AUDI AG has achieved another technological milestone in motorsport. On the 80th running of the famous Le Mans 24 Hours, a vehicle with hybrid drive – the Audi R18 e-tron quattro – has triumphed for the first time.
Around 200,000 spectators witnessed a fascinating race with the drama and incidents that are typical for Le Mans plus an impressive demonstration of “Vorsprung durch Technik.” The four Audi R18 cars from Audi Sport Team Joest were the quickest and most reliable vehicles and after 24 hours occupied positions one, two, three and five.
All four Audi R18 cars had the chance to clinch what amounted to the brand’s eleventh Le Mans victory in total.
After 378 laps, last year’s winners Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (D) and Benoît Tréluyer (F) at the wheel of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro designated as car number “1” were again the front runners. Dindo Capello (I), Tom Kristensen (DK) and Allan McNish (GB) as the runners-up caused the allwheel drive of the future in which the conventional drive system is intelligently combined with an electrically driven axle to record a one-two result. Audi is already testing this technology in which the drive shaft is replaced by electric cables for use in production vehicles.
Le Mans rookie Marco Bonanomi (I), Oliver Jarvis (GB) and Mike Rockenfeller (D) in the best conventionally powered Audi R18 ultra completed the fourth one-twothree victory for Audi at the Le Mans 24 Hours after 2000, 2002 and 2010. Romain Dumas (F), Loïc Duval (F) and Marc Gené (E) at the wheel of the second R18 ultra finished in fifth place.
Operating at the rear of all four Audi R18 cars was the latest evolution of the compact V6 TDI engine with VTG mono turbocharger that was used at Le Mans for the first time in 2011. The new ultra-light transmission with a carbon fiber housing – a novelty in a Le Mans sports car – held up to the Le Mans endurance test covering a distance of 5.151 kilometers in all four vehicles without any problems as well. Like quatto all-wheel drive, ultra-lightweight design is a core competency of the company.
The two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars embody these two technologies in a particularly extreme form – and they were the protagonists at the 80th edition of the endurance classic right from the beginning. They only had to relinquish the leading position to one of the two Toyota hybrid vehicles once for a few laps on Saturday night. After the early retirements of their fiercest rivals the two R18 e-tron quattro cars fought a thrilling duel for victory throughout the night until noon on Sunday during which the lead changed several times and the two diesel hybrid sports cars were often separated by just a few seconds.
With its eleventh victory at Le Mans, Audi has extended its lead in the World Endurance Championship. Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish as the runners-up recaptured the lead in the drivers’ world championship.