This will be the first and only race for the R18 TDI before the Le Mans 24 Hours, which means that Audi Sport will use the close to six-hour race in the Ardennes region as a full, three-car “dress rehearsal” for the race in France.
“Although we tested at Le Mans recently, we’ll learn a lot more about the new Audi R18 TDI and also how it fares against the competition at Spa,” said Audi driver Allan McNish. “The 20-minute qualifying session on Friday afternoon will be the first time when we’ll see the true performance of all of the new cars because it will be the first time when everybody is on the same playing field together at the same time.”
The Scotsman will be joined by regular co-drivers Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Dindo Capello (Italy) in the new diesel-engined R18 Coupé for the 1,000km race around the 4.35-mile Spa-Francorchamps track.
Due to the new regulations from the Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO) that came in effect this year and dictate significantly smaller engines, Audi had to replace the older R15 TDI’s ferocious V10 turbo diesel with a new 3.7-liter V6 TDI unit.
Unlike previous Audi Le Mans sports cars, which all came with twin turbochargers, the R18 TDI is fitted with a single turbocharger featuring variable turbine geometry (VTG) tech that sits above the engine and draws its air directly through the air scoop mounted on the roof.
"In this way we are able to convert the dynamic pressure generated at high speeds with minimal losses into power," explains Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology at Audi Sport.
The new V6 powerplant is estimated to deliver more than 540 ponies.
According to Audi, a unique aspect of the new R18 TDI is its unusual sound, or rather the lack of it, as the company claims it’s the quietest racer it has ever built. "Noise is unused energy," comments Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich of Audi Sport. "The sound is unique," said Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen. "It’s hard to describe. You have to hear it yourself. I think it’s fantastic."