2011 Audi R18 TDI test car Spark - 502.11.001.13 (resin)
By 2010, Audi was a powerhouse in the endurance racing scene. With nine overall victories and one class victory at Le Mans, they were tied with Ferrari. Only Porsche had more victories at La Sarthe. Their first 24 Heures du Mans was in 1999, nonetheless by 2000 they already had a victory. They started out with the R8R and R8C, followed by the mighty R8, R10 and in 2010, the R15. For 2011, ACO made changes to the LMP classes, rendering the previous LMP1 cars obsolete. These new rules placed restrictions on engine sizes, limiting a turbo-diesel engine to 3.7 liters. With that, Ingolstadt had to focus on aerodynamics, so a closed-cockpit car was the ticket. Consequently, they needed a totally new car: the R18. Work on the new project started in mid-2009, and by November 2010 they had a car ready for tests.
Audi insisted on a turbo-diesel engine, however the previous V10 of the R15 was now illegal. Hence, they designed a new V6, 25% lighter and displacing 3700 cm³, with DOHC and 24 valves. Boosted by a TR30R VGT turbo from Garret, the engine delivered 540 hp. To lower the center of gravity and to improve airflow through the car, the exhaust manifolds now sat between the cylinder banks. The 6-speed gearbox was also new, full of carbon fiber composites and with electric shifters. As expected, the chassis was a carbon fiber monocoque, however now produced in a single-piece to enhance rigidity and low weight. ACO’s new rules also demanded a vertical stabilizing fin on all LMP1 and LMP2 cars. Therefore, Audi incorporated the “shark fin” into the carbon fiber bodywork. To further enhance the overall diet, Audi even swapped the traditional headlights for a full-LED system.
With the car ready at the end of 2010, on April 24th the R18 TDI test car arrived at La Sarthe for testing. The three R18 finished in first, second and fourth. The official race debut of the R18 was in the Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, on May 7th. Though Audi’s three R18 started out on pole position, they were beaten by Peugeot’s 908. While the 908 finished in first and second, the R18 came in 3-4-5. Not the best result, nonetheless acceptable for a first race. With that, in May of 2011 Audi took it to Monza (2 min video) for further testing. However, the next challenge was the big one: Le Mans. On June 12th, 2011, Audi came back to La Sarthe with three cars. Though two were wiped-out by accidents, R18 #2 came in first place. That was Audi’s ninth Le Mans win, surpassing Ferrari.
After the R8, the R18 is the Audi model with the most wins at La Sarthe. With that, it would be great to have the test version of the car. This is a Dealer Edition from Spark (note the funky part number), and therefore, hard to find. In fact, I only became aware of the existence of the R18 TDI test car two months ago. Nonetheless, I got it for a very good price. When I discovered this model I also found out that Spark also offers the Monza test version. For me, though, this Le Mans test version is more interesting. The model per se is basically the same as my R18 #2. Even so, they’re not the same car with a different paint scheme. So yes, in other words, kind of boring. Yet, for the R18 fan or Le Mans nut, pretty interesting.