Audi Sport announced their latest weapon to defend their Le Mans victories, earlier this evening in Germany.
The Audi R18 is the first closed coupe Audi since the R8C in 1999.
In recent years, Audi have developed open cockpit Le Mans prototypes, while main rivals, Peugeot have concentrated on Coupe designs. Both offer advantages and disadvantages, but Audi now feel the Coupe route is the way to go.
Aerodynamics will play a larger role as engine size has been reduced for 2011. Audi will run an all new 3.7 Litre Twin Turbo V6 TDi. Downsizing engines is the latest trend in many forms of motorsport.
The R18 also shows off the vertical fin on the engine cover, which is now mandatory in all ACO championships.
Designed as a Safety feature, to reduce rollovers and flips, this ungainly device will be a feature of all prototypes.
This top view shows some interesting details, including tall rear fender flares with tapered inner surfaces. The engine air intake is at the front of the windscreen and blends into the vertical fin and engine cover. The chassis is now a single carbon conponent, to improve stiffness.
Audi also confirmed the car will have identical front and rear wheel diameters, pioneered by Acura/HPD in the ALMS. This allows for a more balanced weight distribution, but wider front fenders.
One of the most striking features is the nose. Similar to the R15, the new car has distinctive LED headlamps and will light up a ‘1’ in daytime running to remind Peugeot who won Le Mans!
The R18 will makes its debut at the Le Mans test day at the end of April, prior to its first race at Spa-Francorchamps 6 Hours in May.
Audi will enter three cars at the 24 hours of Le Mans in June. The R18 will make its American debut at next year’s Petit Le Mans.
In the meantime, this does mean Audi Sport will run the older R15 Plus at the Sebring 12 hours, one assumes with the vertical fin.An extensive testing programme is already underway. The R18 taking to the track last month in the hands of Allan McNish.
Peugeot have tested their 90X prototype, but have not made a formal announcement on their 2011 car.
I wonder if Batman needs a new car?
All images: Audi