Following up on the immense success of the R10 TDI race car, Audi has been hard at work on its successor. A pair of new R15 TDI race cars will make their race debut at the Sebring 12-hour race next month, but the highly anticipated Le Mans Prototype has already been seen running development laps.

In developing the R15 TDI, Audi's motorsport engineers had to cope with new LMP1 regulations that place restrictions on downforce, while also trying to gain ground against the newer 908 HDi campaigned by rival Peugeot. The new R15 features a wider, higher front nose derived from the latest Formula One designs, radiators moved forward and a sleeker rear end with tail-lights integrated into the redesigned rear wing. Audi has also apparently chosen to stick with an open-cockpit design instead of the new school of closed cockpits embraced by Peugeot and Aston Martin's new LMP1 racer. We'll have to wait until Sebring on March 21 to see the R15 TDI in full race livery, but Italian magazine Sport Auto and British racing resource Autosport have already gotten a hold of shots of the car testing at Spain's Vallelunga circuit, so follow the links below to catch a glimpse.

[Source: Audi via Autosport and Sport Auto]
PRESS RELEASE

Two new Audi R15 TDI at Sebring opener

# Race debut of new diesel sports car on 21 March
# 12-hour race in Florida is stern test for Le Mans
# Audi Sport Team Joest with proven driver teams


Ingolstadt/Sebring – The eagerly awaited first race of the new diesel sports car from AUDI AG draws ever closer: Audi Sport Team Joest contests the notorious 12-hour race at Sebring, Florida on 21 March with two Audi R15 TDI. The US endurance classic will act as stern test and dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 13 /14 June 2009.

The new Audi R15 TDI is packed with numerous technically innovative detail solutions and differs significantly from its predecessor model the R10 TDI which was undefeated at Le Mans. The first tests with the new LMP1 prototype have been successfully completed.

"So far the R15 TDI has performed as we expected," explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Now it must also prove itself in race conditions. Sebring is a particularly hard race and is therefore perfectly suited to reveal even the smallest of weaknesses."

Proven drivers sit at the wheel of the two new prototypes. One driver line-up is formed by defending Le Mans winners Dindo Capello (Italy), Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Allan McNish (Scotland). The Germans Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner take turns at the wheel of the sister R15 TDI. Audi Sport Team Joest competed last year at Sebring in this formation.

Every new Le Mans Prototype from AUDI AG celebrated its race debut at the race track in the heart of Florida. In Audi's first ever sports car race in 1999
Audi Sport Team Joest claimed a podium position first time out with the Audi R8R. A year later the Audi R8 triumphed on its debut at Sebring. On the premiere of the R10 TDI in 2006 Audi landed the first victory worldwide for a diesel powered sports car in an important endurance race.

The brand with the four rings has won the 12-hour race at Sebring, which also forms the opening race of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), a total of eight times, the last time in 2007.