It’s almost impossible to comprehend what it feels like to get behind the wheel of a multi-million dollar race car. Especially a beast like the Audi R18 LMP1 race car that has over 1,000hp, yet weighs in at just 1900lbs. But once again the Editor of DriveTribe, Jethro Bovingdon, is the lucky man who gets some seat time behind the wheel of this incredible machine.
We recently saw Jethro going for an acceleration run in the new Bugatti Chiron and as amazing as that must have been, it’s child’s play compared to his R18 experience. The R18 is a culmination of the best technology available for racing cars, with exception of Formula One cars. I tried to locate the estimated price of the R18 but was unsuccessful. The closest bit of information that I found states the 2014 car had an estimated cost of $30 million. Now that’s likely including the cost of R&D as well as a season’s worth of parts and repairs, but still.
Even as a seasoned driver, it would be incredibly nerve-racking to drive this car in general, let alone having the entire Audi race team there watching you drive their baby. But old Jethro handled it like a champ and while he said he never felt like he actually pushed the car anywhere close to its limits, he did say a few things that really registered with me about this car. He said the grip of the car was unlike anything he had ever felt before. He said even though it was a cold morning and the R18 was running full tread tires, it had as much or more grip than a GT3 RS with full race slicks that were up to temperature on a warm summer day.
“the R18 accelerates in the lower gears like a P1 GTR running nitrous”
The second thing that he said that really jumped out at me was regarding the acceleration. He said, “the R18 accelerates in the lower gears like a P1 GTR running nitrous.” Knowing how ridiculously fast the P1 GTR has been in every test up to this point, that really speaks volumes about how well the R18 performs. I will admit, nothing prepares you for the incredibly bizarre sounds that come from the R18 as its running. With a racecar that looks like this, I would expect that it would sound like a jet engine eating a straight piped V12 for breakfast. But instead, it has one of the most unusual exhaust notes I’ve ever heard coming from a racecar.
The power plant that’s creating that bizarre, but intoxicating sound is a 4.0L V6 diesel engine that’s estimated to produce about 514hp and 625lb-ft of torque. All the power from the diesel is sent to the rear wheels only. But remember this is a hybrid too. The front wheels use what Audi calls a “motor-generator unit” that provides “over 470hp.” And remember electric motors create instant torque which combined with the incredibly torquey diesel motor and suddenly it’s easy to see how the R18 accelerates with such ferocity.
Unfortunately, Audi announced out of the blue that they would be withdrawing from the World Endurance Championships (WEC) for the 2017 season. This was just weeks before they scheduled debut of the updated 2017 R18. Since the R18 was abruptly thrown into retirement, it’s possible that you may never see it in action again. So take a minute and watch what happens when a regular guy, with a racing background of course, gets behind the wheel of one of the most technologically advanced Audi’s on Earth.