Rumors have been floating around that Audi Sport was headed for Florida for some early testing ahead of the ILMC season opener at Sebring. Now, thanks to Floridian photographer James Boone, we can pull this story out of the rumor category. Audi Sport was on hand today at Sebring along with a few other teams doing their first (semi) public shakedowns of both last year's R15 plus and two Audi R18s marked #1 and #2.
Audi had already confirmed that it would race a modified version of last year's R15 at the 12 Hours of Sebring and then finish the season with its new R18 so it is perhaps not that surprising that both cars were in Sebring. That said, the R15 will need to be modified in order to run at Sebring and, at least when it comes to bodywork changes like the so-called "tailfin", the #7 R15 plus running today appeared to be running 2010-spec bodywork.
When we contacted Boone about his experience and asked a few questions, he shared a few points... including how the new car sounded.
There were two R18s running on the track (#1 & #2) and I think I only saw one R15++. I'm not sure of the drivers, honestly. It's tough to see the helmets in the closed cockpit LMPs. I've heard McNish is in town and I saw Dr. Ulrich on a golf cart in the infield. The R18s are quieter than the R15s (except for the two times I heard the cars having engine troubles). They almost sound like a Learjet taking off from a half-mile away. They will be very difficult to hear during an actual race.
Examining high-resolution photos from today's tests, we can at least confirm a few drivers' presence. We can tell by the helmets that both Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer were testing the open-top R15 plus though in the case of the two R18s this is harder to discern. One shot appears to be Dindo Capello at the wheel of the #1, but beyond that we cannot confirm further drivers.
Though details are limited, the real story for the fans is that these mark the first photos of the new R18 out in the wild and on a track. Enjoy the full collection via our photo gallery or also via Mr. Boone's Flickr page. We thank James Boone for taking the shots and for granting us permission to share them with our readers.
PHOTO GALLERY: Audi R18 at Sebring Winter Test Session
Audi R18 First Details
James Boone on Flickr