The Audi R15 TDI will return to Le Mans this year with new aerodynamics and new livery, but can the four rings wrest back the title from Peugeot, who won last year to break Audi’s proud run of victories at the world’s oldest endurance race. They sure hope so.

Whereas silver was the dominant colour of last year’s R15, the 2010 car has a lot more red. In addition, large areas of the Le Mans racer will be kept in a “purist black carbon-fiber look”. The new look car will make its debut at the Le Castellet 8 Hours next week in preparation for the Le Mans 24 Hours in June. Results will be of little importance. “Le Castellet will strictly be about gathering additional experience with the R15 plus. Racing conditions simply can’t be simulated in normal track tests; that’s why we’re contesting a race at such an early stage,” explained Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport.

This R15 is heavily revised over last year’s car, and is internally designated as “R15 plus”. Le Mans 2010 regulations call for smaller diameter air restrictors and reduced supercharging pressure for diesel-powered cars, and this has forced Audi to improve aerodynamics, Cd value and downforce. As a result, the entire shape of the R15 has been revised and it comes with a new face featuring a split nose. The team also says that despite the new engine rules, the R15’s 5.5-litre engine continues to deliver more than 590 bhp through “a lot of detailed work”.

The 2010-spec R15 got its first outing on Audi’s test track in Neustadt early March. The prototype was subsequently flown to the USA for aerodynamics trials before a five-day endurance test at Sebring, Florida where about 5,500 km was clocked without any technical problems worth mentioning.

More images after the jump.

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