This past weekend, the crown jewel of Audi’s 2013 racing season was campaigned. Making history last year as the first hybrid race car to win the 24-hour race, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro defended its accomplishment for a second-straight year at the Circuit de la Sarthe. Completing 348 laps worth 4742.89 kilometers around the 4.273-kilometer road course, Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Loïc Duval combined efforts to bring the #2 Audi prototype to a 12th win since the 2000 Le Mans race. As a team, Audi Sport Team Joest R18 e-tron quattro race machines claimed the first, third and fifth place positions in the 2013 edition of the French endurance classic.
For some, seeing the Audi Sport Team Joest organization once again celebrating a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was somewhat of a sleeper story. Despite the near magic of constantly winning a daylong endurance race, the competition in most of the Le Mans races contended since 2000 would consist of one Audi racing against another Audi prototype car. Even the company’s press release seemed to be taking the news of their 12th 24 Hours of Le Mans win in 14 runnings in stride. Perhaps what had been most coveted is an adversary to the great name. From 2007 to 2011, Peugeot gave Audi a reason to fear losing to the 908 HDi FAP race car. Losing the 2009 endurance classic to the Peugeot 908, The Audi Sport effort in the prototype category was never as determined as it was in the following year’s event when the R15 plus recaptured begging rights of Le Mans.
As Peugeot withdrew from the prototype category, the top class in sports car racing once again needed a formidable challenger to give the Audi R18 e-tron quattro a run for its money. Fortunate to say, the 2013 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans did provide a reason for the TDI diesel/electric hybrid race car to push hard. Last year, a new effort from Japanese auto giant Toyota appeared to have the scope to topple the Audi Sport dominance of sports car racing. Toyota Motorsports entered the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans race with lots of potential but was ill prepared to compete with their brand-new TS030 Hybrid car. However, as Toyota and Audi met in subsequent WEC sports car races, TS030 Hybrid became a threat to R18 e-tron quattro.
In the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans, spectators were treated to one of the more contentious prototype battles. Though the lead Audi R18 e-tron quattro finished a lap in front of the Toyota, the fact the Japanese car was able to spoil a podium sweep was stark contrast to a year earlier. Fending off a challenge from a stout Toyota effort, the Audi R18 e-tron quattros were split by the rival race machines that collected second and fourth place overall.
Drivers of the #2 Winning his ninth Le Mans 24-Hour race overall, co-driver of the #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro Tom Kristensen explained the feat personally. “For me, Le Mans was filled with very personal emotions this time. I’m proud to drive for the world’s best team. This applies to all teammates, all employees in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm and for Audi Sport Team Joest. They make it possible for us to realize a dream. Now this dream has come true again – winning the fastest and toughest race under the direction of Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.” said Kristensen. For Kristensen and long-time teammate Allan McNish, the win for Audi Sport Team Joest duo was their first since 2008. In contrast, the winning car’s third driver 31-year old Frenchman Loïc Duval would toast his first overall victory at Le Mans.
The 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans victory was overshadowed by a tragic event occurring only minutes into the race. LMGTE-AM class driver Allan Simonsen crashed a wall hard in his Aston Martin. After the lap three crash, the Danish driver Simonsen was initially reported conscious when emergency crews recovered him from the car. However, a short time after the incident, it was announced that Allan Simonsen had died because of his injuries. A haunting reminder of the dangers of a sport propelling human beings at blazing, a death of race car driver is a time where victories less not important and mortality in taken into account. The Le Mans race continued realizing the loss of a speed-seeking comrade (the first death at the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 1997).
For Audi Sport Team Joest, some drivers and crewmembers may have recalled the death of Michelle Alboreto. In 2001, Alboreto was testing an Audi R8 prototype when a tire failed causing the car to veer into a wall. Michelle Alboreto has been the only driver who died in the Audi prototype effort since it was founded in the late 1990s. Similar to Audi, Aston Martin Racing continued to race after the news of Simonsen. Due to the fatal crash of Allan Simonsen and several other long safety car periods, the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans overall distance completed was the shortest since 2001.
For the Audi Sport Team Joest organization, the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans successfully fought to be recognized as the top of the sports car kingdom. However, at the top, it was evermore clear to the team this particular victory celebration would be somewhat muted. Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich stated, “That was the most difficult race I’ve experienced in my 15 Le Mans years. One reason, no doubt, was having to see a young race driver from Denmark lose his life this weekend. We’re feeling with his family.“ A fellow Danish driver, Tom Kristensen dedicated the win to recently departed Allan Simonsen.
Information and photo source: Audi AG, Automobile Club De l’Ouest
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
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
An annual event where the best in sports car racing sprint around the Road Atlanta circuit for 1,000 miles or 10-hours (whichever comes first), the Petit Le Mans has become a final event in the sports car racing season. One of many sports car races Audi has won on a multitude of occasions since 2000, the Audi Sport Team Joest race organization will be wearing silver into combat for the first time with their 24 Hours of Le Mans winning R18 TDI prototype sports car. While tested at the Sebring International Raceway just days after the Mobil 12 hour race, the Audi R18 TDI prototype sports car will make its competitive debut in the North America at the 2011 Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta.
Built to new safety and performance rules set out by the ACO (the French sanctioning body that oversees many sports car events including the 24 Hour of Le Mans race), the Audi R18 TDI is another evolution on the competitive ladder the premium carmaker. Powered by a smaller V-6 engine through an electronic gearbox, the R18 prototype sports car has better weight balance than the previous Audi R15 Plus. The biggest change to the Audi racing machine was the incorporation of a roof over the driver. A closed cockpit prototype, the R18 became the first such vehicle since the early Audi R8C that run last in 1999.
Long respected as a showcase where the best creations of auto manufacturers competed on speed and endurance, sports car racing is once again relevant as a test bed for modern automotive technology. In the case of Audi, their prototype sports car program aided in the refinement of several items currently utilized in production car. Their Audi R8 prototype won the Le Mans 24-hour race thanks to the FSI gasoline direct injection technology allowing team drivers to remain on track longer. Since the introduction of the Audi R10 in 2006, the German automaker advocates their clean diesel technology discovering an unfair advantage over gasoline-powered race cars. In the Audi R18 TDI, the race vehicle is the showcase for full LED headlights recently introduced in production vehicles including the Audi A8 sedan. Introduced as low-beam illumination on the Audi R15 TDI sports car, the LED lighting technology is fine-tuned for the R18 prototype.
Making its debut at the 2011 Petit Le Mans, this race is part of the 6-race run for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. An award that the ACO established in 2010, this is a modern initiate to crown a global honour. Leaving the 6-Hours of Silverstone, the Peugeot squad’s 908 prototype has propelled the French team to a 7-point lead over Audi Sport Team Joest. Having won the Petit Le Mans 9 times in the LMP (Le Mans Prototype) class, the Audi R18 TDI will have to out muscle the Peugeot who has won the previous two Road Atlanta events.
On October 1st, Audi Sport Team Joest will bring a two-car contingent with three drivers per Audi R15 TDI race machine. In car #1, Timo Bernard, Romain Dumas and Marcel Fassler combining for 4 overall wins at Road Atlanta. The #2 Audi R18 TDI will be helmed by an experienced trio of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello.
Information and photo source: Audi AG