Imagine having a diesel-hybrid racecar drive by your side while commuting. That is what happened to drivers around France’s town of Le Castellet.
Audi’s Audi R18 e-tron quattro began the 2014 WEC season not on the legendary race track in Western France but in public traffic. Audi said factory driver Tom Kristensen, with nine victories under his belt the record holder of the Le Mans 24 Hours, drove the diesel hybrid race car from the Saint-Julien du Mans cathedral in the city center to the famous race track.
Of course, such a drive was accompanied by TV cameras and photographers.
Audi’s new LMP1 race car completed the near-ten-kilometer distance through the city in a motorcade, did a lap on the Circuit Bugatti and arrived in front of the race track’s modern Welcome Center.
“I’ve been competing at Le Mans since 1997 but this was absolutely new for me, too, and very exciting,” said Tom Kristensen, who in 2006 had driven the Audi R10 TDI on its world premiere – in Paris – in public traffic as well.
Aside from the unusual drive which brought back memories of a Le Mans era from the distant past when the drivers would arrive in their own race cars, Audi said it surprised the public with a new livery of the Le Mans car.
While the body of the new R18 e-tron quattro was still black with red details when the car made its world debut in December, a different color scheme now adorns the car. The new color scheme combines white, silver, red and black.
“The colors are symbolic,” explains Dirk van Braeckel, Design Manager Motorsport and Special Projects at Audi. “Silver emphasizes the past success in racing. As a very quiet color, it provides the base for our livery. White, as the second color, harmonizes well with silver and appears very light. It stands for the hybrid drive. White is used asymmetrically in order to symbolize the complexity of this powertrain technology. The next color is black. It is used for the front and rear wings, as well as on sections of the fenders and sides with highly defined geometric contours. We opted for matt black, as it nicely contrasts with the gloss white. Black stands for light-weight design. The black look of the large fin on the engine cover is intended to represent something like a backbone.”
A unique red – Audi’s performance color – completes the graphics. Special characteristics include the reflecting surfaces of the elements, Audi’s logos and inscriptions that are exclusively applied to these areas, as well as the pronounced longitudinal orientation of the color in the overall concept.
“The reflective livery is particularly impressive at night and provides the spectators with an enhanced experience,” explains van Braeckel. “Due to its longitudinal orientation the graphics express the speed that is so typical for Le Mans. Even the rims include a red segment. Due to the wheel rotation, it achieves a very dynamic effect.”
Audi also revealed more technical details about the Audi R18 e-tron quattro. For instance, the cubic capacity of the V6 TDI power plant was increased from 3.7 to four liters in order to further optimize the engine that had already been very efficient.
After testing various energy recovery systems, Audi said it decided to compete in the class of up to two megajoules of recuperation energy at Le Mans. The energy exclusively flows through a motor generator unit (MGU) at the front axle and is stored in a flywheel energy storage system.
“We opted for this concept following extensive testing,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “In our opinion, it provides the optimum balance between efficient energy use, size, weight, energy conversion efficiency, responsiveness, drivability and a favorable operating strategy – combined with durability, which is the basic prerequisite for success at Le Mans.”
March 28 and 29 is when the Audi R18 e-tron quattro will be participating in the official test of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Le Castellet (France). The championship officially begins at Silverstone in the UK on April 20.