- Audi has introduced a new long-tail version of its Audi R18 E-tron Quattro Le Mans Prototype.
- The car has an experimental, low-downforce, long-tail body.
- Audi says the aero package has been "optimized for the high-speed Le Mans track."
INGOLSTADT, Germany — Audi will field a trio of R18 E-tron quattro racecars — one of them with a unique aerodynamic shape — in the 6 Hours of Spa, the second round of the World Endurance Championship, on May 4.
The third entry — the Audi R18 E-tron Quattro Le Mans prototype — will have an extended rear body section, an enhancement tailored to the high-speed Circuit de la Sarthe, site of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The long-tail will give drivers and engineers a chance to compare the two versions in competition before the Le Mans classic June 22-23.
Audi says the aero package has been "optimized for the high-speed Le Mans track."
The long-tail design has appeared on other endurance racers, including the McLaren F1 GTR and Porsche 917.
Loïc Duval, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, who won the WEC opener at Silverstone April 14, will drive one of the conventional entries and Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer, who won last year's WEC title, will drive the other.
The long-tail car will be piloted by Marc Gené, Lucas di Grassi and Oliver Jarvis.
The performance of the conventional cars compared to the low-downforce model will be compared on their performance in different sectors of the 4.352-mile Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps to add to the expansive data already in possession of the team for the Le Mans race.
Le Mans is the primary goal of all Le Mans Prototype teams, but it has been all but exclusive property of Audi, which has won the last three in a row and 11 out of the last 13.
"As always, Audi will be using the race at Spa as a 'dress rehearsal' for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June," said Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich, head of Audi Motorsport.
Only two challengers have interrupted Audi's streak at Le Mans. Bentley won in 2003 and Peugeot got a victory in 2009. Toyota is the latest to take aim at knocking Audi off the top of the podium.
Toyota's TS030 Hybrid fell short in its Le Mans debut last year and trailed Audi in the WEC championship chase. But it won three races, including the last two rounds of 2012.
"We can expect our opponent Toyota to compete with the latest technological update," said Ralf Jüttner, technical director for Audi Sport Team Joest.
Edmunds says: Even with an incredible record like the one Audi has amassed at Le Mans, nothing can be taken for granted.