Audi engineering has a history of bringing revolutionary pieces of technology to Le Mans victory lane. Late version of the Audi R8 prototype was the first race car to run gasoline direct injection and the R10 was the first diesel powered entry of the 24-hour race to claim a win at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Creating their first diesel/electric hybrid prototype race car, Audi entered the 2012 event eager to make the R18 e-tron quattro the vessel to make their latest conquest of Le Mans. After a full day of continuous racing in France, Audi has now become the first auto manufacturer to win with a hybrid race machine. Combining the TDI engine with an electric powertrain, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro launched to the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans pole with such a long distance needed to be traveled to achieve greatness.
Winning the LMP1 category as well as the overall 24 Hours of Le Mans, the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro completed 378 or 3,201.3 miles from Saturday to Sunday for the 11th win for Audi. Piloted by the 2011 race’s winning driver combination of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoit Tréluyer, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro prototype led an effort where the Audi Sport Team Joest took the top three positions.
The race for the Audi Sport Team Joest squad was not without challenges. In the first hour of the 24-hour race, a tire puncture brought the #3 Audi R18 Ultra to pit stop for an unscheduled service while the #4 car was brought in with concern for the rear suspension system. On hour three, the #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro lost a lap to the leading #1 car when a large collection of tire rubber and debris needed to be extracted from the underneath portions of the prototype sports car.
Hour 5, the Audi mechanics were sent into battle to repair the #3 R18 Ultra car after driver Romain Dumas skidded off track. Running third at that point in the event, Dumas managed to drive his severely damaged Audi prototype race car back to the garage area. After roughly 35 minutes of repairs, the #3 Audi R18 Ultra was returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe racetrack in the hands of driver Marc Gene.
The #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro prototype race car effort in attempting to claim the 2012 Le Mans 24-hour race went south with less than 3 hours remaining in the event. After a race-long battle as the #2 car driven by the collective talents of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish fought with the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro teammate, a collision with the retaining barrier. While the #2 race car required substantial repairs, the Audi Sport Team Joest mechanics returned the R18 e-tron quattro to competition for a 2nd place finish.
The non-hybrid Audi R18 Ultra race car #4 vehicle finished 3 laps behind the winning R18 e-tron quattro. Marco Bonanomi, Oliver Jarvis and Mike Rockenfeller drove the #4 machine that allowed the Audi Sport Team Joest squad the ability to own the LMP1 podium. The fourth and final Audi R18 prototype vehicle completing the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans finished 5th overall. The #3 Audi R18 Ultra shared by Romain Dumas, Loic Duval and Marc Gené finished their eventful 24-hour effort with a Lola-Toyota fielded by Rebellion Racing preventing a top-four sweep of the overall results at Le Mans
Relishing the German automakers latest success at Le Mans, Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich said, “It’s a great result that Audi is now the first brand to have achieved victory with a hybrid vehicle – and right on the first run, as before with the two other technologies, and – what’s more – with both R18 e-tron quattro cars on the two top spots.” Competing in the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship, the Audi Sport Team Joest squad will have a full two months to savour the Le Mans win until the 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Information and photo source: Audi AG