Audi R18 2016

Third place overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and second in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) may not seem like a terrible way to end 2015, but it was for Audi. Ingostadt was pipped to the top two steps of the podium at the legendary French endurance race, then beaten to both drivers’ and constructors’ championship titles, all by fellow Volkswagen Group rival Porsche.

Undoubtedly seeking to avenge defeat on both counts, the company has stepped up to the plate for the 2016 WEC season with the most powerful and efficient racer it has ever built – the 2016 Audi R18, still a hybrid despite dropping the e-tron quattro name.

Thoroughly revised for the new year, it features revised aerodynamics but retains the diesel-powered TDI engine. The hybrid system has also been modified to include lithium-ion batteries for energy storage, replacing the previous flywheel-based set-up.

Audi R18 2016

Audi R18 2016

To cut spiralling costs (do we smell the implications of the VW Group “dieselgate” scandal?), both Audi and Porsche have agreed to run Le Mans with just two of the latest cars each, rather than three as was the case in previous years.

“With our new Audi R18, we’re setting a clear signal: Audi continues to put the pedal to the metal in motorsport, deliberately relying on TDI – the world’s most successful automotive efficiency technology – at Le Mans,” said head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich.

The new Audi R18 will make its race debut at the season-opening 2015 6 Hours of Silverstone on April 17, with the lineup consisting of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer in one car, and Lucas di Grassi, Loïc Duval and Oliver Jarvis in the other.