By 2009, Audi had established itself as the leader in the Le Mans Prototype category. Audi’s success began with the R8, which made its first appearance in 2000. This model won sixty-three times in seventy-nine starts. This statistic includes five 24-Hour of Le Mans victories before the R10 replaced it. The R10, introduced in 2006, delivered some equally impressive results. The car earned thirty-six wins in forty-six races, of which three were at the 24 Hour of Le Mans.


In 2009, Audi AG was ready to launch a new Le Mans Prototype with additional innovative technology. This would be the Audi R15 TDI, which turned its initial test laps in late 2008 and competed for the first time in March at the 2009 12 Hours of Sebring race. Responsibility for maintaining the cars went to Team Joest, with one car being entered under the Audi Sport Team Joest banner and the other being Audi Sport North America. Like its predecessor, the R10 TDI, the new car used a 5.5-liter diesel engine with Turbo Direct Injection. However, that’s where the similarities ended. The R15 TDI had a V10 motor, whereas the older Audi used a V12.
The newly developed V10 TDI produced more than 600 horsepower and a maximum torque of over 1,050 Newton-meters. The new power unit was more compact and lighter than the twelve-cylinder engine used in the R10 TDI model. As a result, specific fuel consumption and associated CO2 emissions were reduced. Enhancements to the turbo-charging and fuel injection systems led to improved engine response. In addition, the R15 TDI was equipped with a new generation of even lighter diesel particle filters.
The most obvious difference is the appearance of the R15 TDI compared to the R10. There was a focus on aerodynamics, essential at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Airflow around and through the car was optimized with Computational Fluid Dynamics. Two significant differences are a rear wing suspended from the top and a high nose. The high nose helps to improve the airflow through to the car’s front and rear end. With the R10, airflow was directed over the bodywork; with the R15, the airflow was directed through the vehicle.
The design work around the rear was challenging as the new rules stipulated a 40-centimeter narrower rear wing. The loss in downforce was recovered using the rear body and an innovative wing design. The wing mountings were no longer on the underside but on the upper surface. Also, the exhaust exits upwards just behind the engine to optimize the airflow to the rear wing. To further aid airflow, the cooling air exits behind the front wheels. Audi was convinced that the new aerodynamic concepts offered a huge advantage over the R10.
The wheelbase on the R15 TDI is longer than its predecessor. Audi designers believed this would also be an advantage on the high-speed Le Mans circuit. In addition, the car would be more agile around the tight and twisty tracks. The wheels in the R15 were new from OZ. The wheels allow the suspension arms to be shortened and lightened, plus every component associated with the upright, such as the brakes and hubs. The monocoque is a carbon-fiber composite with the option of mounting the fuel cell quick-fill coupling on either side of the car.
The R15 TDI is equipped with a lithium-ion battery, the same as used in some hybrid cars. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more stable than most batteries. The smaller cells allow the battery to be designed to meet fitment requirements. As a result, Audi Sport technicians decided to increase the voltage, which meant the electronically controlled power steering and starter motor were designed for a higher capacity. The car competes with low-beam headlights comprised of light-emitting diodes. The rear lights sit on the wing end plates.
Audi R15 TDILe Mans Prototype (LMP1)
MonocoqueComposite-fiber design from carbon-fiber with aluminum honeycomb
BatteryLithium-ion battery
Engine90 degree V10 2 Garrett turbochargers,
4-valves per cylinder, double overhead camshaft
Diesel direct injection TDI
Fully stressed aluminnum crankcase
Engine ManagementBosch MS14
Engine LubricationDry sump, Shell oil
Engine Capacity5.5 liters
PowerOver 600-horsepower
TorqueOver 1,050 Nm
TransmissionRear wheel drive, traction control (ASR)
ClutchCarbon fiber clutch
GearboxSequential, pneumatically operated 5-year sport gearbox,
partner X-trac
DifferentialMechanical locking differential
DriveshaftsConstant-velocity tripod plunge-joint driveshafts
Steering Electronic-controlled rack and pinion power steering
Suspension Independent front and rear double wishbone suspension
pushrod system with torsion bars and adjustable shocks
BrakesHydraulic dual-circuit braking system,
monobloc light alloy brake calipers
front and rear ventilated carbon fiber brake rotors
driver adjustable infinitely variable brake-balance
WheelsOZ magnesium forged wheels
front: 13.5 X 18 inch, rear: 14.5 X 18 inch
TiresMichelin radial
front: 33/68-18 rear: 37/71-18
Length4,650 mm
Width2,000 mm
Height1,030 mm
Minimum Weight900 kg
Fuel cell capacity81 liters (Shell V-Power Diesel)

The first competitive outing for the R15 TDI was the 2009 12 Hours of Sebring. In a surprise, the de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a topped the qualifying sheet. Second fastest was the No. 2 Audi Sport Team Joest entry shared by Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello. Kristensen performed the qualifying duties. The No. 1 Audi Sport North America was gridded fourth thanks to Mike Rockenfeller. Rockenfeller was joined by Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner. Despite the Acura’s speed, the Audi’s main threat would come from the two Peugeot 908 HDi FAP entered by Team Peugeot Total.
The Audis and Peugeots moved to the front early, with the de Ferran Motorsports entry retiring on lap 246. At the checkered flag, the No. 2 Audi Sport Team Joest was in first place. This was Kristensen’s fifth overall win. The victory came with new records for the distance covered (1,417 miles) and average speed (117.986 mph). The second R15 TDI finished third overall and in the LMP1 category—two laps behind the leaders. In the second position and on the same lap as the winners was the No. 08 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, shared by Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin, and Sebastien Bourdais.
The next event for the Audis was the 24 Hours of Le Mans. A third R15 TDI was entered by Team Joest and shared by Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Alexandre Premat. Looking for an excellent result on their home soil, Peugeot Sport Total entered three Peugeot 908 HDi, and there was a fourth car from Pescarolo Sport. The No. 8 Peugeot qualified fastest, with the No. 1 Audi starting on the outside of the front row. However, the next three positions on the grid were filled with the remaining Peugeot entries. The other two R15 TDIs would line up sixth and seventh.
After twenty-four hours, the No. 9 Peugeot 908 HDi was the first across the finish line. The car was shared by David Brabham, Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz. A lap behind the winners was the No. 8 Peugeot. The highest-finishing Audi was third and shared by veterans Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello. The trio were six laps behind the winners at the checkered flag. An off-course excursion by the No. 2 Audi on lap-104 led to its exit from the event. The No. 3 R15 TDI encountered issues during the race and finished seventeenth overall and thirteenth in LMP1.
The last race of the season for the Audi R15 TDI would be Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, which was also the final event of 2009 for the American Le Mans Series. Audi Sport Team Joest and Audi Sport North America were looking to redeem themselves after their poor showing at Le Mans. However, the No. 07 Team Peugeot Total of Nicolas Minassian qualified on the pole. Qualifying second by a margin of 0.223 seconds was his teammate Franck Montagny in the second Peugeot 908 HDi. The Audis would line up third and fourth. The No. 2 Audi R15 TDi piloted by Rinaldo Capello was third quickest, followed by Lucas Luhr in the No. 1 Audi.
The Audis moved to the front early in the race and led 160 of the 184 laps. However, during a caution period, a spin put the Peugeots in the first two positions. The weather worsened, and race officials red-flagged the contest after almost five hours of competition. The intention was to restart the event when the situation improved. However, that never happened and the No. 08 Peugeot 908 HDi shared by Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin were awarded the victory. Their teammates Nicolas Minassian and Pedro Lamy finished in the second position. The No. 2 Audi was third and fourth was the No. 1 entry.

Audi has won every Petit Le Mans since 2000. With the poor showing at Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, Audi decided to update the R15 for the 2010 season. The revised Audi was called the R15 TDI Plus and would sweep the podium at Le Mans.

2009 - 12-HOURS of SEBRING
YEAR ENTRANT NO. DRIVER CLASS LAPS POS. CLASS
POS.
2009 Audi Sport Team Joest 2 Allan McNish
Rinaldo Capello
Tom Kristensen
LMP1 383 1 1
Audi Sport North America 1 Mike Rockenfeller
Lucas Luhr
Marco Werner
LMP1 381 3 3

2009 - 24-HOURS of LE MANS
YEAR ENTRANT NO. DRIVER CLASS LAPS POS. CLASS
POS.
2009 Audi Sport Team Joest 1 Allan McNish
Rinaldo Capello
Tom Kristensen
LMP1 376 3 3
Audi Sport Team Joest 3 Timo Bernhard
Romain Dumas
Alexandre Premat
LMP1 333 17 13
Audi Sport North America 2 Mike Rockenfeller
Lucas Luhr
Marco Werner
LMP1 104 48 DNF

2009 - PETIT LE MANS
YEAR ENTRANT NO. DRIVER CLASS LAPS POS. CLASS
POS.
2009 Audi Sport Team Joest 2 Allan McNish
Rinaldo Capello
LMP1 184 3 3
Audi Sport North America 1 Lucas Luhr
Marco Werner
LMP1 183 4 4

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