Sparing you the suspense of reading the entire article to find out the outcome of the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, the race was once more another highpoint to the legacy of Audi’s prototype sports car racing program. Taking first place as well as second place on the overall leaderboard after a day of racing, the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro LMP1 race cars retook the position of triumph. For 2014, the winning Audi Sport Team Joest line-up consisted of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer. Unlike past years where near-perfect Audi Sport Team Joest form was on display at the 8.469-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, the 2014 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was not a complete runaway for Audi. In fact, the 2014 version of the classic endurance affair contained the German team’s hardest-earned effort in memory.
For 2014, the feat is extra-memorable for Audi as the LMP1 class featured not one but two viable competitors against the R18 e-tron quattro. Winning the first two races in the 2014 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Toyota was more energized than ever in the quest to capture a long sought-after overall victory at Le Mans. Claiming first and third in qualifying positioned the Japanese manufacturer in a favoured spot. The LMP1 category at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was also invigorated by the return of Porsche to high profile, premium class. Appearing in a top class at the French sports car race with a factory effort for the first time since 1998, the Porsche 919 Hybrid and its accomplished driver line-up may be rounding the learning curve quicker than their competitors would have expected. Audi itself was competing with its own new equipment. Combating the threat as well as conforming to new FIA WEC rules for the LMP1 category, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro shared mainly its name only with last year’s winning car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Audi Sport Team Joest organization came to the race ready to defend with their customary three-car effort.
Adversity coming even before the green flag dropped on Saturday. The 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans preparations consisted of a scary crash in a Wednesday practice when Loic Duval crashed in the #1 R-18 e-tron quattro. Not seriously hurt but taken to hospital for overnight observation, Duval was scratched from the driver line-up was replaced with Mark Gene. Mechanics were able to rebuild the wrecked Audi R18 e-tron quattro race car but would face the fact they were outpaced by the Toyota Racing and Porsche Team during qualifying taking spots fifth through seventh. Potentially signifying that Audi’s dominance could be greatly at-risk, the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans would prove climatic.
Starting with three Audi R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 cars, the team’s efforts for winning were quickly devoted to just two vehicles. During a safety car period on a rainy Circuit de la Sarthe, the #3 Audi shared by drivers Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and Oliver Jarvis was hit by a GT category Ferrari. The crash damage to the rear rendered the #3 car unable to complete 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans and was retired after just 25 laps.
The early stage of the 2014 race featured the impressive pace of the Toyota TS040 Hybrids. The pole-sitting #7 Toyota, consisting of driving trio of Alexander Wurz, Stephane Sarrazin and Kazuki Nakajima, was the class of the field. However, the 24 Hours of Le Mans would soon remind teams of its endurance race nature. By the 15th hour, Toyota’s leading prototype runner suffered electrical problems that ultimately claimed their first 24 Hours of Le Mans victory with 219 laps completed. The Porsche 919 Hybrid was also strong on track but would be denied a top result after 24 hours of racing. Drivetrain and transmission problems hindered the Porsche return to the top class at Le Mans.
With the Audi R18 e-tron quattro race cars inheriting the lead on Sunday morning, the run to the checkered flag would not be without incident. Both cars required extended service for the replacement of their turbocharger units. On the 2014 R18 e-tron quattro, the turbocharger unit is a highly elaborate and experimental mechanism that operates on electrical power. While the service cost both cars several laps, Audi Sport Team Joest drivers have build up a sizable advantage on track preserving their top spots.
Prevailing with a three lap advantage, the #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro claimed victory at the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 13th time in 16 tries Audi has won the French endurance car racing treasure, the R18 e-tron quattro completed 379 laps totalling 5,165.39 kilometers or 3,209.62 miles. This win is also the third for Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer as a driving team at the circuit having also proven victorious in the 2011 and 2012 races.
After sitting as a mingled mess on the race track Wednesday, the #1 Audi Sport Team Joest entry took the runner-up spot. Three laps short of victory, former Formula 1 drivers Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gené and nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans race winner Tom Kristensen shared second place car. By a two-lap advantage, the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro fended off the charged of the #8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid piloted by Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Nicolas LePierre.
Once again the champion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich summarized the team’s success saying, “There were many incidents and none of the top cars made it across the distance without any problems. The decisive factors were that our Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars were able to drive consistently fast for 24 hours, our drivers made no mistakes and our squad responded properly and quickly to the issues that occurred. In Porsche and Toyota we had two really strong rivals who, as expected, did not make life easy for us. I always believed that, in spite of the particularly difficult prerequisites for us this year, we’d be able to succeed and that we’ve got the most efficient race car. That we succeeded again makes me feel proud
Information and photo source: Audi AG, Porsche Cars North America
Winning six of the eight races on the 2013 schedule for the FIA World Endurance Championship, it would be easy to assume the Audi R18 e-tron quattro fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest was a dominant car in the LMP1 category. What does the LMP1 manufacturers’ championship winning mean to Audi? It is time for the German car brand to completely reengineer their race car. With the Toyota TS030 Hybrid proving to be a strong competitor and Porsche’s entrance to the LMP1 category on-course for next year, Audi simply cannot rest on their laurels. Keeping the Audi R18 e-tron quattro name for 2014, the race car appearing on the race track will be a drastically different car from the one that last raced at the Bahrain International Circuit last month.
Conforming to 2014 rule changes made to the World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 category, the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro is safer and more energy efficient than the newly-retired vehicle. The body of the 2014 race car will be 10 centimeters slimmer but will also be 20 millimeters higher than the 2013 R18 e-tron quattro. The increased vehicle height is created for improved cockpit room and contributes with other design changes that improve visibility. A greater level of protection greets the pilot of the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro with a stronger-than-ever carbon fiber reinforced polymer cockpit structure. A narrower underfloor is lined with additional layers of fiber and the prototype sports car’s monocoque is built to handle more severe loads. Crash energy-absorbing zone is built into the R18 e-tron quattro prototype’s rear in order to greater reduce the impact to the driver.
One notable difference for sports car fans observing the Audi R18 e-tron quattro in 2014 is the presence of a front wing. New regulations permit the features as a cost-cutting solution to front diffusers. While gaining in one area, the 2014 LMP1 race car loses an aerodynamic aid at another area. The 2014 rule changes for LMP1 ban the process of using engine exhaust to flow over the rear diffuser. A practice that generated greater downforce, such use of exhaust gas had already been prohibited in Formula 1.
The powerplant of the 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro prototype sports car receives some of the most extraordinary improvements. Under the new World Endurance Championship LMP1 class rules, the powerplants of 2014 sports cars will be regulated based on energy consumption. The V-6 TDi engine returns with an electric turbocharger feeding the combustion chambers by converting thermal energy. This concept of electric forced-air induction is exceptionally new and has been up until now largely experimental. The electric turbocharger is aligned with the flywheel energy storage system so it is possible to feed electrical drive system when the TDi’s maximum boost pressure is met. The new Audi R18 e-tron quattro’s hybrid drive system works similar to the original vehicle that ran the past two sports car seasons. Electric drive is focused at the front while direct TDi engine performance is delivered through the rear wheels. Regenerative braking will continue to play a big part in recharging the electric drive storage system of the R18 e-tron quattro in 2014 trim.
Overall, the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro has been lightened by 45 kilograms. Weighing 870 kilograms (1,918 pounds) in total, Audi’s has succeeded applying in their lightweight production car philosophy to their new prototype. Other improvements made to the 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro include wheel tethers. Wheel tethers work to reduce the chances of a wheel/tire combination flying away violently from the vehicle in case of a crash. With each tether capable of withstanding a weight force of nine metric tons, two are installed on each wheel to set places on the 2014 race car.
Entering an all-new technological realm with electric turbocharging and other safety refinements, what can race fans expect from the Audi R18 e-tron quattro for 2014? Please keep in mind, Milestones already reached by Audi since 2000 includes the first 24 Hours of Le Mans overall-winning vehicle to be equipped with gasoline direct injection, turbo diesel power as well as a diesel/electric hybrid powertrain.
Information and photo source: Audi AG
Heading into the final run for the year that was 2012, the future regarding sports car competitions measured in hours has been a focus of announcements by Audi. Activities surrounding the Audi R18 e-tron quattro prototype race car set again to be the premium car brand’s focus in 2013. A three-car effort at the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans will be part of another endeavour into the full FIA WEC (World Endurance Championship) schedule.
For United States Audi customers and fans, loyalists will be awarded with another season of competition on the horizon in coming months.
Audi R18 e-tron quattro Doubles Up on US Appearances in 2013
The United States stint of the 2012 season was highlighted with the Audi R18 TDI cruising to victory at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The triumph by driving team of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello was the 10th time since 2000 that Audi claimed top honours at the Sebring International Raceway. In the case of 2012, the Sebring 12-hour win supplied momentum that allowed Audi Sport Team Joest to not only take the 24 Hours of Le Mans but the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship’s LM class title.
The past few years, the technological prototype effort from Audi Sport Team Joest was sparsely featured on North American soil. Showing up for only the 2012 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring as part of the FIA WEC, the Audi R18 LMP1 category machines will return to Sebring with an updated version of the e-tron quattro diesel-electric hybrid on somewhat a bittersweet note for March 16th of 2013.
Indications the 2013 Sebring race could be last for the Audi prototype effort as the Grand-Am Series and American Le Mans Series will form a new sports car championship in 2014. Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich suggested, “We’d really like to use this chance and say goodbye to the fans with a nice showing after our fantastic success story in recent years.”. Bringing some much-needed relief to a rather somber declaration regarding competition at Sebring, a 2013 WEC date added to the Austin, Texas Circuit of the Americas on September 22nd. The goodbye could also be premature depending on the structure of the 2014 North American Sports Car Championship. It is possible the class rules could extend an olive branch to the high-tech prototype racers.
Audi R8 Grand-Am Car Reloaded for 2013 Campaign
In Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, 2012 marked the debut of a customer team driven effort in the tour’s GT category with the Audi R8 Grand Am racer. Converting the Audi R8 LMS competition car to conform to the Grand-Am class vehicle regulations, a rather toilsome debut at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona did provide valuable notes used to improve the R8 Grand Am sports car’s effort continuing through the 2012 season. At the season finale race at Lime Rock Park, the #51 APR Motorsport fielded Audi R8 Grand-Am finished a close second-place in the GT class.
Progress from 2012 is giving optimism that the 2013 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series could result in the Audi R8 being a more consistent force for the GT category. As of late December, the entry list for the 2013 Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona have to Audi customer effort consisting of four cars. APR Motorsport has a two-car team while there will also be single Audi R8 entrants from Rum Bum Racing and Alex Job Racing will compete in the daylong race in late January.
The growing sales of Audi road cars in North America compels the German auto brand to make a memorable impact on the upcoming United States races in 2013. When the auto racing season commences, it will be up to the drivers and crews behind the Audi R18 e-tron quattro as well as the Audi R8 Grand-Am car to make the hours of 2013 count.
Information source: Audi AG, FIA, Grand-Am
Photo source: Audi AG, Grand-Am
Searching for their 10th victory, the Audi prototype program has placed every major iteration of their race purpose-built sports cars in the Sebring International Raceway winner’s circle since 2000. The Audi R8 prototype race car, as well as the R10 TDI and R15 TDI are celebrated race vehicles that began their piece of a motorsport dynasty with an inaugural victory at Sebring. Bringing 2011-spec Audi R15 TDI Plus race cars to the Mobil 1 Twelve of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida event last year, the Audi R18 TDI closed cockpit prototype car would break an 11-year trend by winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans first. For the 2012 American Le Mans Series first race and the debut event for the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), Audi Sport Team Joest’s three-car R18 team needed to claim the car’s elusive Sebring race.
Without the challenge from the Peugeot 908 sports car that won the previous two Sebring events, the Audi Sport Team Joest team came to the race track carrying a war chest of experience and equipment trumping other prototype class contenders. In Friday qualifying for the half-day Saturday race, the Audi R18 TDI race cars stormed around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn road course claiming the top three starting positions with little opposition. Taking the pole among the three-care Audi R15 group was the #1 vehicle that flew around the Sebring International Raceway with a 1-minute, 45.820-second lap time.
The Audi R18 TDI was almost perfect in its debut at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring event on Saturday. The #1 Audi R18 TDI, handled by the driving team of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler, parlayed their Friday speed into Saturday race pace. When the #1 car was not leading the race early, one of the three team cars for Audi Sport Team Joest held the top race track position during the first four hours.
In the fourth hour, the harmonious rhythm of the three-car Audi R18 TDI squad would be impacted by an issue with the lead vehicle. Losing the lead first when a pit stop netted a stop-and-go penalty from the race stewards, the #1 Audi R18 TDI race car would crawl back to pit lane more than an hour later. A faulty electrical shifting unit on the gearbox would wind up taking the #1 car to the service area behind the pit wall. Costing the #1 Audi R18 17 laps, the car containing the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning driving trio returned to competition to finish fifth in the LMP1 category among the WEC registered vehicles.
Taking over from where the #1 car left off in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the #2 car piloted by the proven driving combination of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello went on the mission of with the R18 TDI prototype sports car. As day turned to night and the clock for the endurance race ticked down to zero, the #2 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 TDI won the 2012 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring by four laps over their #3 team car. “It was consistently fast and made it possible for us to be in contention from the beginning to the end.” said Allan McNish who celebrated his fourth overall win in the Sebring 12-hour race. Winning their first Sebring event since 2009, the #2 drive consisted of the same trio of drivers that brought an Audi R10 across the line on that occasion.
Despite the fact victory seemed easy for the #2 car squad, the winning drivers all combated challenges during the 12 hours of racing. “The car was running well but traffic was a real challenge and the temperatures around noon, when I was sitting in the cockpit for a long time, were pretty high.” said Tom Kristensen adding, “It was tough clinching victory here.” Technical Director for Audi Sport Team Joest added to Kristensen’s acknowledgment saying, “That was a pretty strenuous race. And our rivals were really close on our heels. They were a tiny bit slower than we but in the caution period they wouldn’t ease up on us. They only started having problems in the end. Those were eleven hours of hard work for us. Well done to Dindo (Capello), Tom (Kristensen) and Allan (McNish). It was a superb drive.” The triumph of the Audi squad against the 64-car field at the 2012 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring comes as another moment the German-based team conquered with superior technology, engineering, mechanics and drivers.
Attending the first race for the World Endurance Championship, FIA President Jean Todt was witness to the Audi Sport Team Joest operations at Sebring as they flew to sports car victory in 2012. With many dignitaries present, Audi captured the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring taking the overall victory as well as the first win for a prototype under the WEC body. Proud of the work of the whole racing operation, Head of Audi Motorsports Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich commented, “Obviously, it’s nice that after the tenth pole position for Audi at Sebring we managed to achieve the tenth victory as well. For us, it was a great start into the season and into the new FIA World Endurance Championship.”
The next FIA World Championship race for the Audi Sport Team Joest organization is the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps on May 6th. This Belgium round of the 2012 series will feature the competitive debut of the diesel/electric Audi R18 e-tron quattro ahead of the 24 Hour of Le Mans event.
This weekend at Sebring International Raceway, the Audi Sport Team Joest prototype organization prepares for the start of the 2012 sports car racing season. Since entering the sports car prototype arena in 1999, Audi’s motorsport efforts have pushed the four-ring badge to the top of track competition while their street cars captured accolades with customers.
With worldwide sales recorded at a 625,807 total in 1999, Audi AG scored 1,303,650 in vehicle unit sales across the planet in 2011 as the German luxury car brand has risen to a serious force in automotive production. While some debate the impact of motorsports on the street vehicles, Audi’s loyal attention to the high-priced sports car competition has provided a better-than-average case proving the benefits of factory support for auto racing. For 2012, the sports car racing efforts in prototype racing Audi Sport Team Joest will present several changes as they will attempt victory on the race track as well as win customers to new, production car-related technology.
As the Audi R18 TDI will take the green flag for the 2012 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Team Joest-fielded vehicles will be part of the newly formed FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich committed “It’ll be a grand and no doubt thrilling inaugural event of the new WEC. The entire fields of the WEC and the American Le Mans Series will be competing together. “ The 2012 WEC represents collection of great, modern sports car races assembling on the globe’s most prestigious race circuits. Included in the high profile first season for WEC will debut at Sebring International Raceway before moving onto the Spa Francorchamps road course and famous Circuit de la Sarthe for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi Sport is committed to run every round with their R18 TDI prototypes throughout the inaugural eight-round competition.
Much of the pre-season excitement centered on the Audi prototype sports car program has been centered on the gasoline/electric hybrid version of the R18. Scheduled to run for the first time at the Belgium event in May, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro combines the mid-engine 3.7 liter V-6 TDI engine with an electric motor that will drive the front wheels. With rear wheels still being spun conventionally through TDI powerplant, the new prototype will bring a unique take on Audi’s much-touted quattro all-wheel drive. When Audi Sport Team Joest runs the 24 hours of Le Mans in mid-June, the plan is to run two hybrid cars within a four-car effort. For the Sebring race, Audi has prepared three non-hybrid R18 TDI prototype sports cars.
For the 12-hour event at Sebring, car #1 for Audi Sport Team Joest will feature the teaming of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer who won the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the team last year. In the #2 Audi R18 TDI, the accomplished group of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish will attempt to rekindle the magic they used to collectively win the 2009 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Sharing the #3 car, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Loïc Duval will round out the highly talented 2012 driver line-up for Audi Sport Team Joest.
Audi Sport Team Joest will be seeking their 10th victory in the 12-hour race. From 2000 to 2007, Audi had affirmative possession of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring overall honours with the Audi R8 and R10 prototype race cars. Interrupted for claiming victory by a pair of Porsche RS Spyders in 2008, Audi did succeed in maintaining its streak of LMP1 class victory at the Sebring International Raceway for a total of nine consecutive races. Stretching the automaker’s records with a ninth overall Sebring race win in 2009, the Peugeot 908 has presided as the top prototype runner for the famous sports car event. With Peugeot opting out of the 2012 edition of the Mobil1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Audi R18 is heavily favoured for victory late Saturday night.
With preparations for the 60th running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida ongoing this week, the clock for the half-day endurance race starts March 17th at 10:15 AM Eastern time.
Information source: American Le Mans Series, Audi AG
Photo and video Source: Audi AG
Similar to the Audi R8 LMS vehicle that has run in several European sport car championships in the past three seasons (inspiring the Audi R8 GT road car), the Grand-Am version of the German luxury supercar differs in several aspects. Complying the vehicle with the Rolex Sports Car Series GT category, the Audi R8 race car underwent many subtle changes. Tighter bodywork constraints meant the front splitter could only extend 35 millimeters (1.38 inches) and the rear spoiler could only be 152 millimeters (5.98 inches) wide. Along with a flat vehicle underbody and a higher minimum ride height, Audi Sport accounted that around 70-80 percent of the aerodynamic grip of the Audi R8 LMS has been lost in configuring the supercar to Grand-Am specifications.
Besides a new aerodynamic profile, the Audi R8 Grand-Am car needed to adjust to the Rolex Sport Car GT category’s spec Continental tire compound. During December testing at the Daytona International Speedway’s 3.56-mile road course, the Audi R8 Grand-Am sailed around the race course for two days completing 600 miles partially to acquaint themselves to the new racing rubber. The Audi R8 LMS race car’s anti-lock braking and traction control programs have been deactivated for the Grand-Am.
Still an unmistakable Audi supercar, the R8 Grand-Am will be propelled through competition by the race-prepped 5.2 liter FSI V-10 powerplant. Horsepower from the R8 Grand-Am’s V-10 engine is expected within the 450 to 500 range restricted in efforts to put the vehicle on an equal playing field with other GT category sports cars.
Through a customer-supported racing effort, Audi has the full intent that entrance into the 2012 Rolex 24 at Daytona will be the latest chapter for what has been a prosperous existence on North American race tracks. Participating in the 1988 SCCA Trans-Am Series, a pair of Audi 200 turbocharged quattro sedans made waste of the competition winning 8 of 13 races in its maiden season. So intimidating, the SCCA changed its rulebook the following year to effectively outlaw the all-wheel drive Audi 200 from future involvement. Of course, Audi’s more recent claim to fame has been with their exceptionally prepared prototype cars. Between variants of the R8 race car, R10, R15 and now the R18, the Audi Sport Team Joest organization has steamrolled the competition in the United States. Winning nine 12 Hours of Sebring as well as the nine consecutive Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, Audi’s brand recognition in North America has enjoyed equal success in a competitive luxury car sales environment.
For the very first event, the Oryx Racing car will feature Humaid Al Masaood, Saeed Al Mehairi and Steven Kane as the planned drivers behind the wheel over the 24-hour run. APR Motorsport will run the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a driver line-up including Ian Baas, Nelson, Canache, Jim Norman, Dion von Moltke and veteran Audi Sport prototype driver Emanuele Pirro. APR Motorsport had said their Audi R8 Grand-Am arrived just two days before Christmas. As the team prepares for their inaugural race with the new R8 Grand-Am car at Daytona, several members of the APR Motorsport organization is confident on the race car’s braking and driveability. The race team is also ready to embrace the new vehicle knowing there is potential in the Audi R8 Grand-Am remaining untapped. Being campaigned as a customer program, the Audi R8 Grand-Am has and will continue to receive racing support from Audi Sport.
At the 2012 Rolex 24 of Daytona, the next page for Audi will take place over the course of a single day.
Information and photo source: Audi AG