Audi is setting the pace: In 2015, the brand with the four rings launched the new R8 LMS that complies with the GT3 regulations coming into effect in 2016. Audi’s new GT sports car instantly won the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Deliveries to customers started in winter 2015/2016.
Even more race car technology, lightweight design par excellence, more efficient aerodynamics, and a level of safety that surpasses the requirements of the regulations: These are the qualities with which the new Audi R8 LMS is prepared to continue the success of its predecessor. Between 2009 and 2015, the drivers of the first generation of the customer sport race cars won 28 drivers’ titles, seven 24-hour races, and three 12-hour races around the globe. 137 GT3 race cars were manufactured by Audi in Neckarsulm and customers contest more than 300 worldwide races in them per year.
Since September 2015, quattro GmbH has been building the chassis of the current race car generation at the Böllinger Höfe industrial park in Heilbronn. In winter 2015/2016, the company produced 55 cars – an impressive number in customer motorsport. The final assembly takes place at the Biberach customer racing site. The GT race car is closely akin to the production model. The chassis of both models are produced at the same facility.
In terms of safety, Audi plays a pioneering role, as the new Audi R8 LMS clearly surpasses the requirements of the new regulations taking effect in 2016. Thanks to a modified structure of the front end and a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) crash element being used for the first time at the rear, the GT3 sports car fulfills the crash test requirements for Le Mans prototypes (LMP) such as the Audi R18 – currently the top FIA category for sports prototypes. The sophisticated Audi Protection Seat PS 1 with its structural stiffness and adaptability to various driver physiques has been setting standards for years. It is firmly connected to the chassis, which increases stiffness. An easily adjustable foot lever unit and a height- and length-adjustable safety steering column enable various adjustments to the respective driver. For the first time in a GT3 race car, there is also a rescue hatch in the roof of the kind used in DTM race touring cars. Following a crash, it makes it possible to pull off the driver’s helmet upward in a way that is gentle on the spine and to apply a KED.
Audi has systematically displayed its lightweight design expertise in the new R8 LMS. In spite of the additional weight resulting from the aforementioned innovations, a significant reduction of the race car’s dry weight has been achieved. Now, the homologation weight that has been reduced by 25 kilograms can easily be complied with even in endurance racing trim with additional headlights and air conditioning. The intelligent material mix of aluminum in the Audi Space Frame (ASF), a CFRP structural component, and the steel roll cage make the chassis alone about 30 kilograms lighter – now tipping the scales at 252 kilograms. At the same time, the torsional stiffness of the supporting frame has increased by 39 percent.
Although the race car features a more complex material mix, Audi has interlinked the manufacturing process of the production car and the race even more closely than before. At a new manufacturing facility at the Böllinger Höfe industrial park in Heilbronn, quattro GmbH jointly produces both chassis variants. In spite of the race car receiving modified cast-aluminum nodes and a steel roll cage, the racing chassis of the R8 LMS remains integrated in the basis production process up to and including the point of roof assembly and cathodic dip painting (CDP), which is a type of priming. Only after these process steps, the race cars are completed at the Heilbronn-Biberach site.
Engine rebuild after 20,000 kilometers
Audi uses production parts in the new R8 LMS wherever they make technical and economic sense in racing. The V10 engine with 5.2 liters of displacement and up to 430 kW (585 hp) of output in racing is produced on the same assembly line as the production unit. It remains nearly unchanged and, with a scheduled rebuild interval of 20,000 kilometers, sets standards in racing. The designers use modified or completely new assemblies only where they are required by motorsport regulations or by the significantly higher loads encountered in on-track competition. For instance, the production ASF chassis is modified while the new bodywork consists of CFRP. In the suspensions, wishbones strictly designed for racing have now been installed for the first time. The six-speed transmission with paddle shifters is a completely new development as well. It is 25 kilograms lighter than its predecessor. At the same time, its efficiency has increased because the previously used drop gear arrangement has been eliminated. The new MS 6.4 electronics comprise engine electronics, traction control, and the software for the electrohydraulic gearshift. The powerful processor allows for higher computing speeds and thus faster responses. A power box is another new feature. It replaces the traditional fuse box of the onboard electrical system. As a result, engineers can easily monitor the system loads and protect the system against overload with respect to specific functions.
The new aerodynamics concept of the Audi R8 LMS for the first time includes a fully lined underfloor and a conceptually integrated rear diffusor. As a result, the size of the rear wing profile is reduced by 25 percent compared with the predecessor while the maximum downforce prescribed by the FIA is achieved in spite of the profile’s smaller size. Consequently, aerodynamic drag decreases by 20 percent while top speed, at the same engine output and fuel consumption levels, increases by 6.5 percent. The front wheel wells are open toward the rear via a larger cross-section and thus contribute their share to improved airflow. The airflow rate and cooling surface of the radiator at the front end have increased by ten percent to prepare the car for maximum outside temperatures. The circulation of fresh air in the cockpit has been intensified so that the race drivers can concentrate on their tasks even better than before. At a speed of 200 km/h, the airflow rate amounts to 250 liters per second. Audi has achieved these improvements although the aerodynamic design freedoms provided by the regulations from 2016 on are clearly smaller than before.
As a result, the Audi R8 LMS is featured as an all-round race car for customer sport. It meets the challenges posed on all race tracks in all climatic regions, is capable of delivering high performance, and can be economically operated due to its longer service intervals. It offers a maximum level of safety and is equally well suited for sprints and endurance races.