Down but not out, Audi is carrying forward its endurance racing program with the new R18 you see here. Unveiled on Saturday at the Audi Sport Finale end-of-season event in Munich, the new LMP1 is billed as the company’s its most powerful and efficient race car yet. And it has been thoroughly redesigned to bring the Four Ring brand back to the winner’s circle.
Though technical details remain a closely guarded secret, Audi says that the latest evolution of the R18 (now apparently labeled sans the E-Tron Quattro) benefits from revised aero, lightweight construction, and “a modified hybrid system with lithium-ion batteries for energy storage, plus an efficiency-optimized TDI engine.” That spells the end of the mechanical fly-wheel setup of the previous version, but sticks to the diesel fuel that Audi has championed instead of the gasoline favored by rivals Porsche and Toyota. With all its revisions, Ingolstadt undoubtedly hopes this latest version will perform better than the last.
This past season was the worst Audi has endured since 2009. Its sister company Porsche beat it to both the drivers’ andmanufacturers’ titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship and to the winner’s circle at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That marked the second straight year of defeat in the championship, following Toyota’s domination last season, and marked only the third time Audi was defeated at Le Mans since 2000, following Bentley’s win in ’03 and Peugeot’s in ’09.
In order to avoid costly inter-agency arms race, Audi and Porsche have agreed to each field two entries instead of three in both the championship and the headline race in Western France. Audi has yet to confirm its driver lineup, but Porsche has revealed its lineup consisting of defending champions Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, and Mark Webber in one car, and Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb in the other. That leaves out the Le Mans-winning trio of Nico Hülkenberg, Nick Tandy, and Earl Bamber, with the former already counted out due to an F1 conflict.