Audi’s new R15 turbo-diesel prototype will race just twice in 2009 following news that the German manufacturer has withdrawn from the Le Mans series in both America and Europe.
Audi announced that it would not defend its drivers’ and manufacturers’ crowns in the Le Mans Series in Europe when it finally confirmed that it was building a new LMP1 for ’09, the R15 TDI. At that time marque motor sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich said the company was “working hard” on firming up its 10th consecutive participation in the American Le Mans Series. The axe subsequently fell on the ALMS programme one week later.
Ullrich blamed the economic downturn for the decision to scale down Audi’s sports car programme to an attack on the Le Mans 24 Hours and, by way of preparation for the French classic, the Sebring 12 Hours.
“We all know that motor sport is important for Audi and our target has been to make our two main programmes happen,” said Ullrich. “Our programme has been redefined as Sebring, Le Mans and the DTM. I still believe that that is a good motor sport programme.”
Ullrich ruled out any privateer programmes with the outgoing V12-engined R10 LMP1.
The open-top R15 is a “clean sheet of paper design”, according to Ullrich. That includes the engine, which he described as being, “smaller, lighter and even more efficient” than the 5.5-litre V12 in the R10.
No further details have been released, but Ullrich stressed that the new engine had been designed to the present rulebook and not to new regulations which will limit turbos to 3.7-litre V8s from 2011. It appears the engine is either a V8 or a V10 rather than a V12.
Audi is expected to cut its DTM assault by one entry to nine, with four new and “up to five” year-old cars.
Ullrich said it is unlikely that any new faces will be seen racing Audis this year, which means that Marcel Fassler and Christijan Albers, who were tried out in America at the end of last season, are likely to take up places in the three-car R15 line-up at Le Mans.