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Audi R18 e-tron quattro 2015 preview - an in depth look at the new Le Mans car

Does this year's Audi have what it takes to win again?

First impressions of Audi's new R18 Le Mans racer might have you struggling to spot differences with last year's car. Look closer though and you can see just what extensive work has been done in order for Audi to remain consistently competitive.

2015 more than ever, is a crucial year for Audi Sport and endurance racing. Last year Porsche very nearly took the win at Le Mans, while Toyota has the quickest car but the worst luck.

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Nissan has now entered the game with its front-wheel drive GT-R LM Nismo and while it may have pulled out of the first two races of the season, the team still has a Le Mans victory in sight.

As such, Audi has drastically revised the aero setup for this year's Le Mans car, as well as addressing efficiency requirements for the powertrain.

Comparing the front end of the new R18 with last year's car, the most obvious difference are the bigger dive planes, as well as huge air inlets on the front wheel arches, the latter in an attempt to reduce aerodynamic drag. Such significant changes meant Audi had to have the R18's crash structure completely re-tested for 2015.

Moving along the vehicle, the sidepods are paired with new radiator configurations to help better cool the engine and hybrid systems. Finally the rear end of the car is packaged a lot tighter which again is to help reduce drag.

In terms of powertrain, the 4-litre V6 TDI now outputs 550bhp which is paired up with a 268bhp electric motor that drives the front axle. 

Audi has decided to run into the 4 megajoules class of hybrid output for its 2015 race season, which means the revised R18 powertrain will need to use 2.5 percent less diesel per lap.

The end result is an R18 e-tron quattro with more power, improved efficiency and better aero. Given the success over previous years for the car, it's likely that this formula will see it remaining hugely competitive.

The car also now finds its home at Audi Sport's new Neuberg HQ, which will act as a central hub for Audi's entire racing setup, from TT Cup cars to DTM and all the way up to LMP1.

For those interested in seeing the new R18 in action, it will make its race debut on the 10th April at the Silverstone WEC race.

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