Yes, the picture confirms what you may be wondering, the R18 is a clamshell, and is the first time Audi has gone back to the design since 1999. The decision to do so was influenced by a number of factors, the main one being Peugeot’s huge success with their own diesel-powered LeMan’s cars that came hot on the heels of the R10 and began to take victories. Among other reasons include reducing driver fatigue and increasing aerodynamics.
Work on the concept began in 2009, and the new car is powered by a 3.7 L TDI V6, which sends its grunt through a new 6 speed transmission. To help keep the weight low and make sure as little of that power is wasted as possible, a single piece carbon fiber monocoque body was used, which also keeps rigidity and stiffness at an optimum. The epic all LED headlights are a first in LeMan’s as well. Not only do they look cool, but they probably sap less power, which is important for an engine that has to run for almost an entire day non stop, and are less likely to fail, as it is so common to see LeMan’s cars with just one or no functioning headlights in the middle of a race.
Audi plans to campaign three R18 racers in the 2011 LeMan’s race this summer, but the vehicle’s first appearance will be at the six hours of Spa on April 24th.