For last four years Audi R18 has been dominating the LMP1 class and the Le Mans race featuring space-age technology and materials. Successor of the victorious Audi R15 TDI the R18 is one of the fastest race cars world has ever seen and a rolling research laboratory with state of the art diesel-hybrid engine, electronics systems and construction techniques all of which is needed to conquer the famous Circuit de la Sarthe four times in a row.
Audi’s advanced race car was introduced in late 2010 with clear intentions of continuing the winning streak. The initial specifications was impressive with carbon fiber and aluminum monocoque all built from one piece for better rigidity, independent double-wishbone push (front) and pull (back) rod system and reliable and powerful 3,7 TDI diesel engine with 532 bhp. The car weighted exactly 900 kg and won the 2011 Le Mans in its first race season. For the 2012 season, R18 was improved according to the new set of regulations and gained a new name – R18 Ultra. However, the biggest news for 2012 were not a victory in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans (12th time in 14 years) but the introduction of a truly remarkable racing car – Audi R18 e-tron Quattro. Behind this strange name was a R18 but with hybrid power and all-wheel drive system. The basic diesel engine was retained but with a 500 kJ flywheel accumulator system, two 101 bhp Bosch Motor Generator Units driving the front wheels with water-cooled integrated power electronics, providing the car with four (quattro) wheel drive. This technical layout gave Audi an enormous mechanical advantage over the rest of the grid.
The R18 e-tron Quattro was raced during the 2013 season, winning the World Endurance Championship and 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans. Its combination of reliability, power, advanced technology and fuel economy, a very important factor in endurance races, proved to be unbeatable. For 2014, Audi modified the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro according to the new set of rules, giving it better fuel economy and electronic systems, which won them Le Mans again. One of the most interesting features of 2014 car are special LED headlights and GPS guided to illuminate a corner before the driver turns the wheel and to automatically lower its beams to to avoid blinding everyone in the pit lane.
Since the specifications of R18 e-tron Quattro are so high and the car is so advanced and efficient, it is safe to say that this Audi will be a relevant force in World Endurance Championship and LMP1 class for years to come. After four very successful seasons and four Le Mans wins, the competitors are very motivated to beat the R18 with similar technology and materials. This means that the most interesting endurance race battles are yet to come, so be prepared.