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|A look at the Audi R10 TDI diesel sportscar prototype|
|Torque Rules the Sportscar World !!! .... Revs try to “catch up|
| Audi finally got to show off it’s new and much anticipated Audi R10 TDI Diesel
Prototype race car at the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring. We all know that this was really just a “test-drive” and “shake-down” for the 24 Hours of LeMans. Sebring has always been a precursor to determining the odds-on favorite in the famous summer drive around the south of France, in June. This year Audi has delivered a scary preview to other competitors in the sportscar racing world. The new Audi R10 chassis carries a V-10 diesel engine and it won all three prizes at Sebring. It won the race.... and was fast-lap polesitter too, but the third prize may be the most significant. Audi won the PR war.
The new Audi R10 TDI has joined motorsport history and folklore with it’s first race
appearance, no matter the results. By grabbing both the first-ever pole position and
race-win of a diesel-powered sportscar makes the story even better. Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and LeMans “iron-man” Tom Kristensen drove the winning #2 “yellow” Audi R10 to the win. You can count on Audi merchandising this news world-wide in advance of LeMans.
A significant and growing share of Audi’s world-wide
automobiles sold run diesel engines, [everywhere except the
USA, where Sebring is a “local” event, clueless to
most attending fans]. This page offers the first photos of the Audi R10
diesel prototype in racing trim. We’ve sent the best images off
to our photo agency and clients, but these outtakes will give you a
The Audi R10 TDI diesel Prototype was presented to the press [ December 12, 2005] in Paris, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Three-time Le Mans winner Frank Biela was at the wheel of the car during the roll-out. Many of the sneak-peek testing photos that leaked out were miss-leading. Here it is... the Audi R10 TDI V12 diesel prototype ready to race... and what a race it was. More about the chassis and the new diesel powerplant below, but first lets talk about the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring.
The weekend started well for the red [#1] and yellow [#2] Audi
R10s. Alan McNish put the #2 “red” Audi R10 TDI car
on the pole with a record-breaking lap time in qualifying. The #1
“yellow” Audi R10 was set to start side by side on the
front row. All was well, until a heat exchanger had to be
replaced in the #2 “yellow” car after the 8am “race
day” warm-up session. Dindo Capello, by rule, was required
to start from the pit-lane, effectively chasing the crowd from the back
of the field. What you may not notice, unless you read the press
reports very closely, is that it took Capello about half an hour to go
from “last” to 2nd place [ just behind the red #1 car of
Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro, and
Marco Werner. Before the end of “Hour 2”, the yellow [#2] car was in the lead and ran in that spot to the checkered flag. Along the way Alan Mcnish set a new “race day” lap record too. You can’t believe the panic of the other team management staff. If you saw the movie “King Kong” last summer, remember the faces of the NY street people when they see the gorilla for the first time...... wide eyes, mouth hanging open..... it was real similar.
The red #1 Audi R10 TDI that was all alone on the front row at the race-start, did not finish. That was an interesting story too. Frank Biela led the race for the first two hours, and Emanuele Pirro / Marco Werner chased the yellow #2 until about 1/3 of the way into the 12 Hour race. Audi Sport North America withdrew the #1 “red” car due to an overheated engine. It turns out that maybe both cars had heat exchanger issues, but it was evident only on the yellow #2 car, early enough to correct it. In the first hour, the telemetry system of the red #1 Audi R10 stopped transmitting. Without real-time engine data, Audi Sport’s diesel engine technicians were blind. Marco Werner radioed in about high watertemperatures just after lunch time. A pit stop was done. Air flow to the radiators was blocked by tire clag debris. A quick cleaning and the coolant temps sank immediately, but climbed again. After a bit of review, the brain trust at Team Audi Sport North America decided to park the red #1, from second place, as a precaution to causing further damage to the engine. It was the only moment of hope for the rest of the race field all day.
So mark your calendar, It probably will be said, in years to come, that sportscar racing changed on the 20th of March, 2006. The new Audi R10 TDI diesel prototype driven by Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen won the first ever victory of a diesel-powered sportscar. It happened at the 12 Hour of Sebring, and may be the first of many wins, if recent history with the Audi Sport team is any indication. Audi first raced at Le Mans in 1999, when the brand-new, pretty silver cars won “out of the box”. Since then they’ve won the 24 hour drive around the south of France five times, in the last six years. [If you count the name-plate badged Bentley cars, it’s 6 for 6] The Audi R8 model won 61 times in 77 races around the world. The new Audi R10 TDI performance at the 12 Hours of Sebring may be a bad omen for anyone [ except Champion Racing of south Florida, the Audi privateer team] looking for success.
| Here’s what we know about the Audi R10 TDI from
press releases, the interview segments with Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen during the press roll-out / debut in Paris, France and a conversation with Allan
McNish in the paddock at Sebring, Florida. This was
our first opportunity to watch the Audi R10 TDI diesel prototype
in the heat of battle.
the V12 diesel engine-
| First, The diesel engine:
This V12 TDI engine is a 90 degrees configuration with an aluminum crank case.... four valves per cylinder and twin overhead camshafts. The fuel induction uses a ramped up “Common Rail System”,like the Audi road cars, but fuel injection pressures and ignition pressures are way above any production car. The twin turbochargers are limited by the regulations to 2.94 bar. The diameter of both air intakes set by the ACO engine regulations too. Electronic engine management is controlled by the latest generation of computer wizards at Bosch Motronic. Alan McNish told a few reporters that the engine’s power [and the torque of this pages headline] are available from just over idling, but the engine runs between 3000 and 5000 revs, at speed. .
This diesel engine lump requires new thinking by drivers.
It’s no longer necessary to “keep the revs up” and
most disconcerting, at least initially is the lack of engine
noise. In discussions with print reporters, Alan McNish said
there is/was a learning curve on two points.... the low noise
level and a HUGE flat torque map. He said, “at
speed”, the wind noise from the Audi R10 prototype’s
“open” cockpit is greater than the engine clatter and the
driver has 650hp under foot, at any spot on the rev-counter.
There is no need to “keep the revs up”. The Audi driver
team have had to “un-learn” that driving technique, and it
took some practice. Frank Biela had implied the same thing during
the debut of the car in Paris. He was more limited in his comments, [by
the Audi PR people], but on reflection he was telling us the same
thing. The debut was just after some driver practice sessions and
the new driver thought process must have been new.
Vector and Wheels were standing at the Audi Sport North America pit when the 1st Audi V12 TDI engine was fired up in the Sebring paddock. The sound was similar, but more musical than what we heard in Paris, when Tom Kristensen briefly drove around a closed section of roads at the Trocadero, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. In the pits at Sebring, We could actually hear each other say “ oh, that sounds odd”. We were standing less that 4 meters away, with NO earplugs. The note is a low-tone, melodic, bass note of Pth-Pth-Pth- Pth-Pth-Pth- Pth-Pth-Pth. A sound, without any of the common rev of a [Porsche, Ferrari, Dodge Viper V-10] engine, we are used to hearing across the pits. Think of the F1 engine warming cycles. The starter whirrs, the engine catches and you get waww, WAWW, WAWW, waww, WAWW. rev-ing up and down. With the Audi V12 TDI engine, we heard noise levels equal too or less than those coming from the FedEx delivery truck near the press room. It was VERY odd, and there was almost never any preparatory engine reving in the paddock area or on pit row. It does NOT sound like a diesel, as we think of them in car/light truck usage in Europe and it’s a real surprise to USA race fans used to hearing “class 8” diesel trucks clattering. Standing between the red and yellow Audi R10 V12 TDI’s on pitlane, we recognized the acoustics of a diesel-powered sportscar. Out on the track at speed, it was even oddly quieter. When it went past us [solo] in the photographer’s area in Turn 17, we heard more of an “industrial electric motor” when coming and a “StarWars speeder” [ the Pth-Pth-Pth- Pth-Pth-Pth] when leaving. If you watched the world-feed television coverage, you DID NOT get a real feeling for the sound. Book passage to LeMans now. You’ve gotta hear this thing.
Diesel engines have specific issues that require creative solutions. The first issue is heat. Engineers call it “thermal discharge”. It’s just excess heat, than needs to be moved away from the tender, important little pieces and parts. The Audi R10 TDI diesel has taller side pods, which carry larger, cooling heat-exchangers. [We saw one changed on the race winning yellow #2 Audi, just prior to the race start at Sebring.] Switching from petrol to diesel also means new refueling systems. This one [built by the specialist at Stäubli ], promises fast, no-splash refueling during pitstops. Audi had to consider environmental issues. Petrol will evaporate when spilled, diesel won’t. Another interesting accommodation to the uniqueness of a diesel engine is the exhaust particulate. Look at the first photo above. See the exhaust scavengers. Tubes connected to the exhaust outlets are run through an airblower and up-over the pit support trailers to move the “soot” out of the pit garage, when the engines are running. Necessity is the mother...... .
|Now, Let's look at the transmission --
The flat torque of the TDI V12 turbo-diesel engine reduces the total number of gear changes required during any long distance 12 Hour / 24 hour race. This reduces the shift-shock loads in the gear-sets have to endure, improving reliability. Audi says the forces acting on the R10 transmission system are higher than those experienced in Formula 1 drivetrains. We believe it. The flat torque map delivers [reportedly ] 650hp at the bottom of the rev graph, in contrast to F1 trannys that must handle the biggest loads only after revving to the top of each gear. The Audi R10 gearbox is derived from the X-trac unit, but redesigned to handle the enormous torque produced by the TDI engine. The R10 gearbox is smaller and lighter, but has thicker driveshafts [than the R8 tranny] and a newly engineered ceramic clutch developed by ZF Sachs. Traction control is improved for 2006 and is another way to reduces high drive-line stress from the torque-y diesel. Alan McNish has talked about the TC really helping when they are running in the wet and trying to modulate all that engine torque through the Michelins.
The Audi R10 chassis is all new too. Rule changes and design accommodations of the diesel engine have created a new car, with an initially similar look to the successful Audi R8. At first glance, the new Audi R10 chassis does look like the Audi R8, that we all know, but it is not a twin. You instantly recognize it as an Audi, but this new LM P1 sportscar is all new, with tricks soon to be copied. It’s hard to notice, unless you see the R10 and R8 side by side, [or you are expecting it, as we were ], The new Audi R10 looks slightly bigger, an illusion created by the longer length footprint. The body silhouette is flatter than the Audi R8 too. The new car isn’t wider, that is limited by the rules, but stretching [ and stiffening ] the chassis was required. The new R10 needed to make some room. The V12 TDI diesel lump is heavier and longer than the 3.6 litre V8 riding around in the R8 chassis. The R10 also has a bigger driver’s position and some of the modular components we’ll talk about in a bit.
One of the new differences between the Audi R10 and the R8 is that the monocoque and bodywork are modular and integrated now. The R8 was a traditional chassis wrapped in pretty silver body panels. The new generation carbon-fibre R10 monocoque is a group of single units that don’t require the addition of air flow pieces and tack-on fairings. This modular design idea is something Audi has used for quick pitlane service. The Audi R10 takes these ideas to the next step. We’ve seen the rear bodywork section of the R8 come off in one clip, during many races. The new R10 has a new front section that does the same. See the photo of the crew member working on pedal adjustment, on this page. This new nose includes some collapsible crash structure, and when removed on pitlane provides access directly to the front suspension pieces. At some point, we will see a pit crew swap a damaged front end during the race, as we’ve seen them do with the gearbox/rearend a few times in races.
There are new aero-rules for 2006, requiring some changes
and fixes. New racing regulations for LM P1 cars published by ACO
[Automobile Club de l’Ouest, the sanctioning body ] tried to
reduce downforce by 15%, it an attempt to slow the cars on the Mulsanne
Straight at LeMans. Audi Sport says they regained the majority of the
aerodynamic efficiency lost, with extensive wind tunnel testing. Some
visual body changes are a result of the ACO rules too. The new
“double-hoop” rollbar is a prominent visual cue. Look at
the changes in the front splitter and the larger distance between the
wheel track and the side pods. The nose component is more
“point-y” too. Safety issues drove many other changes
required by ACO for 2006. The most obvious to drivers and fans is the
required use of the HANS device [protecting the driver’s spine in
the event of an accident ] that we’ve seen implemented in Formula
1. [ and SuperCup, British Touring car, DTM, and even bubba-racing
NASCAR in the States] .
The longer length chassis allows “too much” room for the drivers, making them more comfortable. Don’t underestimate the value of that in a 24-hour race like at LeMans. Other items like “fly-by-wire steering” let electric servos turn the wheels, reducing driver fatigue, and increasing comfort. Common functions are all controlled from the steering wheel, loaded with computer processors. A Formula 1 style set of paddle-shifters activates the gearbox too. In fact, the Audi R10 has a huge number of electronic pieces compared to the R8. Vector tried to explain the computerized “network” system in the R10, and our eyes glazed over. We edited it out of this discussion. The point is everything important is controlled by central computers, in ways we’ve not seen before. Stupid things like the dash board indicators, radio functions, telemetry communications and the headlights are no longer directly activated by the driver. The switches are for driver knowledge and “click-switch” usability, but everything is done “fly-by-wire” with on-board computers. Bosch Electrontics helped create a new data-log system for the Audi R10. System readings are shown in the cockpit [on the steering wheel mounted display], and instantly transmitted by telemetry to engineers in the pits. Everybody can see the same data instantly. Audi production cars have a similar system that dealer service techs can use, when plugged into in the A8 road car. A new system is coming to the full Audi model automobile line. [ with an expanded choice of diesels too... no surprise there.] As they say, “see your local Audi dealership now”. Another roadcar item is the daytime low-beam headlights, which really are just a group of “white” light-emitting diodes. They deliver a pale blue glimmer to on-coming traffic, but delivers a better controlled light pattern on the roadway. You are seeing these light systems more and more in production road cars in Europe, Australia, Japan and the States. The same is true of the R10 rear “brakelights” and side marker/ indicators.... just very bright, red LED’s.
Race fans [ and arts-y race photographers ] won’t see pretty, red-glowing brake discs on the Audi R10 in the evening at Sebring or LeMans. The new carbon-fiber brake discs are fully enclosed in a cowling which optimizes the air flow and improves brake cooling. It’s an idea “stolen” from the Audi A4 running in the DTM [German Touring Car series] Formula 1 cars use a similar scheme. The brake discs are no longer cooled with ambient air flowing through collection pipes, but by air channeled through carbon-fiber duct elements that are integrated into the suspension pieces. When standing still, The Audi R10 has red-painted brake calipers, just like your road-driven Audi A6RS.
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