Audi has pulled the wraps off the latest incarnation of its R18 e-tron Quattro, the car it hopes will fend off renewed challenges from Toyota and Porsche at the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The German firm heads into the notorious 2014 event eyeing a 13th Le Mans success, though it faces considerable competition this season from an improving Toyota team and the highly anticipated factory-backed return from Porsche.
Also set to compete in the World Endurance Championship, which gets underway at Silverstone on April 20th, the new R18 e-tron adopts a distinctive white, black and grey scheme more akin to its iconic 'Quattro' colours.
Revealed in a special event that saw sportscar legend Tom Kristensen drive the car through the streets of Le Mans town before pulling into the famous circuit itself, the ultra-successful R18 e-tron has also received several tweaks under the skin.
New-for-2014, the cubic capacity of the V6 TDI power plant was increased from 3.7 to 4.0 litres in order to further optimise the engine. After testing various energy recovery systems, Audi decided to compete in the class of up to two megajoules of recuperation energy at Le Mans.
The energy exclusively flows through a motor generator unit (MGU) at the front axle and is stored in a flywheel energy storage system.
“We opted for this concept following extensive testing,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “In our opinion, it provides the optimum balance between efficient energy use, size, weight, energy conversion efficiency, responsiveness, drivability and a favourable operating strategy combined with durability, which is the basic prerequisite for success at Le Mans.”
Kristensen, Loic Duval, Lucas di Grassi, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Trelyer and Marcel Fassler will make up the Audi WEC driver line-up in 2014, with Oliver Jarvis, Marco Bonanomi and Filipe Albuquerque also listed to compete.