A year in which Audi Motorsport reclaimed the Le Mans 24 Hours crown will end with the manufacturer taking its R15 TDI global as it participates in the inaugural Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC).
The three race series begins on September 12 with a 1000km race at Silverstone – the final race of the Le Mans Series – before crossing the Atlantic for 1000 miles of Road Atlanta at Petit Le Mans – the American Le Mans Series finale – and ending with a six-hour race at Zhuhai, China.
“Audi has been involved in sports prototype racing since 1999 and has had the vision of a worldwide racing series for these types of vehicles ever since,” says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport. “We're delighted that the ACO [Auto Club de l'Ouest] is now translating this vision into reality. The Intercontinental Le Mans Cup gives us the opportunity to compete with our sports prototypes in very important markets.”
Audi Sport Team Joest will enter two cars in each of the three races, multiple Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish teaming up in one car to lead the Audi challenge. Dindo Capello, the most successful driver in ALMS competition with 29 wins, will join the pair for Petit Le Mans.
The Italian will also race in the other two rounds, partnering a pair of this year's Le Mans winners – Timo Bernhard at Silverstone and Romain Dumas for Zhuhai. Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Andre Lotterer will drive the second R15 for the American leg, reforming the team that finished second in June.
The entry for the threesome comes largely as Audi work towards retaining their Le Mans title, having already confirmed that there will be no changes to their driving line-ups for next year's race. “Because there's only a make and team but no driver classification we're using the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup as an opportunity to integrate the drivers who haven't competed for us very often, even better with our team,” explained Dr. Ullrich.
The Intercontinental Le Mans Cup is expected to the final challenge for the R15, Audi working on a new car – internally called the R18 – for the 2011 season to take advantage of the new rules set out by the ACO, continuing the development that has seen technology passed from race to road cars.
“In view of the new ACO regulations that will come into effect in 2011 light-weight design combined with high strength and durability, energy recovery and fuel-efficient engines will become even more important than they've been in the past,” says Dr. Ullrich. “All of these are topics which our colleagues on the production side at Audi are deeply involved in as well. Audi is known for its highly efficient vehicles and can demonstrate this in sports prototype racing events on the track as well.”
The “R18” will be Audi's entry into the ILMC's successor next year – a planned seven event series taking teams around the world, with the Le Mans 24 Hours at its heart, which organisers the ACO will continue in the tradition of the Sportscar World Championship which ran from 1953 until 1984.
That will be the next leg of Audi's world tour.