This past weekend, the 78th running of the most prestigious sports car race took place known as the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Triumphant, the #9 Audi R15 took the race for their 9th time since 2000 beating out the formidable efforts of Peugeot.
Starting their modern sports car racing legacy in 1999, Audi reemerged with one of the revolutionary R8 race car at the 2000 12-Hour of Sebring winning in their maiden outing. The most significant race car to be constructed in 30 years, the Audi R8 carried many traits which would transfer into production vehicles including gasoline direct injection.
In 2006, Audi evolved to the use of diesel power in their step forward in prototype sports car technology called the R10. For 2009, Audi Sport brought out their newest prototype again at Sebring, the Audi R15, winning that event but would find victory at Le Mans elusive that year. With the Peugeot 908 HDI FAP taking the top spot after the full day of running, this was only the second time in the past decade that Audi would miss prototype victory. However, one of those cases was when Bentley, a corporate sister to Audi, won the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans with a car consisting of major components belonging to the Audi prototype.
Feeling the sting of defeat, Audi Sport Team Joest reloaded with a heavily-revised car for 2010 dubbing it the Audi R15 Plus. Bringing home all three Audi R15 Plus prototypes home 1-2-3 in overall standings.In recognition of the achievement of Audi, we’ll take a closer look at this expertly-engineered race vehicle which pushes competitive and technological boundaries.
Audi R15 Plus Exterior
Refined over the R15 which debuted last season, the R15 Plus carbon-reinforced bodywork is reshaped for improved aerodynamic efficiency. Slightly longer than a Audi A5, the Audi R15 Plus, the use of weight-reducing material allows the prototype sports car to weigh 250 pounds less than a Toyota Yaris. One of the most noticeable changes found on the Audi R15 Plus refit is located within the vehicle’s front nose section. Dividing into two nose sections, this new design is tested to perform with less aerodynamic drag.
After the 2009 Le Mans race, one of the leading complaints tabled by the Audi Sport Team Joest drivers involved the LED headlights. Since last year, Audi Sport engineers invested considerable time and money to realign the forward lighting to increase brightness. This year, the lights blazed bright through the night as the Audi R15s leapfrogged the Peugeot 908 prototypes through the French night.
Designed for speed, the Audi R15 monocoque body structure is also engineered to comply with crash and safety standards stand-out by the FIA.
Audi R15 Plus Engine
Refined over the initial racing diesel engine introduced in 2006, Audi’s twin-turbocharged 5.5 liter V-10 TDI powerplant mid-mounted in the R15 Plus produces a German grunt is worth 590 horsepower and 775 pounds feet of torque.
The Audi R15 Plus TDI engine practices many of the technology being employed for production-based clean diesel vehicles. Fitted with two Garrett turbocharger units, diesel fuel is burnt ever so precisely passing into each cylinder thanks to direct injection technology. Once power is generated, the exhaust emissions of the diesel fuel is processed by two Diesel Particle Filters.
Audi R15 Plus Interior
Omitting the creature comforts and aesthetic touches of a street car’s interior, the open cockpit prototype cabin is a model of efficiency and ergonomics. With controls positioned within easy grasp of the driver’s hands, much of the active systems (instrument display and gear selector are centered on the steering wheel. Similar steering wheels used in Formula 1 are estimated to be worth $35,000 or more (that is dependent on whether a team will even allow one of these high-tech steering wheels leave their possession).
Meaning no offense to the prototype sports car, the winning driving group of Mike Rockenfeller, Romain Dumas and Timo Bernard obviously partook in as much excitement leaving the Audi R15 Plus cockpit as they did in their collective 24 hours of racing competition. Accepting victorious honours as the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans winners, the Audi R15 Plus made those drivers the most important people within the small French city.
Information and Photo Credit: Audi USA