Season » 2014 » 24h Le Mans (F)

Audi motorsport-140606-3493

Fierce competition in group of hybrid sports cars

Audi has been competing at Le Mans since 1999 in order to achieve sporting success with technological innovations. Never before has an LMP1 race car sporting the four rings been as light, fuel-saving and efficient as the current Audi R18 e-tron quattro. As required by the regulations, its fuel consumption per 100 kilometers has to be up to 30 percent lower than that of the previous models. Despite these tough requirements, Audi is endeavoring to battle for its 13th victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 14 and 15.

Audi has been setting efficiency standards with its ultra technology. Since 2001, TFSI gasoline direct injection helped to considerably reduce fuel consumption at Le Mans, and subsequently in Audi’s production automobiles as well. Since 2006, Audi caused a sensation with the TDI engine and five victories at Le Mans. Since 2012, the diesel hybrid drive of the R18 e-tron quattro has been unbeaten at La Sarthe. The next major step results from the efficiency regulations in 2014. Fundamentally new rules determine that Audi and its rivals in the battle for overall victory have to economize on fuel – up to 30 percent less is available this year, depending on the concept and rating. And this requires a highly efficient race car.

Audi has developed a fundamentally new sports prototype for 2014. The leading innovations include the Audi laser light. This pioneering technology further improves active vision and is simultaneously introduced in the Audi R8 LMX (fuel consumption combined in l per 100 km: 12.9; CO2 emissions combined in g/km: 299). For the powertrain, Audi, in the 25th year of the TDI engine, has developed a new 4.0-liter V6 unit for Le Mans. It has been purposefully designed for efficiency and, together with many other optimizations of the race car, such as aerodynamics, helps save energy. Compared with the 2006 5.5-liter V12 Audi R10 TDI, the first TDI engine used at Le Mans, the current race car consumes about 40 percent less fuel – while achieving comparable lap times.

In concrete terms, 138.7 megajoules of fuel energy are available to the new R18 e-tron quattro per lap at Le Mans. This amounts to 6.16 liters less per 100 kilometers than the gasoline engines of the challengers, Toyota and Porsche, are allowed to consume. If the best teams, as last was the case in the 2012 season that saw only brief safety car periods, covered 378 laps, then Audi’s high-performance TDI engine would have 317.52 liters less fuel available in the course of 24 hours than the gasoline units. This results in an easily understandable comparative situation that every customer is familiar with in normal road traffic: how efficient is a diesel and how efficient a gasoline engine?

The situation at Le Mans is aggravated by the sum of all ratings. A complex set of rules assesses the various technical concepts. Through energy allocations and fuel flow quantities, as well as the pit stop intervals resulting from fuel consumption and fuel tank capacity, the regulations aim to achieve an ‘equivalence of technology.’

“Audi has arguably never before faced such a difficult task at Le Mans as this year,” says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management of AUDI AG for Technical Development. “The current rating means that the efficiency advantages based on the principle of the TDI engine no longer suffice to also achieve an advantage across the racing distance. Still, we’re taking on this challenge in order to demonstrate our technological expertise. More than ever before, the perfect showing by a cohesive team will be crucial at Le Mans.”

Last year’s winners Loïc Duval (F) and Tom Kristensen (DK), who is the Le Mans record holder with nine victories to his credit, are sharing the number 1 R18 e-tron quattro with Lucas di Grassi (BR). Car number 2 is driven by Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F), who decided the iconic endurance race in their favor in 2011 and 2012. At the wheel of car number 3 is the Le Mans rookie Filipe Albuquerque (P). He is sharing the cockpit with Marco Bonanomi (I) and Oliver Jarvis (GB), who have previously been on podium in the 24-hour race.

With that, Audi has a powerful, well-balanced squad that combines a total of 16 Le Mans victories. Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich and Chris Reinke, Head of LMP at Audi, can equally rely on their drivers and on Audi Sport Team Joest. Still, Audi’s 16th run at Le Mans will be more challenging than ever before. On the test day at Le Mans, on June 1, Audi successfully completed its preparations. When the 82nd edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours begins at 15.00 on June 14, Audi, in addition to drawing on its expertise and abilities, will need some racing fortune. Eurosport will be airing full-length coverage of the race. At spectators can also watch the race from the cockpit perspective of the R18 e-tron quattro. Various telemetry data are available as well.

Audi motorsport-140606-3493