Audi is planning to storm next season's Intercontinental Le Mans Cup with their first closed cockpit car in over ten years.
Audi showed their all new R18 LMP1 car for the first time at a ceremony in Ingolstadt, Germany today, and if it goes anything like it looks, then it should be extremely rapid. The R18 is first closed cockpit Audi prototype since the R8C, which competed at Le Mans in 1999.
New restrictions dictated by the ACO for 2011 finally pushed Audi to put a roof on their race car. The most extreme of these new rules are the new engine regulations, which encourage smaller displacement units over the larger ten and twelve-cylinder diesels that have dominated Le Mans over the past few years. Smaller displacement equals less power, which means aerodynamics will be of tantamount importance.
The R18 is powered by a 3.7 liter TDI V6 designed by Audi's now-legendary Ulrich Baretzky. It turns out that the rumors surrounding the possibility of some sort of energy recovery system were half right. It doesn't currently sport any such system, but Audi said that they have engineered the car so that one could be added later. In a departure from the R10 and the R15, both of which had five speeds, the transmission will be a six-speed assembly. Other noteworthy features include a single piece carbon fiber monocoque chassis and LED headlamps.
Audi plans to campaign the entire Intercontinental Le Mans cup next year, but the R18 won't make its race debut until the second round in Belgium. The first round at Sebring will be the last time R15 is raced as a factory entry. As always, competition will be stiff. Peugeot will be running their KERS-equipped 90X and Aston Martin will be looking to take advantage of the newly restricted diesels with their new open cockpit V12 powered car.