Audi began the 2014 WEC season with a spectacular appearance. The new Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro did not do its initial kilometers at Le Mans on the revolutionary race track in Western France but in public traffic. Tom Kristensen, Audi factory driver with nine victories under his belt the record holder of Le Mans 24 Hours, drove the diesel hybrid sportscar from Saint-Julien du Mans cathedral in the city center to the famous race track. Featured in a live worldwide broadcast on the internet and accompanied by photographers and TV cameras, Audi’s new LMP1 racecar completed the near-10-kilometer distance through the city in a motorcade, did a lap on the Circuit Bugatti and arrived in front of the race track’s modern Welcome Center amid the applause of the invited international guests and journalists. Tom Kristensen, who in 2006 had driven the legendary Audi R10 TDI on its world premiere in Paris in public traffic said, “I’ve been competing at Le Mans since 1997 but this was absolutely new for me, too, and very exciting.”
Besides the unusual drive which brought back memories of a Le Mans era from the distant past when the drivers would arrive in their own racecars, Audi surprised the public with a new livery of the Le Mans car. While the body of new Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro was still black with red details when the vehicle made its world debut in December, a stunning color scheme now catches the eye. The new color scheme of silver, white, black and red stands for expressive, fresh graphics. Dirk van Braeckel, Design Manager Motorsport and Special Projects at Audi explained the colors are symbolic. “Silver highlights the past success in racing. As a very quiet color, it offers the base for our livery. White, as the second color, harmonizes well with silver and appears very light. It stands for the hybrid drive. White is used asymmetrically in order to represent the complexity of this powertrain technology.” The contours are modeled after the conductive tracks on PCBs, but clearly featured as an abstraction.
The next color is black. It is used for the rear and front wings, as well as on sections of the sides and fenders with highly defined geometric contours. “We opted for matt black, as it nicely contrasts with the gloss white,” says van Braeckel. Black stands for lightweight design. The black look of the large fin on the engine cover is intended to symbolize something like a backbone. A unique red – Audi’s performance color – completes the graphics. Special characteristics include Audi’s inscriptions and logos, which are exclusively applied to these areas, the reflecting surfaces of elements, in addition to pronounced longitudinal orientation of the color in the overall concept. Van Braeckel explained, the reflective livery is particularly impressive at night and offers the spectators with an enhanced experience. Due to its longitudinal orientation the graphics express the speed that is so typical for Le Mans. Even the rims include a red segment. Due to the wheel rotation, it achieves a very dynamic effect.
More Cubic Capacity For Higher Efficiency
The Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro did not only cause a sensation on its drive through Le Mans because of its striking livery. At the beginning of a fundamentally new technological era, Audi published the key technical data of the racecar’s powertrain as well. For example, the cubic capacity of V6 TDI engine increased from 3.7 to 4.0 liters in order to further optimize the engine, which had already been very efficient. After testing various energy recovery systems, the automaker decided to compete in the class of up to two megajoules of recuperation energy at Le Mans. The energy exclusively flows through a motor generator unit (MGU) at the front axle and is stored in a flywheel energy storage system. Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport said “We opted for this concept following extensive testing.” “In our opinion, it offers the optimum balance between size, efficient energy use, energy conversion efficiency, weight, drivability, a favorable operating strategy and responsiveness – combined with durability that’s the basic prerequisite for success at Le Mans.”
On 28th and 29th March, the Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro will participate in the official test of the FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship) at Le Castellet (France) before World Champions Audi starts its title defense at Silverstone in United Kingdom on 20th April.