Audi pins 2011 sportscar hopes on new coupe


The R18 is the latest Audi sports car with which Allan McNish hopes to score his third and the German manufacturer's 10th Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race win next June.

Organisers of Le Mans have ruled that significantly smaller engines must be fitted for the 2011 race, with the aim to reduce power. As such, the R18 is fitted with a brand new 3.7-litre TDI turbocharged diesel engine and six-speed transmission.

Drawing from experience gained from the R8, R10 TDI and the R15 TDI sports cars, the new R18 features a number of new aerodynamic features. The most obvious is the 'closed' cockpit design, the first since the 1999 R8C coupe.

Engineers at Audi Sport were able to draw on the experiences gained in 1999 with the R8C and in 2003 with the LMP1 from "sister brand" Bentley, that was also victorious at Le Mans. Other influences included the A4 DTM, from which the R18 borrows its ventilation system and heated front windscreen.

According to Audi, the reason for the 'closed' design is that aerodynamics will be more significant at Le Mans than it was in the past. As such, a fixed roof is much sleeker.

Other unique design features of the R18 include the headlights, which are the first to be totally made up of LEDs. The daytime lights cleverly form the shape of a number "1", which Audi claim is intended to be associated with Audi's historic brand locations.

The R18 is also the first Audi Le Mans sports car to be fitted with identically sized front and rear wheels. According to Audi, this configuration gives the R18 a more evenly balanced weight distribution.

Audi first took part in Le Mans back in 1999. Since then it has racked up nine overall victories (2000-2, 2004-8, 2010) from 12 attempts, which is an impressive record, while Audi drivers have stepped onto the winners' rostrum on every occasion. This year, Audi completed its third 1-2-3 finish in the world's toughest twice-around-the-clock motor race.

To see more of Audi's agressive new Le Mans challenger check out the video below and as always let us know what you think.