Audi has officially put its new R18 Le Mans racer and all nine of its factory drivers through their paces. The pair of closed-cockpit Audi bruisers and one last-generation R15 TDI spent some time lapping Sebring as part of preparations for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. Each of the cadre of pilots was able to get some seat time in all three vehicles. Interestingly enough, Audi has made it clear that the R15 "Plus Plus" will campaign alone at this year's 12 Hours of Sebring. Audi typically uses the venue as a dry run for new hardware before showing up in France.
At this point, it appears that he R18 will enjoy its race debut at Le Mans instead. Audi motorsport boss Wolfgang Ullrich said that Sebring offers up a unique test of any race car's mechanicals, and that the warm, dry weather in Florida is more conducive to testing than European venues. Hit the jump for the full press blast.
* Two new Audi R18 cars used in tests at Sebring (USA)
* Preparation for the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours
* All nine "factory" drivers shared the test tasks
Ingolstadt, January 31 - Four and a half months before the Le Mans 24 Hours, preparations for the endurance classic are in full swing at Audi. Two new Audi R18 cars and one Audi R15 TDI were used in tests at Sebring (U.S. state of Florida).
The program planned for the tradition-steeped American circuit specified endurance runs for one of the completely re-developed LMP1 sports cars while the second Audi R18 was primarily used for development work. The Audi R15 "plus plus" that will be fielded at the 12-hour race at Sebring - the season opener of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) - completed a long run as well. In addition, the basic setup for the race in March was worked out on the vehicle.
During the tests, which ended on Saturday, the nine Audi "factory" drivers took turns at the wheel so that all of them had the opportunity to drive each of the three sports cars.
"We're very pleased with the performance of the Audi R18 at our first outing at Sebring," said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "We opted for this race track because it makes high demands on the mechanical systems of our vehicles. The temperatures are better than in Europe right now, plus the dry weather provides us with assurance that we're able to conduct the endurance runs as planned. On a wet track the loads would be lower and the test results therefore less conclusive."