Audi pins hopes on 2016 R18 Le Mans prototype

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Down but not out, Audi is carrying forward its endurance racing program with the new R18 you see here. Unveiled on Saturday at the Audi Sport Finale end-of-season event in Munich, the new LMP1 is billed as the company's its most powerful and efficient race car yet. And it has been thoroughly redesigned to bring the Four Ring brand back to the winner's circle.

Though technical details remain a closely guarded secret, Audi says that the latest evolution of the R18 (now apparently labeled sans the E-Tron Quattro) benefits from revised aero, lightweight construction, and "a modified hybrid system with lithium-ion batteries for energy storage, plus an efficiency-optimized TDI engine." That spells the end of the mechanical fly-wheel setup of the previous version, but sticks to the diesel fuel that Audi has championed instead of the gasoline favored by rivals Porsche and Toyota. With all its revisions, Ingolstadt undoubtedly hopes this latest version will perform better than the last.

This past season was the worst Audi has endured since 2009. Its sister company Porsche beat it to both the drivers' and manufacturers' titles in the FIA World Endurance Championship and to the winner's circle at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That marked the second straight year of defeat in the championship, following Toyota's domination last season, and marked only the third time Audi was defeated at Le Mans since 2000, following Bentley's win in '03 and Peugeot's in '09.

In order to avoid costly inter-agency arms race, Audi and Porsche have agreed to each field two entries instead of three in both the championship and the headline race in Western France. Audi has yet to confirm its driver lineup, but Porsche has revealed its lineup consisting of defending champions Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley, and Mark Webber in one car, and Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb in the other. That leaves out the Le Mans-winning trio of Nico Hülkenberg, Nick Tandy, and Earl Bamber, with the former already counted out due to an F1 conflict.
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​More powerful and efficient than ever before: Audi R18 celebrates world premiere in Munich

- New hybrid race car for the 2016 Le Mans 24 Hours
- Unchanged driver line-up in the DTM
- High demand for new Audi R8 LMS GT3 sports car

The brand with the four rings will be entering the 2016 motorsport season with the most powerful and efficient race car Audi has ever built. The new Audi R18 celebrated its world premiere on the occasion of the Audi Sport Finale at the Audi Training Center Munich on Saturday. In the DTM, Audi has opted for continuity with an unchanged driver line-up. In GT racing, the new Audi R8 LMS is facing its first full racing season. For the 2016 Audi Sport TT Cup, 125 candidates have applied for the 20 available entries.

Audi Sport has fundamentally re-designed the Audi R18 for the 2016 season. The LMP1 race car that competes in the Le Mans 24 Hours and in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) features innovative aerodynamics, represents the next stage in lightweight design and has a modified hybrid system with lithium-ion batteries for energy storage, plus an efficiency-optimized TDI engine.

"With our new Audi R18, we're setting a clear signal: Audi continues to put the pedal to the metal in motorsport, deliberately relying on TDI – the world's most successful automotive efficiency technology – at Le Mans," says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.

In the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) that will start at Silverstone (Great Britain) on April 17, Audi Sport Team Joest will be fielding two new Audi R18 cars. In the interest of maximum cost efficiency, Audi and its Group sister brand Porsche, have both agreed to each compete in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the WEC season's pinnacle event, with only two instead of the most recent three cars.

In the DTM, Audi relies on continuity. All of the eight drivers that were in the field in 2015, scoring ten Audi victories in 18 races, will remain on board. The only change: Adrien Tambay and Nico Müller are swapping teams. Audi Sport expects this move to provide the brand's two youngest DTM drivers with new impulses. The eight Audi RS 5 DTM cars will continue to be fielded by the long-standing Audi Sport Teams Abt Sportsline, Phoenix and Rosberg.

In GT racing, the development of the new Audi R8 LMS has been completed and deliveries to customers have begun. Due to the high demand, Audi Sport customer racing is exploring possibilities to expand the production scheduled for the 2016 season. Originally, 45 cars were planned.

Audi customer teams will be fielding the new Audi R8 LMS on four continents in the 2016 season. In the Audi R8 LMS Cup in Asia, the new model will be debuting in 2016 as well. Special highlights on the calendar of Audi Sport customer racing are the two 24-hour races at the Nürburgring (D) and at Spa (B), the 12-hour race at Bathurst (AUS) and the FIA GT World Cup in Macau (MAC).

Following its successful inaugural season, the Audi Sport TT Cup will again be held as part of the supporting program of selected DTM events. The number of permanent entrants will increase from 18 to 20. The final selection of the young drivers will be made following an evaluation course at Vallelunga (I) on December 4/5. In total, quattro GmbH received 125 applications from 35 nations.

"We're proud about being able to again represent the Audi brand in 2016 with such an extensive commitment in motorsport," says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "The new Audi R18 marks a major step that we're expecting a lot of at Le Mans and in the WEC. In the DTM, we already had the strongest car in 2015. That's what we'd like to build upon. Plus, the high demand for the new Audi R8 LMS is equally gratifying as the many young talents that are interested in the Audi Sport TT Cup."

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