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Technology check Audi R18 for 2016: radical LMP1 racer

Audi R18 technology check for Le Mans 2016
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A udi took part in the development of his 2016 LMP1 cars have left no stone unturned. With the last expansion stage of the R18, the engineers have reached a level of complexity that impressed not only the opponents but also the inventors themselves. Jörg Zander, Head of Technology at Audi Sport, describes the radical prototype as a “new beginning and a leap in technology.” We looked at the complete new design in detail.


The extreme aerodynamics The outside of the concept of the Audi R18 cannot be overlooked. The nose protrudes slim and high from the front section. It is more reminiscent of a Formula 1 car than an LMP1 racer. The aim of the engineers was to lead more air into the underflow towards the underbody and the airflow through the side air ducts in the car.

'Generating downforce in these areas is more efficient in terms of air resistance than through overflow , in other words over wings standing freely in the wind, ”explains Zander. Hundreds of hours were spent in the Sauber F1 team's wind tunnel in order to reduce air resistance while maintaining the downforce level of 2015. It is well known that low air resistance not only has a positive effect on top speed but also on fuel consumption.

In addition to the higher and narrower nose, the setback of the cockpit also ensures improved aerodynamic efficiency. Only then was it possible to create enough space for the air ducts in the front building. Due to the lack of space, an electrically assisted steering was even switched to an electrohydraulic one.

In order to ensure that the radical aero concept delivers constant downforce in every situation, the chassis was also extensively and complexly converted: a lift-roll system allowed it is necessary to adjust roll and pitch phenomena separately. On top of that comes a FRIC (Front Rear Interconnected) chassis, which keeps the aero platform stable during almost all maneuvers.


When it comes to the engine, Audi stayed with the reliable and economical V6 TDI faithful. The four-liter engine with a 120 degree cylinder bank angle has been further optimized in terms of weight and combustion. According to our information, 4 kilograms were saved. Thanks to the use of magnesium (instead of aluminum), the new turbocharger also helps to reduce weight. At the same time, the efficiency should have been improved.

But there is hardly any potential for large ones in the combustion engineWhen there was a leap in performance, the engineers focused on converting the hybrid environment. The R18 switched from the 4 to the 6 MJ class in 2016. The electric power is now stored in batteries instead of a flywheel mass storage device. For reasons of weight, only recuperation on the front brakes was possible with the diesel. The output is 350 kW.

The lithium-ion storage units, together with the hybrid components that are more powerful for 8MJ, weigh more than the old flywheel solution - allegedly in the range of 30 kilograms. For safety reasons, the batteries must be stowed in the cell of the monocoque. Because the cockpit moved backwards for aerodynamic reasons, as mentioned, the engineers placed the batteries very far in front next to the pilot's footwell.

However, despite this measure, there was still too much weight on the rear axle also castrated the transmission. Instead of 7 gears, 6 speed steps must now be sufficient.

Audi is allowed a maximum of 13 lap stints in Driving Le Mans. The competition one lap more.


The major changes in the vehicle concept meant that Audi had fewer test kilometers than the competition could reel off. It was just 5,000 to 6,000 kilometers before the World Cup season pretest in Paul Ricard. For comparison: Toyota came to 22,000, Porsche to 23,000 test kilometers.

That was not without effect. The transfer case, which directs the hybrid boost to the front axle, caused major problems at the start of the season. However, the engineers were optimistic about reinforcing the mechanical component in such a way that it survived the Le Mans distance. During the last pre-tests, no external problems could be seen in this area.

The only longer downtime at the dress rehearsal 14 days before the 24h race was caused by a fixed FRIC damper in the front end. The suspension had become so stubbornly wedged that it took the mechanics 75 minutes to repair it. First an attempt was made to cut out the damper with a hand saw. In the end, only the use of an electric saw helped. Zander took it with gallows humor: “We have to do better when it comes to sawingset up ”, was the consequence of the incident.


So when it comes to reliability, the engineers still have a few lines of concern. In terms of speed, on the other hand, you are on par with the competition. In the last test at Le Mans, Audi even set the fastest time, just under a second ahead of Porsche. However, the Zuffenhausen-based company could also have been faster. However, the session had to be terminated prematurely due to an accident shortly before Porsche went on the planned time hunt.

Analyzes of the competition show that the R18 is also well sorted out over the distance. In recent years, Audi often had the problem that the front tires were too cold because they cooled down too much on the long straights. Stiffer wheel suspensions and modified kinematics should now ensure that the rubbers are more stressed when driving in a straight line and that the temperature is maintained better.

One disadvantage compared to the competition is known even before the race: According to the regulations, only the vehicles from the 8 MJ hybrid class drive 14 laps in a row at Le Mans. Or to put it another way: only Audi is not allowed to do that. The R18 has to head for the pit after 13 laps. To compensate for this, Audi has to drive an average of 0.4 seconds per lap faster than Porsche and Toyota over a distance of around 400 laps at Le Mans.

The two surprising victories at Silverstone and Spa have shown, however that the basic speed is available at Audi. Hopefully the shelf life will come. The Audi engineers rely on the old motorsport adage: It is much easier to make a fast car durable than a durable fast one.

In our gallery we show the most interesting technical features of the Audi R18 in detail and reveal how the Aero package for Le Mans differs from the normal configurations.


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