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
Searching for their 10th victory, the Audi prototype program has placed every major iteration of their race purpose-built sports cars in the Sebring International Raceway winner’s circle since 2000. The Audi R8 prototype race car, as well as the R10 TDI and R15 TDI are celebrated race vehicles that began their piece of a motorsport dynasty with an inaugural victory at Sebring. Bringing 2011-spec Audi R15 TDI Plus race cars to the Mobil 1 Twelve of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida event last year, the Audi R18 TDI closed cockpit prototype car would break an 11-year trend by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans first. For the 2012 American Le Mans Series first race and the debut event for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Audi Sport Team Joest’s three-car R18 team needed to claim the car’s elusive Sebring race.
Without the challenge from the Peugeot 908 sports car that won the previous two Sebring events, the Audi Sport Team Joest team came to the race track carrying a war chest of experience and equipment trumping other prototype class contenders. In Friday qualifying for the half-day Saturday race, the Audi R18 TDI race cars stormed around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course claiming the top three starting positions with little opposition. Taking the pole among the three-care Audi R15 group was the #1 vehicle that flew around the Sebring International Raceway with a 1-minute, 45.820-second lap time.
The Audi R18 TDI was almost perfect in its debut at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring event on Saturday. The #1 Audi R18 TDI, handled by the driving team of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler, parlayed their Friday speed into Saturday race pace. When the #1 car was not leading the race early, one of the three team cars for Audi Sport Team Joest held the top race track position during the first four hours.
In the fourth hour, the harmonious rhythm of the three-car Audi R18 TDI squad would be impacted by an issue with the lead vehicle. Losing the lead first when a pit stop netted a stop-and-go penalty from the race stewards, the #1 Audi R18 TDI race car would crawl back to pit lane more than an hour later. A faulty electrical shifting unit on the gearbox would wind up taking the #1 car to the service area behind the pit wall. Costing the #1 Audi R18 17 laps, the car containing the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning driving trio returned to competition to finish fifth in the LMP1 category among the WEC registered vehicles.
Taking over from where the #1 car left off in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the #2 car piloted by the proven driving combination of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello went on the mission of with the R18 TDI prototype sports car. As day turned to night and the clock for the endurance race ticked down to zero, the #2 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 TDI won the 2012 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring by four laps over their #3 team car. “It was consistently fast and made it possible for us to be in contention from the beginning to the end.” said Allan McNish who celebrated his fourth overall win in the Sebring 12-hour race. Winning their first Sebring event since 2009, the #2 drive consisted of the same trio of drivers that brought an Audi R10 across the line on that occasion.
Despite the fact victory seemed easy for the #2 car squad, the winning drivers all combated challenges during the 12 hours of racing. “The car was running well but traffic was a real challenge and the temperatures around noon, when I was sitting in the cockpit for a long time, were pretty high.” said Tom Kristensen adding, “It was tough clinching victory here.” Technical Director for Audi Sport Team Joest added to Kristensen’s acknowledgment saying, “That was a pretty strenuous race. And our rivals were really close on our heels. They were a tiny bit slower than we but in the caution period they wouldn’t ease up on us. They only started having problems in the end. Those were eleven hours of hard work for us. Well done to Dindo (Capello), Tom (Kristensen) and Allan (McNish). It was a superb drive.” The triumph of the Audi squad against the 64-car field at the 2012 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring comes as another moment the German-based team conquered with superior technology, engineering, mechanics and drivers.
Attending the first race for the World Endurance Championship, FIA President Jean Todt was witness to the Audi Sport Team Joest operations at Sebring as they flew to sports car victory in 2012. With many dignitaries present, Audi captured the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring taking the overall victory as well as the first win for a prototype under the WEC body. Proud of the work of the whole racing operation, Head of Audi Motorsports Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich commented, “Obviously, it’s nice that after the tenth pole position for Audi at Sebring we managed to achieve the tenth victory as well. For us, it was a great start into the season and into the new FIA World Endurance Championship.”
The next FIA World Championship race for the Audi Sport Team Joest organization is the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 6th. This Belgium round of the 2012 series will feature the competitive debut of the diesel/electric Audi R18 e-tron quattro ahead of the 24 Hour of Le Mans event.