Sunday, April 14, 2013

Homologation Saga - 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra

By Johan Laubscher

At the end of 2012 Audi Sport revealed renders of the new 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra. The car appeared similar to the 2012 ultra, however the rear end had received a number of revisions. The most notable visual changes were the addition of new: rear-view mirrors, swan-neck mounted rear-wing, central exhaust and a very aggressive rear diffuser. The prospects of the new updates looked great, but there was an impending twist to this story.

Original press release render of the 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra

The new Audi R8 LMS ultra was termed an evolution of the previous 2012 variant. The initial differences between the 2012 and 2013 cars can be seen HERE. A number of new 2013 ultras were delivered as the season began to pick up speed, all seen in full specification. It was widely expected that all the 2013 cars would be seen in the full new specification this year.

Race debut at Sepang - Three Audi R8 LMS ultras from Absolute Racing

The race debut for the new ultra took place at Sepang, during the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend. Absolute Racing fielded three new cars, more can be read HERE. Following this new ultras were also seen in the British GT Championship (one car for M-Sport) and the Japanese Super GT (one car for Hitotsuyama Racing). To date the appearance of these five full 2013 specification Audi R8 LMS ultras remains the only instances where these cars have competed, as the story had taken a twist for the worse.

Side profile of the 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra (full 2013 specification)

Speculation had arisen after the initial renders were revealed in 2012, where some thought that the new updated car would face troubles during the homologation process, and indeed this turned out to be the case. Five 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra cars were expected to take part at Nogaro, round one of the FIA GT Series (the weekend following the Sepang debut). The five cars did arrive for the weekend, however they were all in 2012 specification. The news then emerged that the new 2013 specification and components had not yet passed homologation, and thus the cars had to be retrofitted to 2012 specification.

Hitotsuyama Racing Audi R8 LMS ultra in Super GT (full 2013 specification)

It is worth noting that the Sepang weekend was a week before Nogaro and the 2013 cars were allowed to take part in that series. However the British GT weekend took place on the same weekend as Nogaro and the Super GT event took place one week later. In both cases, British GT and the Super GT, the cars (one in each series) were allowed to compete under special dispensation from the organisers. Penalty weight was added to both cars as a result, due to the cars not being fully homologated as of yet.

Intermediate specification - 2013 specification fitted with the older R8 LMS ultra rear diffuser.

A lot of further speculation took place following Nogaro, but it seems that finally some clarity is emerging. A number of 2013 Audi R8 LMS ultra cars were seen at various events this week, all sporting an intermediate specification. The cars were seen fitted with all the 2013 components, only excluding the rear diffuser, as the older diffuser was fitted. Thus this included the new rear-view mirrors, rear-wing and exhaust layout being fitted to the cars. This configuration was consistently applied to all the cars seen this week, thus it would suggest that this, for now, is the new 2013 specification standard for the Audi R8 LMS ultra. No official news or reports have been released thus far, but it is safe to assume that this is the new layout. This layout was seen at the ADAC GT Masters Test, BES at Monza, VLN and private testing this week.

2012 R8 LMS ultra parts disallowed during homologation - rear-wing position and bonnet vents

This was not the first time that the homologation process had troubled a new Audi R8 LMS. The first Audi R8 LMS ultra, released in 2012, also suffered as some of its new features (most notably the bonnet vents and rear-wing position) were disallowed. Both components were however allowed in certain championships later during 2012. 

The official statement regarding the final outcome of the homologation remains to be seen. However it is good news for Audi fans to see that progress is being made with the appearance of the intermediate configuration for the new R8 LMS ultra cars. 

Photo credit: Audi Sport Media and Stefano Ciabattoni - Mr Monza