The car was apparently due to be unveiled next month, but was photographed during secret testing at Vallelunga by Autosport magazine last week, prompting the German manufacturer to release its own photo from the same event.
Unfortunately the gloomy economic outlook has forced Audi to withdraw from the American and European Le Mans Series, where last year’s diesel R10 cleaned up. That leaves only the 12 Hours of Sebring in March and Le Mans in June for the Audi R15 TDI Le Mans Prototype to make its mark, with ‘Nishy’, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen defending their 2008 Le Mans title in one car, and Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner sharing another.
According to Autosport, the new open-cockpit prototype racer is a radical departure from the R10, not least thanks to a new high-level nose that mimics latest aerodynamic thinking on the F1 grid. The new car’s radiators are also closer to the front wheels, there are newly scalloped sidepods and the rear end is much lower – apparently a ruse to improve downforce in the light of new LMP1 regulations demanding a 20 percent reduction in aero aids.
The recently all-conquering Audi diesels will hopefully have another decent fight on their hands at Le Mans this year, with tough competition expected from Peugeot and the gorgeous Gulf-liveried Astons. As if you needed any more encouragement to come and pitch your tent at the official PH campsite in Sarthe…