
Information and photo source: Audi AG