First competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1999, Audi’s prototype effort has entered into almost every race since as a dominating force. In a quest for a 10th all-day event win at the 8.469-mile Circuit de la Sarthe for the German luxury car brand, the Audi Sport Team Joest squad is launching a 4-car attack on the 2012 round of the ultimate endurance event. With two Audi R18 Ultra sports cars and two brand new Audi R18 e-tron quattro vehicles, this year’s raid for the sports car race will see some real innovations that could have implications on production car technology.
Carbon Fiber Construction
Like many modern racing car vehicles, the Audi R18 Ultra and While the use of lightweight composite materials is a common theme in motorsports through the past 20 years, attempts to reduce weight with present road cars has been the objective of many auto companies. As a follow-up to the company’s widespread deployment of aluminum in the construction of production cars, Audi has already expressed future Audi R8 supercars will utilize an extensive use of carbon fiber components.
e-tron Electric Powertrain
Christened at May’s Six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps World Endurance Championship race in Belgium, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro brought the future of sports car racing to the present. A turbo diesel/electric hybrid powered prototype machine, the R18 e-tron quattro is an inventive concept for employing the advanced powertrain. While the conventional 3.7 liter V-6, mid-mounted engine provides the main power of the R18 e-tron quattro, a flywheel accumulator is channelled with the front axle assembly.
The unique all-wheel drive Audi R18 e-tron Quattro’s first outing on the Spa Francorchamps circuit was promising. Winning pole, the #1 car Audi R18 e-tron quattro was strong through the first event but lost the race due a reported brake vibration issue. Within a top-4 victory in the LMP1 class in Belgium for Audi, the R18 e-tron quattro occupied the 2nd and 4th place spots. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the second test for the e-tron quattro technology on the Audi R18 for which the German carmakers is eager to see cross the line first.
Audi has pressed the e-tron name into the creation of many auto show design studies with the intent on bringing the electrified technology to the production line.
VTG Turbocharger Technology
Both the Audi R18 ultra and Audi R18 e-tron quattro will be primarily powered by a turbocharged 3.7 liter V-6 TDI engine employing the German company’s cutting edge engineering expertise. Called the Audi’s VTG (Variable turbine geometry) technology, the exhaust gas charge is fed through the turbocharger system can be augmented to provide peak efficiency throughout the power range.
Traditionally, a turbocharger turbine is designed as a compromise in a single unit configuration. Twin-turbocharged engines were developed to increase the flexibility through offering low-end as well as high-end power. Through the VTG system, the Audi R18 prototype will be free from any major turbo lag throughout every corner of the Le Mans circuit.
While Porsches are long been utilizing a variable geometry turbocharger unit, the Audi R18 prototypes will be the first time such technology has been mated with a high-performance TDI race engine.
Digital Rear-View Mirror
The sensitive aerodynamic and mechanical nature of closed cockpit race cars have left drivers suffering from impaired visibility. While competing in the fastest LMP1 class during the 24 Hours of Le Mans where much of their traffic will be approaching from in front, the Audi R18’s rear vision is also pivotal when a teammate or other LMP1 competitor may creep up on a race machine. A day-long race that could be ended with one false move, Audi Sport proficient worked to find a way to improve their R18 prototype pilots’ rear vision without altering the perfected shape of the sports car.
Debuting at the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans event, a digital rear-view mirror could be a useful tool for capturing the top prize in the French event. Using AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display technology, the digital reverse view is a multi-colour image fed from a small camera mounted behind the R18 prototype’s roof antenna. The digital rear-view mirror system is a significant advance of the back-up systems created as part of Audi’s active safety available in their road cars.
Information and photo source: Audi AG