The 24 Hours of Le Mans is around the corner, and the new Audi R18 E-tron Quattro race car into the scity with a new look and a bigger engine. While Audi remains a Le Mans favorite though, new designs from Porsche, Nissan, and Toyota are ready to put on the pressure. Is this bit of marketing hubris the last step before Audi’s fall from grace?
Not if the R18 has anything to say about it.
With driver Tom Kristensen at the wheel, the Audi R18 E-tron Quattro drove from the Le Mans Cathedral, six miles to the Circuit de la Sarthe on the edge of town. The turbodiesel hybrid drove along the narrow French streets sounding more like a big rig than a race car, thanks to a larger 4.0 liter turbodiesel V6 that replaces last year’s powerplant. New WEC regulations now limit the flow of fuel, rather than engine power output, so I expect the new R18 is a good bit more powerful too. Can’t wait for some more of this hybrid racing technology to trickle down into more production cars and concepts.
Once at the track, Kristensen had a chance to make a few hot laps around the famous circuit, a track the nine-time Le Mans winner is quite familiar with. With an improved car driven by a veteran competitor, Audi has certainly stacked the odds in its favor…but eventually, every empire comes to an end. Can the Kristensen and the new R18 help Audi hold onto the Le Mans crown for one more year?