Audi diesel is launched

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Audi bids to make more Le Mans 24 Hours history with its new R10 prototype but German make admits its going to be tough to emulate the outgoing R8

Audi has finally come clean on motorsport’s worst-kept secret by announcing that its 2006 Le Mans challenger will be powered by a turbo-diesel engine.

The Audi R10 was unveiled in Paris on December 13 and, according to motorsport chief Wolfgang Ullrich, it represents a monumental engineering headache for the so-far super-successful German marque. “The new R10 is the biggest challenge ever to be handled by Audi Sport,” said Ullrich after the launch. “TDI technology has not been pushed to its limits in motorsport. We are the first to confront the challenge: the demands of such a project are accordingly high. Longterm technology partners such as Bosch, Michelin and Shell support us in our quest. Together we have the chance to write new chapters in the history of motorsport and diesel.”

Diesel-powered cars have raced before at Le Mans, the most famous being the MAP of 1950, but Audi’s replacement for the all-conquering R8 is believed to feature the first true racing diesel engine as opposed to a modified production car item. The 5.5-litre twin-turbo 12-cylinder unit is said to produce 650bhp and an elephantine 8101b ft of torque, although it’s likely that these are conservative estimates.

Work began on the project in 2003 and, at the time of writing, the R10 had only been tested by 2005 ALMS co-champions Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro.

The R10 will make its competition debut in March’s Sebring 12 Hours prior to its Le Mans baptism in June. It will have a diesel rival at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2007, when Peugeot returns to the scene of its 1992 and ’93 triumphs with a new and as yet unseen oil-burning sports-prototype. Rumours continue to link Henri Pescarolo’s equipe with heading the project, although this has been denied by the fourtime Le Mans winner.

Can R10 beat this?

The Audi R8 is a hard act to follow…

The R8 is an all-time sportscar classic. Surely R10 can’t emulate its 61 wins?

2000
Le Mans 24 Hours; Sebring 12 Hours; 8 others in American Le Mans Series. Running total:10

2001
Le Mans: Sebring: 7 others in ALMS; 1 other in European Le Mans Series. Running total: 20

2002
Le Mans: Sebring: 7 others in ALMS. Running total: 29 2003: Sebring; 7 others in ALMS:lin FIA Sportscar Championship; Le Mans 1000Km. Running total: 39

2004
Le Mans; Sebring; 7 others in ALMS: 4 in Le Mans Endurance Series. Running total: 52 2005: Le Mans; Sebring; 6 others in ALMS; 1 in LMES. Grand total: 61