A new era for auto racing began this past weekend in preps for the big one. That being the 24 Hours of LeMans.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- May 7, 2012
Audi R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrid – Welcome to the next generation of auto racing.
The race debut of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro at Spa-Francorchamps this past weekend signifies the beginning of a new era at Audi. For the first time ever, a Le Mans sports car with a diesel hybrid drivetrain
and two driven axles
Audi previously marked milestones at Le Mans with TFSI gasoline direct injection (first victory in 2001) and TDI diesel power (first victory in 2006). Now, at round two of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) at Spa, the company’s first diesel hybrid sports cars entered the fray.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich - Head of Audi Motorsport:
“We started to think about the hybridization of a Le Mans sports car relatively soon after the first TDI when new regulations that would be permit such an option appeared.”
According to Audi, in 2008, the Le Mans organizer ACO announced this forward-thinking approach and since 2009 the regulations have expressly been allowing energy recovery systems for LMP1 cars. The complexity of the related tasks is shown by the fact that in 2012 Audi is the first automobile manufacturer to field such an LMP1 vehicle in a race.
The all new R18 e-tron Quattro uses the V6 turbo diesel engine to drive the rear wheels and regenerative braking energy is stored in a flywheel energy storage system which can return it to the front wheels during acceleration.
In the development phase up to the finished race car, Audi set ambitious goals for developing the R18 e-tron quattro with support from various partners. Audi Sport has a track record of successfully managing numerous major technological challenges – from the brand’s first carbon fiber race car in 1999 through to TFSI gasoline direct injection and the TDI project. Building a sports prototype with a turbo diesel driven rear axle and an electrified front axle is an accomplishment that ranks as a “moon shot” in racing terms. There is really nothing else like it.
2012 Audi e-tron quattro
Qualifying at Spa 6 Hours
Audi brought not only a brand new LMP Prototype R18 e-tron quattro but also a lightweight R18 ultra powered exclusively by the V6 TDI engine.
Allan McNish in the hybrid car designated as number “2” set the pace straight from the beginning. He initially drove a lap around the 4.3 mile track in the Ardennes in 2 minutes and 1.967 seconds. The Scotsman then improved his own time by more than three tenths of a second to 2 minutes 01.579 seconds. As on the debut of a TDI diesel engine in a sports car six years ago at Sebring, McNish and his team-mates set the first benchmark with diesel hybrid technology at the forefront.
Audi’s Marco Bonanomi managed to gain access to the front row in the TDI powered R-18 Ultra. The Italian handled the challenging track in 2 minutes 02.093 seconds.
Marcel Fässler in the second Audi R18 e-tron quattro achieved the third-best time and Loïc Duval, who is driving an Audi R18 ultra, finished in fourth place.
Four cars, two different drivetrain designs and the top four qualifying times were a great introduction for not only the Spa 6 Hours but the Grand Daddy of them all. The 24 Hours of Le Mans 24 scheduled for June 16/17.
Spa 6 Hours – The Results
First, Second, Third and Fourth … Audi achieved the best placing one could hope for with two R-18 quattro e-tron’s and two Ultra’s ad Romain Dumas/Loïc Duval/Marc Gené won the Spa 6 Hours in an open battle of the vehicle concepts.
On the intiitally wet track the two hybrid sports cars initially dominated the action. André Lotterer in the number “1” R18 e-tron quattro took the lead from Tom Kristensen in the number “2” hybrid sister car after only a few laps.
Lotterer gained an almost one-minute advantage over the best conventionally powered Audi R18 ultra, car number “3” driven by Marc Gené. At the end of the race’s first hour, two factors caused a preliminary decision. On a drying track, Marc Gené at the first pit stop was the only Audi to switch to slicks while the other drivers received intermediates. Consequently, Audi’s new Spanish signing was up to four seconds quicker than the rest on the 7.004-kilometer track. At the same time, the number “2” Audi R18 e-tron quattro was forced to have the hood exchanged due to a defect on the front lighting system. Tom Kristensen lost almost a minute in the process.
Thanks to the bold tire choice Marc Gené and Loïc Duval converted a gap of around one minute into an advantage during the course of 37 race laps. On lap 63, Duval took the lead – and car number “3” would not relinquish it again through to the finish.
Following behind Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer in the R18 quattro e-tron which finished in second place were teammates Marco Bonanomi/Oliver Jarvis in the second Audi R18 ultra.
Capello/Kristensen/McNish had to settle for an unfortunate fourth place.
In addition to their now proven track reliability, the damn things proved to be fast.
Spa 6 Hours Race Results
|Finish||Drivers||Manufacturer||Laps Completed||Time or Laps Behind Leader|
|1||Dumas/Duval/Gené||Audi R18 ultra||160|| --|
|2||Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer||Audi R18 e-tron quattro||160||+ 46.801s|
|3||Bonanomi/Jarvis||Audi R18 ultra||159||– 1 lap|
|4|| Capello/Kristensen/McNish||Audi R18 e-tron quattro||159||– 1 lap|
|5||Prost/Jani/Heidfeld||Lola-Toyota||156||– 4 laps|
|6||Belicchi/Primat||Lola-Toyota||155||– 5 laps|
|7||Leventis/Watts/Kane||HPD-Honda||154||– 6 laps|
|8||Dolan/Hancock||Zytek-Nissan||151||– 9 laps|
|9||Martin/Kerr/Graves||Oreca-Nissan||151||– 9 laps|
|10||Firth/Hughes/Hartley||Oreca-Nissan||151||– 9 laps|
With the 1-2-3-4 victory at Spa, four reliably working race cars, Audi managed a successful dress rehearsal for the Le Mans 24 Hours. The endurance classic will be held for the 80th time on June 16 and 17 where Audi is aiming for its eleventh overall victory.
Lacking any strong LMP1 cars to compete against the mighty R18s in both forms taking the 24 Hours of Le Mans is all but a foregone conclusion with the absence Peugeot’s 908 HDIs no longer in the running due to budgetary concerns.