2016 Audi R18 Le Mans racer revealed

Audi has unveiled the latest version of its R18 e-tron quattro Le Mans racer, that has been “fundamentally redesigned” for the 2016 season.

Clearly, at no stage in that fundamental redesign did the 2016 Audi R18 go anyhere near a styling department. It looks purposeful, certainly. Even a bit Batman-esque. But pretty it is not.

That’s not the point, though. The point is to reassert Audi’s dominion over Le Mans, having lost out to sister brand Porsche in 2015, only the third time it hasn’t won this century. And to claim the World Endurance Championship (WEC) title, which it last won in 2013.

To achieve that, Audi is stepping up a class to run six megajoules of electricity through the R18’s hybrid powertrain (rivals Porsche and Toyota use eight megajoules). As such, the previous flywheel energy recovery system has been junked in favour of a kinetic energy recovery system on the front axle. The electricity generated is then stored in new lithium-ion batteries.

The electric power augments a revised, “efficiency optimised” 4.0-litre, V6 turbo diesel engine which lives in the middle of the car and drives the rear wheels. We don’t how much power the system generates yet, but bear in mind that 2015 car produced around 830bhp. That’s some way behind the rumoured 1,000bhp-plus of the Porsche 919 and Toyota TS040, but the Audi has more torque and, being diesel, uses less fuel.

Audi will field two cars for the full 2016 WEC season, retaining its current driver line-ups of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer, and Loic Duval, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis. However, in a move likely dictated by the fallout from dieselgate, Audi has confirmed it and Porsche will only field two cars each at Le Mans, instead of three as in previous years. With Porsche also retaining its 2015 roster, Brit Nick Tandy will be unable to defend his 2015 Le Mans crown.

Audi Motorsport boss, Wolfgang Ulrich, was adamant diesel is still the right way to go. He said: “With our new R18, we’re setting a clear signal: Audi continues to put the pedal to the metal in motorsport, deliberately relying on TDI – the world’s most successful automotive efficiency technology – at Le Mans.”

Porsche and Toyota have yet to unveil their challengers for the 2016 season, and Nissan has yet to announce its intentions after the ambitious, front-wheel-drive GT-R LM made a faltering debut at Le Mans, leading to the rest of the season being curtailed.

The 2016 World Endurance Championship season gets underway at Silverstone on 17 April.

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By Only Motors

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