Monday, June 24, 2013

Share and share alike: Audi R8 LMS ultra and Audi R8

Audi Press Release

The Audi R8 is an excellent athlete. The thoroughly revised production sports car has won numerous international awards, most recently the red dot award for top design quality. It generously shares a range of components with its racing ‘brother,’ the R8 LMS ultra, which has been collecting numerous trophies in motorsport.

The photo is almost an invitation to a hidden-objects-game: Who can find the differences? At first glance the body-in-white of the Audi R8 on the lifting platform in Heilbronn-Biberach looks as if it is about to turn into an Audi for the consumer. In fact, it actually comes from the production site of quattro GmbH at the Neckarsulm location where more than 20,000 Audi R8 cars have left the assembly line since 2006.

The connection of extruded profiles, gussets and panels plus the light-gray primer and wiring – everything looks like the body-in-white for the production automobile. Only a peek into the interior reveals that the roll cage does not belong in a road-going vehicle. This is precisely the point at which the common genealogical tree of production and racing splits into two branches.

The 210-kilogram Audi Space Frame (ASF) is the ideal backbone for both versions. With its torsional stiffness, ultra-light weight and very high safety it is optimally suited for a race car. Before leaving the assembly line, the racing version is fitted with a steel roll cage as prescribed by the regulations. In addition, space is created for the installation of air jacks that allow the race car to lift on its own as soon as compressed air is pumped into the system at the rear by an air gun. At a pit stop, the R8 LMS ultra thus immediately starts hovering in the air and the wheels can be changed.

More than 50 percent of all the parts of the race car are adopted from production vehicles. Even seasoned motorsport experts are amazed over and over about the quality of the genes of the road-going sports cars,” says Romolo Liebchen, who today is Head of the customer sport department of Audi Sport customer racing.

Numerous facts prove how expertly this has been achieved. The chassis, for example, not only lasts for the entire lifetime of an automobile or, in racing, perfectly holds up to an endurance distance such as the 24-hour races at the Nürburgring or at Spa – both events having been won by the GT3 race car in 2012 – as individual race cars sold by Audi to customers since 2009 have by now covered tens of thousands of kilometers, notably at racing speed. A case in point: Chassis number AS42AOFGT3110319 did its first laps at a functional test on March 29, 2011, followed by a 4-hour race plus a 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. In July, the R8 LMS was run in another 24-hour race at Spa plus a 12-hour race in Malaysia in September. In November, Edoardo Mortara won the GT Cup in Macau with it. In February 2012, the Audi won the Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia. It was subsequently sold to a local team that has since clinched further success with it. Within a year and a half, the GT3 sports car has covered 12,667 race kilometers – not counting the practice and qualifying sessions.

“Such distances represent testing at an accelerated rate,” says Romolo Liebchen. “Audi has gained quite a few findings from this which are fed back into the production side of the house.” The relevant questions are typically not of a fundamental nature but often relate to minor areas in which learning effects occur: joining techniques, design-related parameters, possibilities of implementing motorsport ideas or clever details that facilitate the work of the race teams.

The viability of production solutions in two other areas is amazing. The transverse links (wishbones) that guide the four wheels can be recognized as production parts for road-going models at first glance. “They actually originate from the production side. We modified them for racing,” reveals Liebchen. Cornering forces of more than 2g, deceleration forces when braking with up to 31-centimeter wide slicks or the loads occurring on the famous hilltop jump in sixth gear at the ‘Pflanzgarten’ on the Nürburgring: The suspension, supported by springs and dampers for racing, commandingly handles the brute force.

The benchmark is similarly high with the engine. The 5.2-liter V10 FSI unit is produced at Audi’s plant in Győr, Hungary, together with its production counterparts. Only specific bearing locations are ­subjected to minimal modifications. The engine’s standard dry-sump lubrication can even handle the extreme centrifugal forces in racing. The exhaust system is a new element. The tailpipe of the racing component is centered at the rear between the taillights.

“After 10,000 kilometers, we recommend a minor maintenance service to our customers and after 20,000 kilometers the engine is dismantled and rebuilt for further races,” says Liebchen, describing the service intervals for the 560-hp engine. “In the GT3 category on an international scale, these are top marks.” Customers directly benefit from this, as the rugged power-plant is gentle on the budget.

Conversely, racing technology has long been fed into production models as well. The compartment for the convertible top and the rear side panels of the R8 Spyder are made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). The material that combines strength and light weight is also functionally used for the enlarged front spoiler and the distinctive rear diffusor. CFRP has thus long been playing a much greater role than only for visual carbon applications in the interior.

Within only five years, the racing project with the Audi R8 LMS ultra has demonstrated that the kinship between production and sport at Audi is far more than a claim. The exchange is actively pursued, benefits both areas and promotes the entire development. This underlines the sportiness of the brand.