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Audi R18 e-tron quattro

Audi's 2014 challenger - The R18 e-tron quattro (Credit: Audi Sport)

The 2014 WEC Championship will see Audi Sport go for its third successive title in a row, but with the fact that there will be a new competitor on the scene, as Porsche will field its first works outfit since the late 1990s with Toyota also making a bid for glory in its second season.

The Japanese manufacturer has been using the TS040 Hybrid V8-powered LMP1 car to several successes in 2013, which included the final race at the 6 Hours of Bahrain a few weeks ago, but will not be unveiling its 2014 challenger just yet, whereas Porsche was first to unveil its LMP1 car for next year.

Porsche “Night Of Champions” Team Reveal

After months and months of development and fine-tuning, the new car from Weissach was unveiled just over a week ago to the media in attendance, as the car’s technical specifications are still shrouded in mystery. At the “Night of Champions” event at Porsche’s HQ, Mark Webber, who moves to the team after a long spell in Formula One was accompanied by former Audi Sport drivers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, who have won at Le Mans.

Swiss driver Neel Jani, Marc Lieb and former Red Bull Junior driver Brendon Hartley were also announced as the final line-up for Porsche’s 2014 WEC and Le Mans assault. So an international team was unveiled, but what about this upstart that could cause an upset of gargantuan proportions?

The 919 Hybrid Brief Overview

The 919 LMP1 Car testing before its WEC debut (Credit: Porsche AG)

The 919 LMP1 Car testing before its WEC debut (Credit: Porsche AG)

The layout of the new car from Porsche is an attempt by its technical team to further take advantage of the new restrictive elements of the regulations that have been mandated by the FIA and the ACO with regards to efficiency. The car has been tested by several of the works driver line-up thus far, so as to help it hit the ground running.

There may be a bit of similarity in parts when it comes to its rivals from an aesthetic and aerodynamic viewpoint, but speculation about the power train that the new car will be using appears to be a four-cylinder petrol unit. It has a displacement of around two litres, which would be dwarfed in capacity by both Audi and Toyota.

Direct-injection systems will aid in the fuel efficiency, which falls in line with the 2014 technical regulations, as well as the car having braking and thermal energy recovery systems to help provide the additional power required, but as Porsche are staying relatively tight-lipped on what the new car will boast when it goes into battle at Silverstone this coming April. With 120 employees at the LMP1 headquarters in Weissach working together to make this car as good a rival as possible for its fellow competitors, so expect some fireworks sooner on track rather than later…

The R18 e-tron Quattro Overview

Audi's new beast, the R18 e-tron quattro is ready for 2014 (Credit: Audi Sport)

Audi's new beast, the R18 e-tron quattro is ready for 2014 (Credit: Audi Sport)

The car that has won the 24 Heures du Mans for the last two seasons, as well as the first two titles of the WEC is completely overhauled and has had a major re-design in preparation for the 2014 season, built by Ingolstadt’s finest from the ground up. However, the new regulations have enabled Audi to make some good changes that help with regards to freedom of technologies that can be used for optimum efficiency.

It may look like its predecessor, but there is a host of new innovations behind this skin of this endurance race monster, that is the latest in the Audi family of proven winners that is set to continue that trend. Construction started on the new LMP1 entry started at the end of 2012, with a set of tests involving the new R18 happening fairly recently, before its unveil last Friday at the Audi Sport Finale in Ingolstadt.

Powertrain and Hybrid Technologies

All the new LMP1 cars will have to deal with thirty percent less fuel that the current configurations, with further requires the need for alternative solutions to help facilitate an optimized and efficient strategy when it comes to competing. Head of Engine Technology, Ulrich Baretzky is still the mastermind behind the heavily developed V6 TDI engine that sits in the 2014 car for Audi, which will use an advanced flywheel hybrid system that was used to great advantage over the past two years.

However, in addition, the turbocharging system on the new V6 will work in a somewhat-similar principle as how the F1 regulations have also changed for the 2014 season. The emphasis will be upon the car’s innovative electrical turbocharger system hitting its limit when it comes to boost levels, which will also help further the performance assistance that the new car will need against its competition.

Safety Considerations

So along with further choices as to what strategies that the team and drivers can call upon when racing rises to a whole new level when the car gets its first taste of action at Silverstone this coming April. Further changes have also occurred in the realms of safety, where the car has to be a lot more rigid, especially with the new monocoque having to sustain its shape under heavier impacts, which also is dictated by further reducing the risk of intrusions into the cockpit.

Wheel tethers have been introduced this season as well, as two have to be provided per wheel, as the tethers themselves help to secure the front suspension on the monocoque as well as the rear suspension, which is fixed onto the main chassis structure on the R18. There is also a structure that is behind the transmission that is called a “crasher,” which is an energy-absorbing carbon-fibre reinforced polymer that aids rigidity in case of a collision.  Plus also with the addition of laser lights on the front of the cars, this will also help the drivers to have better visibility during the night, especially at Le Mans.

Weight and Aerodynamics

Then there are the two main factors that help with overall performance on any type of racing car: Weight and aerodynamics. The challenge of keeping the weight down on the new car is hard enough, especially with two energy-recovery systems in place, which could mean that through Audi’s Ultra light-weight technology that is used in the WEC could reach a higher level of weight-saving than what has recently been done before, especially as the outgoing e-tron Quattro weighed 915 kilos.

And finally, the way that the aerodynamics have changed have been in the form of two major changes: the rear diffuser, which was assisted by the blown exhaust gases, has now been outlawed, whereas there is more freedom on the front of the vehicle, with the overall width being reduced by 10mm and the height being raised by 20mm as a mandatory requirement.

At the front of the new Audi chariot, a front wing now replaces the front diffuser that has been used since the R18’s introduction in 2011, which gives the benefit of aerodynamic improvement, as well as reducing costs all round. It also further helps the outfit to be able to modify the front end of the new R18 without having to use separate bodywork as in previous incarnations.

So “Vorsprung Durch Technik” is in full effect, as Audi Sport will now be moving to a purpose-built facility in Neuberg for the future, with all efforts still readily underway as the hard work continues towards the first battle that will start a war between three major racing powers in the LMP1 class.

But one of the biggest changes to the class itself is the fact that three-time Le Mans winner and 2013 WEC Champion, Allan McNish, has retired from competing in sportscars with immediate effect before his 44th brithday, which sees another veteran name alongside Dindo Capello leaving what was the “All-Star” team in their final Le Mans race together in 2012.

Allan leaves on the top of his game, calling time on sportscars (Credit: Audi Sport)

Allan leaves at the top, calling time on his sportscars career (Credit: Audi Sport)

There is no one that can replace the driver that Allan was in sportscar racing, especially when he is at his best, but there are many Audi Sport drivers that will be awaiting news from Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich to make the jump into a team that will look to defend its titles in 2014. The engines will roar into action once again at the Home of British Motor Racing before you know it…