Over the past 15 years Audi has been a major force at the Le Mans 24 Hours, and the latest generation R18 e-tron quattro hybrid is expected to continue with the trend.
Interest in the 82nd running of the French classic in June is already high as Audi prepare to do battle with Porsche, marking the first time the two most successful brands in the race’s history have competed with each other. Meanwhile Toyota will continue to try and dethrone Audi after two years of trying.
Another talking point will undoubtedly be the new, energy efficiency-based regulations. These new regulations provide Audi, the inventor of the TDI, the opportunity to prove its technical expertise on the track as well as on the road.
“Le Mans is a unique test laboratory for our technologies,” said Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, who is responsible for Technical Development on the Board of Management of AUDI AG. “The comprehensive range of new technical developments of our current Le Mans race car includes the headlights with laser light. They illuminate the track for a distance of up to 800 meters. In a planned derivation for production vehicles, they achieve up to 500 meters, which is twice the range of LED headlights. With that, Audi is making an important contribution to safety on the track and in road traffic.”
Audi turned heads at the 2006 edition of the 24 Hour race, taking victory with the Audi R10 TDI powered by direct-injection diesel engine, a feat many believed to be almost impossible. Since then, Audi has won the race seven times on TDI power, with the learning effects continually feeding into the design of parts in production development.
The German team caused a stir again in 2012 when it took the first Le Mans victory for a hybrid car. The R18 e-tron quattro had its rear axle powered by a TDI internal combustion engine, while the front axle was driven by electric power. A fully electric control strategy was the only connection between the two drive systems. At the same time, Audi expanded its product range by hybrid models.
For 2014, Audi will compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship with the new specification R18 e-tron quattro, while on the road it starts delivering the A3 Sportback e-tron, a latest-generation plug-in hybrid.
“The general public and the motorsport audience have come to expect Audi to play this part of a trendsetter,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “We are proud to be at the very front with these innovations in our motorsport commitment, while benefiting from Audi Sport being a part of the Technical Development of AUDI AG on a daily basis. We aim to continue to prove the Auditypical ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ in tough racing conditions with our Le Mans prototypes in the future – even though in 2014 we’re no doubt facing the greatest challenge ever at Le Mans.”