18 February 2009

Stealth fighter

Audi shows off the R15 TDI, its new Le Mans racer. It’s gunning for you, Aston...

Audi R15 TDI

If that old adage about a good-looking race car being a fast race car rings true, Audi is assured at least a podium finish in the 24 Hour of Le Mans title in June this year.

This is the R15, the diesel-powered R10 replacement that’ll defend Audi’s LMP1 crown at Le Mans. Looks good, doesn’t it?

The biggest visual change from R10 to R15 – apart from that deeply cool gold-on-black livery, which we’d expect to change before Le Mans – is the new front end, with its higher, stubbier nose and brace of supports running down to a more intricate front spoiler.

There’s some almost DTM-style aero around the front arches – in fact, the whole design is more delicate and intricate than the slab-sided R10.

You’ll have spotted that Audi has resisted the urge to move to a closed cockpit design like Peugeot’s 908 HDi – maybe the ease of driver changes offset the aerodynamic advantage of a bubble roof?

Sadly we won’t get to see much of the R15 this year. Audi has pulled out of the European and America Le Mans Series, so the R15 will only campaign in the 12 Hours of Sebring in March, and then Le Mans a couple of months later.

However, with Aston Martin planning an LMP1 competitor – and Honda’s luxury brand Acura readying its ARX-02a car for battle in the same class – it could still be a good year in endurance racing.

And besides, if the Audi looks this good, how excellent is the Aston going to be? About this good, you say? Fair enough…

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