The 2014 iteration of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro made its Le Mans debut, but rather than do so at the Circuit de la Sarthe Tom Kristensen drove the car through the city streets out to the circuit as part of a motorcade.
“I’ve been competing at Le Mans since 1997 but this was absolutely new for me, too, and very exciting,” said the nine time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner of the experience which took him on a ten kilometre route through the historic circuit starting at the Saint-Julien du Mans Cathedral before taking a lap of the short Bugatti Circuit and finishing at the track’s Welcome Centre.
The car, built to the new LMP1 regulations for this year’s FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) is powered by a four litre V6 diesel engine, enlarged from the 3.6 litre unit of the previous car.
The hybrid element of the car can recover up to two megajoules of energy stored in a flywheel system that delivers its power exclusively to the front axle.
“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 favourable operating strategy – combined with durability, which is the basic prerequisite for success at Le Mans.”
Also changed for 2014 is the livery on the car, with Audi attributing each of four the four colours a conceptual meaning that are combined in the racer; the silver base colour represents Audi’s prior success in racing, the asymmetrical white the complexity of hybrid drivetrain.
The red is Audi’s traditional performance colour while the black represents the car’s light weight design.
“The black look of the large fin on the engine cover is intended to represent something like a backbone,” explains Dirk van Braeckel, Design Manager Motorsport and Special Projects at Audi.
“The reflective livery is particularly impressive at night and provides the spectators with an enhanced experience,” he continues. “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.”
The R18 e-tron Quattro will get its public track debut during the two day official pre-season WEC test at Paul Ricard on March 28-29. Silverstone will host the first race of the 2014 season with the new Audi set to take on the new challengers from Toyota and Porsche at the front of the field.