The tension rises: for the first time in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC, four automobile manufacturers fight for overall victories during the 2015 season. Audi aims to win the title for the third time after 2012 and 2013 triumphs. At the season highlight, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the brand with the four rings targets its 14th victory since the 2000 season. Audi Sport prepares for this with a substantially further developed R18 e-tron quattro.
The significance of the FIA WEC continues to rise in its fourth season. For the first time with four automobile manufacturers committed to the LMP1 category, and other brands in the remaining classes, the world championship is more popular than ever before among the largest companies in the automobile industry. The number of spectators grew by approximately 18 per cent to 561,300 visitors attending eight race tracks worldwide, the total number of accredited media increased by almost 15 per cent to 3,995 last year. The regions in which Audi competes in the 2015 FIA WEC are particularly valuable and important: in each of the eight markets Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, the Middle East and in the USA, Audi increased its sales last year. The average value per country was 8.3 per cent; the total in these countries is 1,306,830 automobiles. This equates to 75 per cent of all Audi models delivered worldwide in 2014. The WEC features a race in Germany for the first time in 2015. Round four is held at the Nürburgring on August 30.
“The Audi was the brand in the FIA World Endurance Championship WEC from the very beginning,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “In 2012 we were the first LMP1 manufacturer to commit to the WEC. In addition, we were the most successful brand claiming two world championship titles and achieving 13 race wins in 24 races since the World Championship was founded three years ago. We are pleased that the increasing number of opponents are of exceptionally high quality. We continued our technological pioneering role at Le Mans: after Audi was the first brand to win with diesel power in 2006, even today we are still the only manufacturer to have won with a hybrid powertrain. The Audi R18 e-tron quattro is unbeaten at Le Mans since 2012. We have done everything possible in preparation for 2015 to be able to continue this winning form.”
From the technological viewpoint on the R18 e-tron quattro, Audi has developed the hybrid drive, aerodynamics and how the car manages its tires. The engineers have doubled the hybrid energy – meaning the amount of energy that the racecar can recuperate during braking. In the future, 4 instead of two megajoules are available at Le Mans. The electric motors on the front axle, which covert this energy, now produce over 200 kW (272 hp), around 17 per cent more than last year.
For Audi, this new hybrid class goes hand in hand with a lower amount of diesel fuel – as the regulations stipulate. Although the V6 TDI power plant now receives 2.5 per cent less fuel, Audi has overcompensated for this disadvantage and achieves a performance level of over 410 kW (558 hp). This results in the hybrid sportscar’s system producing a temporary combined total power of 610 kW (830 hp). The new car’s aerodynamics also underwent significant development. In parallel, the engineers and tire partner Michelin devoted even more attention to reducing the tire wear and to optimizing rubber performance and efficiency for this year.
The Audi team’s driver line-up has changed slightly since the retirement of record nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen. The current Le Mans winners and 2012 World Champions Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) compete together for the sixth consecutive year together for Audi. Lucas di Grassi (BR) and Loïc Duval (F), the World Champion in 2013, share a cockpit for the first time with Oliver Jarvis (GB), who has already competed three times at Le Mans for Audi. Audi Sport Team Joest will field a third hybrid sportscar in the 6 Hours of Spa and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Like last year, Filipe Albuquerque (P) and Marco Bonanomi (I) are signed. René Rast supports them for the first time. The young German launched a remarkable motorsport career in the Volkswagen Group, winning the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring and Spa and is now promoted to Audi’s LMP program.