The Le Mans 24 Hours, the world’s most important endurance race, will be held for the 80th time on June 16 and 17. Just in time for the anniversary event, Audi uses the French classic to yet again field forward-thinking
technologies that are important for product development of the brand with the four rings.
After ten victories, the time has come for a new challenge. For Audi, Le Mans is not only about achieving the next success. The company’s aim is to be the front runner with new technologies – as it has often been in its over 30 years of motorsport history and particularly at Le Mans. In 2001, Audi managed to claim the first victory with the combination of turbocharging and direct injection (TFSI), which is standard in production vehicles today. The first Le Mans success of a diesel-powered race car in 2006 made worldwide headlines. In 2010, a vehicle with variable turbine geometry (VTG) triumphed for the first time.
Now it is the Audi R18 e-tron quattro – the first race car with diesel hybrid drive at Le Mans that concurrently marks the return of quattro drive. In car number “1″ last year’s winners Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) will be starting from the grid. Their team-mates Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish (I/DK/GB) will drive the diesel hybrid marked as number “2.”
At the same time, Audi is bringing a “twin” of the R18 e-tron quattro to Le Mans, which has made the fielding of a diesel hybrid possible in the first place: the Audi R18 ultra, the lightest Le Mans prototype ever built by Audi. In the cockpit of the number “3″ R18 ultra, Romain Dumas/Loïc Duval/Marc Gené (F/F/E) will be taking turns at the wheel. Number “4″ will be driven by Marco Bonanomi/Oliver Jarvis/Mike Rockenfeller (I/GB/D).
Except for the hybrid system and different graphics, the R18 e-tron quattro and the R18 ultra are technically identical in every respect. Both embody ultra lightweight technology, which is one of the company’s core competencies. The new CFRP transmission housing – the first of its kind in an LMP sports car – is just one example of this ultra lightweight expertise.
In addition, both vehicle concepts are packed with numerous other innovations – from the highly efficient charging concept of the 3.7-litre V6 TDI engine with its mono VTG charger through to the digital rear-view mirror with an active matrix OLED display. It clearly improves active safety, has high relevance for road traffic and is a perfect example of the close association between AUDI AG’s Technical Development and Audi Sport.
2012 impressively demonstrates the attractiveness of Le Mans as a stage for new technologies. Never before have so many different drive concepts been put on the grid. Audi is expecting Toyota as a strong new competitor in the field of the 56 entrants. The test day at the beginning of June saw the first meeting of the two manufacturers in a direct comparison – with Audi running in front then.
All four R18 cars are fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest, the most successful Le Mans team of all time. The driver line-up is a high-caliber one as well. The twelve Audi racers combined have achieved 19 Le Mans victories.
1,000 guests of the brand from 24 different markets will watch its showing at Le Mans. The spectator stands should be full too. Twelve months ago, 249,500 spectators flocked to La Sarthe – a similar turnout of fans is expected again this year for the anniversary event.
Spectators watching the race at home have numerous information channels available to them. In addition to national television broadcasts, www.audi-liveracing.com will be offering unique cockpit camera perspectives and summaries of the race. The Audi Sport iPhone app will carry comprehensive reports including a ticker, news, pictures and results of the year’s major racing event.