FIRST PICS: Audi’s R18 prototype

Closed-cockpit design is a dramatic change for Audi

Closed-cockpit design is a dramatic change for Audi

Audi has revealed the car that it hopes will propel the German marque to a 10th Le Mans 24 Hours victory in 12 years.

The 3.7 litre V6 turbo-diesel powered R18 represents the first time Audi has taken a closed-cockpit prototype to Le Mans since 1999.

The switch comes thanks to new regulations that have removed the driver-change speed advantage of the open-cockpit cars and placed increased emphasis on aerodynamics

Audi motorsport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich said he was sad to see the demise of the open-cockpit design.

“The rules mean you have to have a roof to be competitive,” he said.

“Driver changes are always easier with open cars, but the changes have taken that away.

“The smaller capacity engines (turbo-diesels must now be no greater than 3.7 litres – down from 5.5 litres) also make aerodynamic efficiency more important.

Formula One-style fin is to increase high-speed stability

Formula One-style fin is to increase high-speed stability

“It breaks my heart because I love the open cars, but the expectations we have of this car are very high and it looks great.”

The R18 also sports the category mandated engine cover fin – implemented to increase high-speed stability.

Audi Sport Team Joest will field a three car team at Le Mans, in addition to a two car assault on the seven round Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.

The R18 will not debut until Round 2 of the Cup in May, with the R15 plus taking part in the season opener – the famed Sebring 12 Hours.

Audi’s Le Mans driver lineup remains unchanged from 2010, with the winning combination of Mike Rockenfeller/Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas again joined by Allan McNish/Tom Kristensen/Rinaldo Capello and Andre Lotterer/Marcel Fassler/Benoit Treluyer crewed entries.

The driver lineup for the Intercontinental Cup races is yet to be confirmed.

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