German marque Audi has released its 2011 challenger the R18. While 2010 was a bittersweet year for the squad and its R15 challenger, the team has vowed to impress not only the fans but its French rivals as well. I will preface the article by saying I am in no way a car designer or engineer but did want to comment on this car.
I waited and waited Friday as I followed my tweet stream of the press conference provided by @dsceditor. The coverage was excellent and it was a real joy hearing the high points of the press conference as Dr. Ullrich recapped the year that had been. Finally, the R18 was revealed to the public and my first thought was WOW! This car was visibly striking, but was a coupe. “That is not what Audi does, they are the open cockpit cars” I was thinking. It was then explained that the team wanted an open cockpit but was forced to the coupe by the ACO rules that continue to permit the closed design. The closed design allows for better aerodynamics which aids in fuel efficiency. Audi also decided to go with a V6 TDI engine. This decision also continues to show Audi’s level of support their race program has for their street vehicles. Something that continues to make the Le Mans Series a very appealing prospect amongst manufacturers.
The car has some rather unique aero features as well that just make it look phenomenal. The front end looks sort of like the R15 with a full display of LED head lamps. What obviously jumps out is the shark fin that runs down the center of the car. It looks amazing and really adds to the cars menacing appearance. Another notable feature is the single inlet on the top of the coupe. Audi has been popular for the awesome looking gills that ran all over the side-pod of previous models. This car does not feature the gills and instead has the top inlet for the engine. Sure there is some aero aid on the side-pod, but the main piece is located on the top. Also the body work in the back of the car is very fluid. Reminded me of the old Bentley LMP because it is very smooth and low profile.
So there you have it. The R18 certainly is radical, but it is also one of the best looking race cars I have ever seen. In an age where cars all look the same for the most part, the R18 looks like a stealth fighter and I only wish Audi would keep it in that mean looking black trim. The R18 is not set to debut until Spa-Francorchamps for competition, which will give the also very attractive R15 Plus one last shot. All in all I am stunned when I look at this car and read of its technical potential. I really look forward to seeing it compete and applaud the Audi group for pleasantly surprising me.