Audi debuted its all-new R8 LMS Ultra alongside the second-generation R8 V10 and the first-ever R8 e-tron at the 2015 Geneva Motor Show this week. The heavily revised racer is based on the second-generation R8’s platform and is thus both lighter and safer than the current R8 LMS Ultra that it will replace next season.
The second R8 LMS Ultra has a lot to live up to following the on-track success of the first model, which has so far managed to rack up 26 GT3 wins since 2009. The biggest step forward was in safety, Audi says, with the new car “clearly” surpassing the more strict safety requirements to be introduced in 2016. A modified front end structure and a carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) crash element at the rear help it meet crash requirements in place for the lighter Le Mans prototypes, such as R18 e-tron quattro. There’s also a safer LMP-style seat and a rescue roof hatch which allows a driver’s helmet to be removed easier following a crash.
Similar to the road car, Audi paid particular attention to the weight of the R8 LMS Ultra during the development and design processes. The enhanced safety innovations added weight, but the automaker was able to reduce the base weight of the new car from 1,250 to 1,225 kilograms. This was made possible thanks to its mixed material aluminum space frame, a light CFRP roof element and a lighter steel roll cage.
Audi says it used production parts in the new R8 LMS where it made sense from a technical and economic standpoint, and that includes the engine. The 585 horsepower 5.2-liter V10 engine rolls off the same production line as the road car motors do and “remains nearly unchanged.” Some components, however, like the all-new six-speed paddle shift transmission, are for race-use only and are all-new for the second R8 LMS. There’s also a new electronics system with revamped engine electronics, a new traction control system and new software for the electro-hydraulic gearbox.
All-new aerodynamics components round out the major changes on the R8 LMS. The GT3-spec racer now includes a fully lined underfloor and integrated rear diffusor, allowing for a smaller rear wing dimensions. The wheel wells now also open rearwards through a large cross section, improving airflow. Ten percent more air now reaches the radiator, too, while fresh air circulation in the cockpit has been vastly improved for driver comfort.
The new R8 LMS Ultra has already been signed up for its first two on-track events, 24 Hours of the Nurburgring on May 16 and the 24 Hours of Spa on July 25. Customer orders will open in the second half of this year, with first deliveries scheduled before the end of 2015.