Audi has come to dominate the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans race, winning 10 of the last 13 Le Mans races including a narrow13-second victory over Peugeot last year. One of the keys to success has been Audi’s excellent turbodiesel engines, which combine great fuel economy (at least for a race car) with incredible torque and horsepower. The Audi R18 is the dominant diesel racer, but Audi is not resting on its laurels.
The four-ring brand has announced its 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans competitor, the e-Tron diesel-electric hybrid R18 racer. This vehicle combines hybrid technology with a great TDI engine, and continuing Audi’s tradition of racing its e-Tron prototypes at this historic race.
Audi will field their prototype racers in total; two will be lighter diesel-only LMP1 racers, while the third will pack hybrid technology in the form of flywheel energy recovery system. This flywheel hybrid will store regenerative energy from braking into a spinning disc. That extra power can then be dumped into electric motors at the front wheels for a “boost” of speed.
Meanwhile, a 510 horsepower 3.0 liter TDI engine will power the rear wheels. Both the TDI engine and hybrid system can in conjunction or independently. It will be interesting to see how the hybrid compares to its diesel-only cousins, who will also be on the course.
Historic rival Peugeot will have a hybrid Le Mans racer of its own, and they won’t be alone. The Japanese Juggernaut Toyota is returning to Le Mans with a hybrid racer of its own, and they’ll be joined by the Green GT hydrogen-powered racer. It’s hard to believe how green endurance racing has gotten in just a short time, and I believe that races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans serves as an incubator for production car technology. I’m looking forward to watching this year’s race even more now.