Just seven-weeks, and three races, after making its international debut, Audi’s second generation Audi R8 LMS has took its maiden victory. Audi Sport Team WRT took a one-two finish in the VLN endurance championship at the Nürburgring.
The first-generation R8 LMS has been highly successful to date, clocking up 26 GT3 Championship wins between 2009 and 2014, plus 23 titles in other classifications and seven overall victories in 24-hour races.
“This victory in the dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours Nürburgring was an important step forwards for us,” said Romolo Liebchen, head of Audi Sport customer racing. “We had very little experience with the R8 LMS beforehand in changeable conditions. We saw that our new car is competitive. However, this was a test race. We discovered several things on which we must work to be perfectly prepared for the 24-hour race, because we can expect strong competition.” At the season highlight race, on May16-17, four new Audi R8 LMS will face up to several dozen GT3 cars in a starter field of almost a 160 participants.
The new Audi R8 LMS has been designed with a strong focus on safety and features several elements influenced by the higher LMP classes of endurance racing. Audi states that the car ‘clearly surpasses’ the 2016 safety regulations, thanks to a modified frontal crash structure, and a CFRP crash element at the rear that is being used for the first time on a GT3 car. The R8 LMS also features Audi’s ‘Protection Seat PS 1’, again derived from the LMP1 R18 Ultra, whilst the safety revisions are rounded off by the inclusion of a rescue opening in the roof – as used in DTM. The aperture will allow, following an accident, for the driver’s helmet to be lifted in a way that avoids straining the spinal column.
The car’s mixed material Audi Space Frame (ASF) chassis has been revised to reduce overall weight by 25kgs, whilst the torsional stiffness of the stressed frame has increased by 39%. The car also features race-specific wishbones, a new six-speed paddle operated transmission that does without the previous generation car’s ‘drop gear system’, resulting in increased performance and efficiency.
The 2016 R8 LMS also has a revised aerodynamic package, which includes a fully lined underfloor and a conceptually integrated rear diffusor. This has resulted in a smaller rear wing, whilst the wheel wells are left open rearwards, for improved airflow.
Audi has been testing the new GT3 sportscar, which already complies with the new GT3 regulations, since spring 2014. The races during the 2015 season are specifically to put the Audi R8 LMS through an extensive test program under the toughest conditions. “The goal is to be able to supply a winning racecar to our Audi customer teams by the end of the year, and to convince many teams to choose an Audi,” concluded Liebchen.