An annual event where the best in sports car racing sprint around the Road Atlanta circuit for 1,000 miles or 10-hours (whichever comes first), the Petit Le Mans has become a final event in the sports car racing season. One of many sports car races Audi has won on a multitude of occasions since 2000, the Audi Sport Team Joest race organization will be wearing silver into combat for the first time with their 24 Hours of Le Mans winning R18 TDI prototype sports car. While tested at the Sebring International Raceway just days after the Mobil 12 hour race, the Audi R18 TDI prototype sports car will make its competitive debut in the North America at the 2011 Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta.
Built to new safety and performance rules set out by the ACO (the French sanctioning body that oversees many sports car events including the 24 Hour of Le Mans race), the Audi R18 TDI is another evolution on the competitive ladder the premium carmaker. Powered by a smaller V-6 engine through an electronic gearbox, the R18 prototype sports car has better weight balance than the previous Audi R15 Plus. The biggest change to the Audi racing machine was the incorporation of a roof over the driver. A closed cockpit prototype, the R18 became the first such vehicle since the early Audi R8C that run last in 1999.
Long respected as a showcase where the best creations of auto manufacturers competed on speed and endurance, sports car racing is once again relevant as a test bed for modern automotive technology. In the case of Audi, their prototype sports car program aided in the refinement of several items currently utilized in production car. Their Audi R8 prototype won the Le Mans 24-hour race thanks to the FSI gasoline direct injection technology allowing team drivers to remain on track longer. Since the introduction of the Audi R10 in 2006, the German automaker advocates their clean diesel technology discovering an unfair advantage over gasoline-powered race cars. In the Audi R18 TDI, the race vehicle is the showcase for full LED headlights recently introduced in production vehicles including the Audi A8 sedan. Introduced as low-beam illumination on the Audi R15 TDI sports car, the LED lighting technology is fine-tuned for the R18 prototype.
Making its debut at the 2011 Petit Le Mans, this race is part of the 6-race run for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. An award that the ACO established in 2010, this is a modern initiate to crown a global honour. Leaving the 6-Hours of Silverstone, the Peugeot squad’s 908 prototype has propelled the French team to a 7-point lead over Audi Sport Team Joest. Having won the Petit Le Mans 9 times in the LMP (Le Mans Prototype) class, the Audi R18 TDI will have to out muscle the Peugeot who has won the previous two Road Atlanta events.
On October 1st, Audi Sport Team Joest will bring a two-car contingent with three drivers per Audi R15 TDI race machine. In car #1, Timo Bernard, Romain Dumas and Marcel Fassler combining for 4 overall wins at Road Atlanta. The #2 Audi R18 TDI will be helmed by an experienced trio of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello.
Information and photo source: Audi AG