Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

Audi is starting the 2015 season with a thoroughly revised R18 e-tron quattro. In the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and in the Le Mans 24 Hours as the season’s pinnacle event, Audi is again competing with a hybrid sports car in the 4-megajoule class.

The quantity of hybrid energy has been doubled, the aerodynamics have been revised, and the next step in lightweight design has been brought to bear on the fifth generation of the R18.

“The possibilities of the revolutionary regulations that have been in effect for LMP sports cars since 2014 are far from having been fully used. The rules harbor so much potential that there is room for future developments,” says Jörg Zander, Audi Sport’s new Head of Engineering. “We expect that the technological progress resulting from the fierce competition exerted by four automobile manufacturers that are now involved will significantly improve lap times this season – while concurrently reducing fuel consumption.”

The new R18 e-tron quattro differs visually from its predecessor even though its basic structure is closely related to the previous model. The fresh look results from a new way of conducting airflow around and through the front end, in the area of the sidepods and at the rear of the LMP1 prototype. Large air inlets in the front wheel arches reduce aerodynamic drag, and have led to an all-new headlight design. They feature Matrix LED technology combined with Audi Laserlight – two innovations that improve active safety in road traffic as well.

While Audi has adopted the monocoque – the central safety cell of the race car – from the previous model, the hood with the front wing and wheel arches features a new design. As this body element incorporates the crash structure, Audi performed a new crash test for the 2015 season. Modified airflow through the sidepods with new radiator configurations for cooling the engine and the hybrid system further optimizes aerodynamic drag. The engine cover, which encloses the unit even more tightly and notably tapers off behind the cockpit, contributes to this as well.

Audi has pioneered hybrid technology in endurance racing. The company is the only manufacturer to have won the Le Mans 24 Hours with hybrid sports cars. Since 2012, the R18 has been unbeaten; for this year, engineers have doubled the amount of energy from 2 to 4 megajoules per race lap. During braking, energy is recovered, which the system subsequently feeds back to the front axle on acceleration. The electrical machine that performs this task now delivers an output of 272 hp, a significant increase compared to last year. Meanwhile, the four-liter V6 TDI engine has been further developed by performing detailed work to achieve the consumption levels. The most efficient powerplant in the field now delivers 558 hp.

Ever since the first Audi quattro was fielded in 1980, the brand has consistently used racing and rallying for the development of forward-thinking technologies that are subsequently used in production – from quattro four-wheel drive to TFSI gasoline direct injection, to the further development of TDI engines, through to innovations such as Matrix LED light and Audi Laserlight.