Intensive Test Programme Before Le Mans 2006

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December 13, 2005

Intensive Test Programme Before Le Mans 2006
Source: Audi Communication Motorsport

The idea to develop a diesel sportscar for the 24 Hours of Le Mans had already emerged in 2002 with the internal project name “R10” which ultimately became the new Le Mans sportscar’s official type designation – just like its successful predecessor the R8. Things became very serious in September 2003 when the concept guidelines for the new Audi R10 were determined. “That was the most important stage,” says Ulrich Baretzky, Head of Engine Technology at Audi Sport. “You have to define the number of cylinders, the engine’s length, bore and stroke. Everything else results from these basic dimensions. If you make a mistake at this stage, it is almost impossible to correct later. That’s why we considered every facet very carefully before we fixed the package.”

In Spring 2004, the decision was made to select a twelve-cylinder engine with the maximum permissible cubic capacity of 5.5 litres allowed for Le Mans, which also affected the chassis. “Compared with the R8, the engine’s length has grown through the number of cylinders, and because of a diesel’s typical power and strength,” explains Wolfgang Appel, Head of Vehicle Technology at Audi Sport. “In this respect we had to react by making everything as light as possible on the chassis side.” The R10 has a significantly longer wheelbase as a direct result of the large capacity engine.

The Le Mans V12 TDI ran for the first time on the test bed in July 2005. “It was incredibly interesting, because we really have explored completely new territory with this engine,” says Ulrich Baretzky. “Previously, together with our colleauges from the production car development, we had made basic tests with modified production engines and a single-cylinder model. That was all!”

The new power unit had already clocked-up approximately 1000 test-bench hours, including several endurance runs, before the R10 prototype’s roll-out on 29 November 2005. The V12 TDI will have almost 3000 test-bench hours to its credit and several thousand test kilometres in the back of the R10 before Le Mans.

During the test stage, Audi Sport follows the same paths that proved themselves with the R8: The dynamometer tests follow an extensive test programme carried out at various circuits and a test race, the 12-hour race in Sebring, on 18 March 2006. “The circuit’s characteristics make this race one of the hardest in the world and the perfect opportunity to put a new car through its paces,” explains Wolfgang Appel. “More endurance runs are planned afterwards so we should be well prepared for the race at Le Mans in spite of time being short.”

The new Audi R10 will run for the first time around the 13.650 kilometre “Circuit des 24 Heures” at the official test day on 4 June 2006 which, less than two weeks before the race, represents the only test opportunity at the high-speed circuit formed partly by normal public roads.

“It is one of the peculiarities of this race that you can only test on a single day each year at Le Mans,” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. “Le Mans offers the unique combination of speed, reliability and team work – and, if you chose to describe things more extremely, the running of an entire Formula 1 season over the course of a single weekend with one and the same car.”

In spite of the intensive preparation programme, lying between the R10 presentation on 13 December 2005 in Paris and the race on 17/18 June 2006 during which every day is planned, Dr Ullrich remains cautious in his predictions: “Obviously, it is our target to have a car that is capable of winning and with which we can stand on the top step of the podium in 2006 if everything falls into place and we have a little luck. You can’t guarantee victory in motorsport, least of all at Le Mans.”

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