The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring has long seen debuts of the most successful sports cars in endurance racing. The 57th edition – presented by Fresh from Florida on March 21, 2009 – will be no different as Audi will race its new R15 TDI prototype for the first time. Audi AG made the announcement of a new diesel-powered prototype Friday.
The Sebring 12 Hours, America’s most demanding sports car race, also saw the first race for the Audi R8R in 1999 (which led to the highly successful R8 the next season) and the Audi R10 TDI in 2006. The latter was the first diesel-powered sports car to win at Sebring, and it won the first of its three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans victories only months later. Audi has won Le Mans nine times overall.
“It was clear to us that we must develop a new car if we wanted to continue to be successful in Le Mans,” explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. “The Audi R15 TDI is the result. The step from R10 to R15 is significantly larger than it was from the R8 to the R10.”
The Audi R15 TDI differs significantly from its predecessor, the R10 TDI, at first glance and features many technically innovative details with which Audi aims to maintain its supremacy in Le Mans. The new prototype is equipped with a smaller, lighter and even more efficient TDI engine. During the chassis and aerodynamic development Audi Sport engineers followed similar routes to those exhibited on the current Audi A4 DTM.
Only the basic concept was carried over from the predecessor model: The R15 TDI is also powered by a TDI engine and is an open-topped roadster. Audi does not wish to release any further details at this time.
The first private tests with the new Le Mans sports car are scheduled for later this year. The R15 TDI will only be presented to the public immediately before its race debut at Sebring. Audi also expects to enter three of the cars at Le Mans in June.