Audi is out in front once again: the brand with the four rings was one of the first automobile manufacturers to present a race car before the start of the 2015 season that complies with the new GT3 regulations to be introduced in 2016. The new Audi R8 LMS is lighter and safer than ever before. It features even more race car technology, significantly improved aerodynamics and, as a result, provides customers with an efficient.
Back in spring 2014, Audi started testing the new R8 LMS, which follows in great footsteps: the first generation Audi R8 LMS won 26 GT3 championships between 2009 and 2014 as well as 23 titles in other categories and seven overall victories in 24-hour races. In 2015, customers from around the world rely yet again on the winning machine from Neckarsulm, of which the company has built more than 130 cars since 2009.
The first races for the new R8 LMS are already scheduled, such as the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring (16–17 May) and Spa (25–26 July) for example. Other events have also been confirmed. quattro GmbH, which develops and assembles the race cars, will accept customer orders in the second half of the year and still intends to deliver the first models of the second generation before the end of 2015.
At the same time as presenting the new model, Audi is preparing for the promising future of GT3 racing and plays a pioneering role. Because the new Audi R8 LMS clearly exceeds the safety requirements stipulated by the regulations set for release in 2016. Thanks to the structural modifications made to the front end, and the use of a CFRP crash element integrated for the first time into the rear end, the GT3 sports car complies with the crash test requirements valid for the significantly lighter Le Mans Prototypes (LMP) like the Audi R18 e-tron quattro. The Audi Protection Seat PS 1, which will be used in the future in the R8 LMS has set the standards in seat technology for years now. It is attached rigidly to the chassis to increase stiffness. A rapidly adjustable pedal box system and a collapsible steering column adjustable in both length and height allow any sized driver to sit safely and comfortable. A rescue hatch in the roof, as used in the DTM race touring cars, is integrated in a GT3 race car for the first time. In the event of an accident, it allows the driver’s helmet to be removed while protecting the spinal column and the Kendrick Extrication Device – a supportive corset – to be fitted.
Audi systematically exploits its lightweight design expertise in the new R8 LMS. Despite the additional weight resulting from the previously mentioned innovations, the race car’s homologation weight has been reduced from 1,250 to 1,225 kilograms. Its empty weight is actually below 1,200 kilograms. The intelligent material mix of aluminum in the Audi Space Frame (ASF), a structural CFRP component and the steel roll-cage make the chassis about 30 kilograms lighter – it now weighs 252 kilograms. At the same time, the torsional stiffness of the stressed frame has increased by 39 per cent.
Although the material mix in a race car is more complex, Audi has managed to integrate the manufacturing process for production and race cars even more closely than before. In a new manufacturing facility at the Böllinger Höfe industrial park in Heilbronn, quattro GmbH produces both versions together. Although the race car, for example, is fitted with aluminum cast joints and a steel roll-cage, the R8 LMS race car chassis remains integrated in the basic production process up to the stages where the roof is fitted and the cathodic dip painting (CDP), which is a form of priming, occurs. After these production steps, the race cars are completed in Heilbronn-Biberach.
Audi uses production parts in the new R8 LMS wherever this makes sense in racing from a technical and commercial viewpoint. For example, the 5.2-liter, V10 engine producing up to 430 kW (585 hp) is taken from assembly line as the production unit. It remains almost unchanged and sets standards in racing with its 20,000-kilometer rebuild intervals. The engineers only use modified or completely new assemblies when stipulated by the regulations or when the significantly higher loads encountered in competition demand this. While the production ASF chassis is modified, the completely new bodywork is made of CFRP. For the first time, the suspension features wishbones specifically designed for racing. The six-speed gearbox with paddle shift is also a completely new development. It is significantly lighter than its predecessor, while efficiency has increased because the previous drop gear system is omitted. The new MS 6.4 ECU includes the engine electronics, traction control and software for the electro-hydraulic gearshift. The powerful processor permits greater processing speeds resulting in faster response. A power box is another new feature. It replaces the traditional fuse box and makes it possible to define individual loads and functionalities.
The new aerodynamic concept of the Audi R8 LMS features, for the first time, a fully closed underfloor and a conceptually integrated rear diffusor. As a result, the rear wing is smaller and the downforce increases without a corresponding increase in drag. The cross-sectional area of the air exit ducts at the rear of the front wheel arches are now larger and help to improve airflow. The airflow rate and cooling area of the front radiator have increased by ten per cent to better compensate for the highest ambient temperatures. Engineers have improved the fresh air circulation in the cockpit so that the race drivers can maintain concentration levels. At a speed of 200 km/h, the airflow rate is 250 liters per second. Audi achieved these improvements despite the significantly higher constraints imposed on aerodynamic design by the 2016 regulations.