There's plenty to be excited about in this year's Le Mans racing season, and the new Audi R18 TDI arguably ranks chief among them. Audi's new fixed-roof racer will make its debut at the Spa 1000km race next weekend, showing for the first time what it can do against a competitive field ahead of June's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"Although we tested at Le Mans recently, we'll learn a lot more about the new Audi R18 TDI and also how it fares against the competition at Spa," said Audi's double champion Allan McNish in preparation for the Belgian endurance race. "The 20-minute qualifying session on Friday afternoon will be the first time when we'll see the true performance of all of the new cars because it will be the first time when everybody is on the same playing field together at the same time."
That may not exactly be the case, however, because while Audi's chief rival Peugeot is sure to be mounting its own challenge, word has it that Aston Martin will sit this one out. The British team is also fielding a new racer in the AMR-One, but rather than take the opportunity to put its new LMP through the paces in a real racing scenario as Audi will, Aston's focus is on testing the car before the main event at La Sarthe. Follow the jump for official press releases from both teams.
[Sources: Audi, Aston Martin]
McNISH & AUDI TO GIVE RACE DEBUT OF R18 TDI IN SPA 1,000KM
Allan McNish gives the new Audi R18 TDI an important race début when the Scotsman competes in the second round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Spa in Belgium of Saturday (7 May).
McNish lines-up with regular co-drivers Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Dindo Capello (Italy) in the new diesel-engined R18 Coupé for the 1,000km race around the stunning 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps track.
Spa takes on the added importance of it being the first and only race for the R18 TDI before the Le Mans 24 Hours (11-12 June) meaning Audi Sport will use the near six-hour race in the Ardennes region as a full, three-car "dress rehearsal" for the prestigious French race.
"It's essentially two races in one because I'll have one eye on the Spa race and claiming as many points towards the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup as possible while also looking at the bigger picture of the Le Mans 24 Hours," stated Allan who finished third in the corresponding Belgian race 12 months ago.
"Although we tested at Le Mans recently, we'll learn a lot more about the new Audi R18 TDI and also how it fares against the competition at Spa. The 20-minute qualifying session on Friday afternoon will be the first time when we'll see the true performance of all of the new cars because it will be the first time when everybody is on the same playing field together at the same time.
"Dindo, Tom and myself were very close at Spa last year in the R15 TDI which we ran in a Le Mans track set-up. We have a good chance going into the event but it will be a testing one and I am looking forward to seeing how things shake out."
McNish, Kristensen and Capello recovered superbly to claim fourth place at the chequered flag in the opening ILMC race at Sebring, the trio having led the field several times before one of the "factory" Peugeot sportscars miscalculated an overtaking manoeuvre and hit their Audi R15 TDI with Capello at the wheel.
"Spa gives us a chance to bounce back in the ILMC from the disappointment of not taking top honours at Sebring in March," continued McNish. "We managed to salvage fourth position and get some points on the board and hopefully Spa will give us another opportunity of a good points haul."
A magnificent field of 60-cars is entered for the Spa race. Meanwhile ILMC organisers have announced that a six-hour race at Zhuhai in China will close the seven-race series on 12 November – McNish and Kristensen having claimed second place in the corresponding race last year.
"Spa is a circuit that every driver looks forward to and this year more than most for us at Audi Sport because of the R18 TDI's race debut," continued McNish. "We were up against our competition at the Le Mans test day and we know it's very fierce. As a driver when you finish a lap around Spa, you know you have worked very hard for it."
Aston Martin Racing to sit out Spa to continue AMR-One Development
Gaydon, 28 April 2011. Aston Martin Racing has made the decision not to contest the 1000km of Spa Francorchamps on 7th May, but instead to focus on the ongoing AMR-One testing and development programme.
The ground up developed AMR-One, Aston Martin's new LMP1 prototype racer which features a new turbo-charged direct injection 2.0 litre straight six petrol engine experienced difficulties at the Le Mans test with the engine plasma cylinder lining. The ambitious project which is still in its early stages of a three year plan began in September last year.
David Richards, Aston Martin Racing Chairman said: "We could go to the Spa 1000km race in May, but this race meeting will set an agenda for us that doesn't allow us to achieve what we need to accomplish. We need to complete our testing at our own pace including engine, aero and long distance tests."