Audi – R18 Ready To Resume Le Mans Dominance

June 6, 2011

Audi – R18 Ready To Resume Le Mans Dominance

June 6, 2011

Audi's all-new R18 TDI coupe is the car of choice to maintain its crown at Le Mans. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

This is the second in a 24 Hours of Le Mans preview series. Check back to for more features and posts in the coming days.

No. 1: Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Mike Rockenfeller
No. 2: Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer
No. 3: Allan McNish, Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen

The German manufacturer that set the benchmark for success at Le Mans in the last decade returns in 2011 with their usual numbers of 1, 2 and 3 to commemorate their result in last year’s 24-hour classic. What isn’t the same this year is that Audi is making its debut at Le Mans with its new R18 TDI, the first closed-top prototype the manufacturer has created since the R8C in 1999.

Audi led the Le Mans test day back in April and paced qualifying at its race debut at the last Intercontinental Le Mans Cup round in Spa in May. There’s no win yet and after the loss at Spa, it marked the first time Audi didn’t have a new car atop the podium on its race debut — much as the previous generation R8 or two prior diesel cars, the R10 and R15, did.

Defending Le Mans 24 Hours champions Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard and Mike Rockenfeller, No. 1 Audi R18 TDI. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Driver-wise, defending Le Mans champions Bernhard, Dumas and Rockenfeller have matured and are growing into a second lead trio as time passes — even if Bernhard and Dumas remain Porsche factory drivers who get loaned to Audi! They don’t have the records of teammates McNish, Capello and Kristensen, especially at Le Mans, but they’re getting there. The senior squad in car No. 3 is still as feisty and fast as ever, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see McNish put the new car on pole position come qualifying.

Where they shine, of course, is in the race. As it’s been since 2008 when this group last won, they have to be hungry to return to the top. Kristensen has earned the “Mr. Le Mans” nickname with eight victories at Le Mans; this is the longest “dry spell” of his career by those very lofty standards.

Less heralded and looking for a strong performance in their second go at Le Mans for Audi is the No. 2 car, driven by Fassler, Lotterer and Treluyer. Their record at Le Mans is mixed — which they came second last year, Fassler and Treluyer had opportunities to deliver in other cars (a Corvette and Pescarolo-run Peugeot, respectively) before falling out. Lotterer starred in a customer Audi R10 in 2009 but admitted he wanted to make up for running off course at Arnage corner last year while chasing down his teammate. Much the same as Timo, Romain and “Rocky” have stepped up, 2011 is the chance for this trio to do likewise.

Latest Photos

Latest Video

Kellymoss provides drivers a path to the IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Friday August 25, 2023