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Audi reveals diesel hybrid LMP1


Audi has unveiled its all-new Le Mans car, and the LMP1 racer is the world’s first to combine an efficient TDI engine with a hybrid system.

The R18 e-tron quattro will make its race debut on May 5 in the six-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, and then fight for overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 16 and 17.

"Audi has always consciously selected championships and categories in racing that have a close relationship to production and therefore have technical relevance for the Audi customers," said head of Audi Motorsport, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, at the unveiling of the R18 e-tron quattro.

"TDI, TFSI and quattro are three excellent examples of how motorsport has stimulated production development. A similar tendency is apparent with the e-tron quattro: we test a completely new technology on the race track before it’s introduced to the Audi production line."


On the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, kinetic energy is recovered on the front axle during braking. This energy is then fed as electric into a flywheel accumulator before being retrieved under acceleration again above a speed of 120km/h. During this procedure only the front axle is integrated. The V6 TDI unit producing 510bhp continues to transmit its power to the rear wheels. Ullrich says that both systems complement each other to create the new drive principle behind e-tron quattro.
 


Audi says that work on the project started in February 2010 and just 18 months passed from the initial conceptual ideas to the first test. "This is a relatively short cycle for a technology that has never been tested in motorsport and which still doesn’t even exist in production," added Dr Martin Mühlmeier, head of technology at Audi Sport.

In addition to the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, 
Audi Sport have also developed the Audi R18 ultra because the German OEM is taking a two-pronged approach this year in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the newly created FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Essentially, the base of both cars is completely identical, which is why the additional logistical effort is kept limited for Audi Sport and the race team. 
"The TDI engine invented by Audi is still the most efficient drive in the world," explains Ullrich. "We are convinced that the TDI has even more potential. This is why Audi not only supports the hybrid in motorsport as it does in production, but in parallel also the further development of the conventional drive."
 


The R18 e-tron quattro’s brother is the lightest Le Mans prototype that Audi Sport has ever built. To compensate for the additional weight of the hybrid system, the subject of lightweight design and construction was the focus throughout development. Audi says much innovation took place within the transmission area of the ultra model: a new gearbox with a carbon-fiber composite housing was developed for the R18 - a premiere for endurance racing. 
"The new R18 ultra is a distinct evolution of last year’s Le Mans race winning car," states Ullrich. "Our drivers’ impressions were very positive from the first moment. Without the weight optimized R18 ultra, we would have not been capable of realizing the R18 e-tron quattro which is absolutely identical with the exception of the hybrid system."


Audi Sport Team Joest will field two R18 e-tron quattro and two R18 ultra prototypes in the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 16 and 17. The two hybrid cars are to be driven by last year’s winning trio of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer as well as Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish, who boast a total of 13 Le Mans wins between them. New signing Loïc Duval starts together with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas in an R18 ultra, as do Marco Bonanomi, Oliver Jarvis and Mike Rockenfeller.


Audi Sport Team Joest also contests the World Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps on May 5 in the same formation. At the same time, the race will double as a dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Only Rockenfeller will miss this race due to a clashing date with the DTM. After the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi plans to enter an R18 e-tron quattro and an R18 ultra in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). André Lotterer and Allan McNish have been nominated as the drivers so far. 




2 March 2012


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