Audi has revealed a new color scheme for its revamped R15 TDI plus, which will make its race debut in the hands of the 2008 Le Mans-winning crew Allan McNish, Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen at Paul Ricard this weekend.
Following its five-day endurance test at Sebring last month, Audi Team Sport Joest will field just one of the R15 pluses, which features a new red cockpit section and stylized silver and black bodywork, for the opening round of the Le Mans Series as part of its build-up to this year's Le Mans 24 Hours.
"The race at Le Castellet comes at a very early point in time for us and is nothing but a test in racing conditions," said technical director Ralf Jüttner. "Even though it's a difficult logistical undertaking, we wanted to gather experiences with the R15 plus at a race as early as possible. Le Castellet offers the opportunity to do this."
Audi ran a reduced racing program in 2009, taking in just the Sebring 12 Hours and Le Mans, with its then new diesel-powered R15 TDI LMP1 prototype. But the car proved unable to match rival Peugeot for pace. The German manufacturer has increased its race schedule this year to take in both Le Castellet and the second LMS round at Spa on May 9 prior to Le Mans, but has been at pains to point out that both races are viewed as test sessions ahead of La Sarthe.
"Le Castellet will strictly be about gathering additional experience with the R15 plus," said Audi Motorsport chief Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Racing conditions simply can't be simulated in normal track tests; that's why we're contesting a race at such an early stage."
Audi has not decided whether all three of its Le Mans-winning trio will race the number 202 chassis being sent to Ricard. "We will only decide whether all three drivers will actually race at short notice," said Ullrich.