Meet the new Audi R18

Audi was testing their new Le Mans competitor at Sebring last week.  While they ran the R15+ at this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring, they’re busy testing the new car with the racing debut planned for Spa-Francorchamps May 8th.

This is their first closed-top coupe since the 1999 R8C.

In an attempt to reduce the engine power, the ACO mandated significantly smaller engines than those used before.  Audi decided to go with a 3.7-liter V6 TDI unit, a smaller version of their diesel engine that it first won with in 2006.  Previously, the Audi R15 ran a 5.5-liter V10 TDI and the R10 had a 5.5-liter V12 TDI.

Another new development is the six-speed transmission in the R18, which has been specifically modified for use with the smaller engine.  The R10 and R15 had five-speed transmissions.

Something else new is the fitting of identically sized front and rear wheels is new to an Audi Le Mans sports car.  This configuration allows a more balanced weight distribution.

The R18’s headlights, which are the first to completely consist of LEDs with optimized amount of light, are a technical highlight.  The new generation of headlights were developed in close cooperation between Audi Sport and the Technical Development division of AUDI AG and by using at Le Mans, will be prepared for future use in production vehicles.

The development of the new Audi R18 started in mid 2009. The V6 TDI engine has been running on the dynamometers since the summer of 2010.

Prior to racing at Le Mans, the new prototype will be able to do its first laps on the race track at Le Mans during the official test day on April 24 and gather important data for the race on June 11-12.

Audi is planning to field three Audi R18 cars at Le Mans, which will be entered by Audi Sport Team Joest, the most successful Le Mans team of all time.

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