Click above to enlarge

It really is a shame that Audi has pulled out of the American and European Le Mans Series, choosing only to run its new R15 TDI Le Mans Prototype racer at this year's 12 Hours of Sebring in March and 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. All that money, effort and time to develop a replacement for one of the winningest cars in all of motorsports seems like a waste on just two races, even if they are the sport's biggest.

This image released by Audi shows the design of the new R15 TDI ahead of its track debut in March. The new diesel-powered prototype car is much more radical compared to the R10 that it replaces than that car was to the R8. The most noteworthy difference is a new front end with an elevated nose that features two supports extending down to the pavement-scraping front chin spoiler. There's clearly some F1 influence up front, though Audi opted not to switch to a closed cockpit design like Peugeot uses for its 908 HDi.

The new R15 TDI will makes its race debut on March 21 at the 12 Hours of Sebring where its predecessors, the R10 and R8, have won eight times. Two cars will be campaigned using the same driver teams as last year: defending Le Mans winners Dindo Capello (Italy), Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Allan McNish (Scotland) in one car and Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner in the second. With Acura now competing against Audi in the LMP1 class and Aston Martin joining the fray in June at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we reiterate our sentiment that it's a damn shame the R15 TDI will only be campaigned twice.

[Source: Audi]


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, Germany, Feb 10, 2009 - 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.