- Audi R8C
The Audi R8C was a short-lived
Le Mans Prototypebuilt by Audifor the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was built alongside the similar Audi R8R, prior to being replaced by the all-new Audi R8 in 2000.
At the time of Audi's announcement of their intention to enter the
24 Hours of Le Mansin 1998, the initial plan was to enter an open-cockpit prototype, known as the Audi R8R. However, following the dominant performance of GT1-class cars in the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest(ACO) modified classification rules in order to create a new class known as LMGTP, which would be closed-cockpit prototypes, realistically replacing the powerful, purpose-built GT1 cars.
Following this rule change, Audi decided that they should invest in this new LMGTP class, thus forcing them to design a whole new car, vastly different from the R8R. With the aid of Audi's new engineering partner Racing Technology Norfolk (RTN), Audi designer Tony Southgate set out to design the new R8C, unlike the R8R which was built by
The R8C and R8R would both use the Convert|600|hp|kW|-1|abbr=on 3.6 litre twin-turbocharged
V8 engine, but would be radically different aerodynamically. While the R8R would have a large number of vents on the nose of the car, most of the intakes and air exits on the R8C would be placed on the side of the car. The R8C would also use thinner fenders, partially due to LMGTP rules which stipulated that LMGTPs used thinner tires in comparison to LMPs in order to make up for the better aerodynamic efficiency, and thus increased potential speed, of closed-cockpit cars. Using a styling feature borrowed from the Toyota GT-One, the insides of the front fenders would also be opened, in order to not only allow air to exit from the front wheel wells, but also to assist in brake cooling.
For the cockpit of the R8C, a long sloped windshield would extend far down the nose. For the roof, the minimum roof height would be achieved with the use of raised humps above the driver's position, yet would be lowered in between these humps for better aerodynamic efficiency to the rear wing.
The rear of the car would feature a boxy, blunt tail that was developed from the improved R8R, yet would be longer in order to better maximize the coupe's aerodynamics.
Unlike the R8R, which performed the bulk of the testing due to being completed first, the R8C had very little time to test prior to the initial group test for the
24 Hours of Le Mansin May. At this group test, the cars unfortunately suffered numerous set backs and lacked the pace of the open-cockpit brothers. Although they were capable of hitting speeds upwards of Auto km/h|350|0 on the Mulsanne straight, they lacked the handling ability and overall speed for a full lap. While the R8Rs managed the 8th and 11th fastest times, the R8Cs could only muster 22nd and 28th fastest. The R8Cs mostly suffered from aerodynamic problems, especially in the build-up of air underneath the engine cover. This caused the R8Cs to lose their rear engine covers while at speed on several occasions.
For the race itself, the R8Cs were unfortunately able to find much improvement over the month off. Qualifying was more of the same, as the R8Cs managed a mere 20th and 23rd places, while the R8Rs were still 9th and 11th. Unfortunately during the race, both the R8R and R8C suffered numerous gearbox difficulties. One R8C was forced to drop out of the race after a mere 55 laps, while the second R8C would succumb to gearbox failure after the midpoint of the race. Even though the R8Rs suffered gearbox difficulties, both cars managed to finish the race, taking an impressive third and fourth place.
Following Le Mans, Audi decided that they would concentrate on only one of the two types of cars for the future of their program. The dismal performance of the R8C, along with the exodus from the LMGTP class by most major manufacturers, lead to the R8R being the victor, leading to the development of the simply named Audi R8 open cockpit prototype for 2000.
However Audi would return to the LMGTP class in 2001 in the form of the Bentley EXP Speed 8. Although similar to the R8C, the EXP Speed 8 shared nothing with the previous LMGTP except for its Audi turbocharged V8. Aerodynamic lessons from the R8C would however be carried over for the Bentley.
Only two R8Cs were ever built, chassis #101 and #102, both raced by Richard Lloyd's
AudiSport UK. The 1999 24 Hours of Le Manswould be their only competition.
Audi R8 (race car)
Bentley Speed 8
* [http://www.mulsannescorner.com/audir8c.htm Mulsannes Corner] - Audi R8C analysis
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