Coupe move for Audi
Audi has taken the wraps off the all-new LMP1 contender with which it will go head-to-head with Peugeot in the 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours.
The R18 is, like its most recent predecessors, a turbodiesel, but the German manufacturer has opted for a coupe for the first time since the ill-fated R8C of 1999. Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich said it “broke his heart” to abandon the roadster philosophy, but claimed that the Le Mans rulebook left Audi no choice but to opt for a coupe.
Ullrich indicated that the new sporting regulations, which were introduced for 2009 after the design of the R15 had been set, were part of the reason for the change. A rule which dictates that only two mechanics can change wheels and tyres means that the driver change is no longer the dominant factor in the time of the pitstop”.
A reduction in engine capacity and thus power for 2011 was the second factor, he explained. It is getting more and more important to have maximum aerodynamic efficiency,” he said. “There were good arguments to have a closed car.”
The R18 TDI (below) tested for the first time in the run-up to its launch on December 10. It undertook three days of running at an undisclosed venue, believed to be Vallelunga in Italy. Allan McNish did the bulk of the driving, but 2010 Le Mans winner Timo Bernhard also drove.
It responded to all the changes we made and it ran pretty reliably for three days,” said McNish. “Overall, I had a pretty good feeling.”
The R18 will not race until the Spa 6 Hours in May, the second round of the 2011 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. It will miss the ILMC opener at Sebring in March because it will not have undertaken the necessary endurance testing, which means Audi will fall back on a restricted version of the 2010 R15-plus.
Audi has yet to set its programme in stone, but it expects to run two cars in the full ILMC events and three cars at Le Mans in June. McNish, Bernhard and Tom Kristensen will lead the ILMC line-up, while it is planned that the nine drivers who flew the flag for the German manufacturer at Le Mans last year will be retained for the big race.
V6 has best potential, says Audi boss
Audi has opted to build a V6 to the new 3.7-litre LMP1 turbodiesel formula even though it is “the harder way”, according to Audi Sport engine boss Ulrich Baretzky. He explained that this route offers “greater long-term development” than the V8 concept, which Peugeot is believed to have chosen. Reduced frictional loses, lower weight and greater compactness were the arguments in favour of a V6. Baretzky explained that further reasons why Audi opted for a V6 will become apparent at a later date. This could concern the hybrid system that the German manufacturer is developing. It says it will only race the R18 with an energyrecovery system if it offers an advantage over the conventional car.
Brundle and Blundell reunited
Ex-Formula 1 team-mates Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell will renew their partnership in January’s Daytona 24 Hours.
Brundle, who is returning to international sports car racing after a 10-year absence, will share a Riley Ford MkXX Daytona Prototype with his former Brabham and Ligier team mate in the opening round of the Grand-Am series on January 29/30. The car, which will be run by Michael Shank Racing, is entered under the banner of the Anglo-American United Autosports team.
Brundle, who took in a number of races in Volkswagen Scirocco and La mbo rghini one-make series in 2010, explained that he had been asked if he was interested in doing the race by United Autosports co-owner Zak Brown and needed “about five minutes to say yes”.
“Having cleared myself of some of my other responsibilities, I want to go back and race a bit more seriously,” he said. “I’d be surprised if I don’t end up doing one or two more sports car races in 2011.”
Blundell got his first taste of a Daytona Prototype when he shared the MSR Riley at Homestead in late November with Brown and series regular Mark Patterson. Brundle is due to drive the car for the first time at the official pre-Daytona test in early January.
Villeneuve in ice-racing debut
Jacques Villeneuve finished a credible 10th overall on his debut in the Andros Trophy.
The 1997 Formula 1 World Champion finished 12th and 14th in the two heats in Val Thorens, France on December 4/5 driving a koda Fabia. He said afterwards: “It’s nothing like the cars I’m used to driving. You come into the corners sideways, or even in reverse! I like sports where there’s plenty of sliding skiing in particular. Unfortunately, even though I’m Canadian, I’ve never driven on ice so it’s all new to me.”
Carlin to run Magnussen Jr
Kevin Magnussen will attempt to emulate his famous father Jan by winning the British Formula 3 title in 2011.
The 18-year-old, who is graduating from the German F3 Cup, has signed to drive a Volkswagen-engined Dallara for the crack Carlin team, which has won the past three British F3 crowns. His father, Jan, claimed the 1994 British title with Paul Stewart Racing with a record 14 victories before going on to a brief Formula 1 career with McLaren and Stewart Grand Prix.
Team boss Trevor Carlin said he was sure “we’ll see another Magnussen on the podium in Britain again very soon”.