Tuesday
Mar102009

Inside Audi’s R15 TDI

© Copyright Audi MotorsportOn Monday, Audi unveiled its newest weapon, the R15 TDI. The public launch of the second-generation diesel-powered prototype actually came a week earlier than expected, as the German automaker had originally planned to take the wraps off the car just prior to its race debut at Sebring. But instead, the R15 TDI debuted on a deserted test track in Ingolstadt, with Lucas Luhr handling the driving duties aboard the fully liveried No. 1 machine.

While spy photos of the R15 TDI surfaced on the internet and motorsports magazines weeks before, the official shots released by Audi Motorsport confirms what many had speculated in the last few weeks. Audi has ditched its twelve-cylinder diesel engine for a smaller and more compact V10 unit. Press material states the new engine produces “more than 600hp, with a maximum torque output in excess of 1,050 newton meters.”

Audi says fuel consumption and CO2 emissions have also been reduced due to the smaller powerplant, and even small improvements such as the use of a lithium-ion battery were mentioned in the release. LED technology has been built into the R15 TDI’s headlights, another energy-saver.

Like Acura’s ARX-02a which was unveiled at the Sebring Winter Test in January, Audi has gone the route of utilizing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to refine the car’s aerodynamics. Marshall Pruett, automotive editor at SPEEDtv.com, has nicknamed the R15 TDI a “platypus” for its large front nose. To me, it’s reminiscent of a WR, or even a Picchio Daytona Prototype, and it may take some getting used to for some.

Hidden underneath the Audi’s front-end is a reworked suspension, hence the raised nose. The R15 TDI even has a larger wheelbase than its predecessor, which should provide more agility on the track.

Overall, I’m quite impressed by Audi’s new baby, although the most disappointing thing right now is the fact that its only slated to compete in two races this year: Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There were reports indicating that an Audi executive confirmed the R15 TDI’s participation at the Petit Le Mans and American Le Mans season-finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, but it appears those quotes were taken out of context.

Either way, the Twelve Hours of Sebring is shaping up to be the race of the decade. Audi vs. Peugeot vs. Acura; who will win? Honestly, it’s any body’s guess, especially with two of those three cars being brand new. If you can’t get to the track to see it in person, be sure to stay glued to your television and computer, because it’s going to be a classic!

« NASCAR: An Empty Grandstand Headed Your Way! | Main | Historic Sebring »