Audi heads into this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opener at Silverstone in rejuvenated form, following an off-season transformation for its R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 racer.
The German manufacturer showed improved pace at last month’s Prologue pre-season test at Paul Ricard, and according to Loic Duval, significant progress has been made in getting the diesel-powered prototypes back into the fight against Toyota and Porsche.
“In the end, we knew that it was a good job but you never know where you end up,” Duval told Sportscar365. “I think now we have a little bit better vision about the situation.
“We still don’t exactly know what the others are doing and we are doing our things on our own, for sure. But we are happy with our development during the winter.”
While being one of two manufacturers to move to a higher megajoule hybrid subclass, the 2015-spec R18 also features an overhaul in aerodynamics, which has helped improve efficiency.
According to the 2013 FIA WEC champion, the move from 2 to 4 MJ has produced favorable results, both on power and recovery.
“There’s definitely a difference in power but there’s also a difference in recuperation because you for sure have to improve in that area as well,” Duval said.
“It’s true that the power delivery is higher. You can feel it. When you start to feel it as a driver, it’s definitely a difference. But we don’t want to stop here. For sure in the future we want to go even higher.
“But it’s a good step and welcome, to be honest. It seems like the whole package, from our point of view, seems to be competitive.”
Duval said one of the other biggest steps forward over the winter has been the level of motivation within the team, following a disappointing second half to the season last year that only saw a combined three podium finishes following its win at Le Mans.
“Anytime you start a season the motivation is super high,” he said. “I have to say that last year, even if it was difficult, and if we were struggling in the last few races, I can tell you that everybody was motivated to find the last tenth.
“I think also, that mentality has brought us to where we are today with the massive step over the winter.
“We had the numbers and we had to see on the race track and it seems to follow the numbers we had at home. The motivation is high and the improvement was good. Hopefully it’s going to be enough to be at the front.”
There’s also been a change in the driver lineup for the No. 8 car, following the retirement of Le Mans legend Tom Kristensen, who has been succeeded by Oliver Jarvis.
While Duval, Jarvis and Lucas Di Grassi represent Audi’s youth movement, all three are hoping to deliver the results in 2015, in what could end up being one of the most competitive battles LMP1 has seen yet.