• Jun 17th 2012 at 8:45PM
  • 86

Audi takes top three spots in 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race

Adam Morath
It just became a lot cooler to drive a hybrid. That is, if your hybrid system also includes a 510 hp direct-injected turbodiesel V6 like the one powering the rear wheels of Audi's R18 e-tron quattro LMP1 race car.

The R18 e-tron quattro is the first Le Mans prototype to combine a diesel engine with a hybrid system. The pairing proved potent this weekend, as the R18 e-tron took pole position during qualifying rounds and cruised to victory at the end of 24 hours of racing on Sunday.

In doing so, the R18 e-tron became the first hybrid-powered vehicle to win the storied endurance race. In fact, the winner's podium was packed with drivers representing the German automaker; 1st and 2nd place going to the R18 e-tron quattro teams and 3rd place taken by the traditional diesel-powered R18 ultra.

Of course, the hybrid tech used at Le Mans isn't the same as the fuel-sipping systems found on passenger vehicles like the Toyota Prius. Both make use of electric motors and regenerative braking, but the comparison ends there. A traditional passenger hybrid operates with MPGs in mind, whereas the R18 e-tron seeks to add a boost of performance where possible.

The R18 e-tron quattro uses a carbon-fiber flywheel accumulator system to capture energy under braking and release it to electric motors powering the front wheels, providing a brief 204 hp boost to the front axle during acceleration. The rear wheels are powered conventionally by the V6 TDI engine, hence the quattro moniker. (Although, again, this isn't quattro in the same sense as Audi's AWD passenger vehicles.) The temporary hybrid-electric boost is only allowed above speeds of 75 mph, per FIA rules.

Audi Sport's stiffest competition was expected to come from a rookie Toyota Racing team. Making their anticipated return to endurance racing, Toyota was the only other carmaker to field hybrid-powered prototypes: a pair of super capacitor-based TS030 Hybrids.

Early on it appeared as if Toyota's hybrid tech would deliver, propelling their #7 to the front of the pack near the six-hour mark; however, not soon after, a horrific collision with a GT Ferrari at over 200 mph decommissioned the car (video below). Later, Toyota's race was officially cut short when their second TS030 succumbed to engine failure.

(Note: Toyota driver Anthony Davidson suffered breaks to his T11 and T12 vertebrae, but is expected to make a full recovery.)

Troubles aside, Toyota's early success and Audi's victory sweep make it clear that hybrid race tech is here to stay, and at TRANSLOGIC--where we liked hybrids before they were cool--that's something worth celebrating.

Now, where's that champagne?

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 3 Years Ago
      Technology is the mother of invention. Congratulations to the entire Audi team of engineers, crew and drivers. You have just moved auto racing into the next generation of race cars.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The T-Drive, that I invented, produces 5,000 amps through cables the size of your wrist. It will out-accelerate a Corvette and get 90 mpg. It uses carbon foam technology......Al-
        • 3 Years Ago
        I have a plasama engine that has 450 ft lb's of torke and use's no fuel and has no exhust it run's on nobel gas. it has run 8 month's with out re fueling. Cost to refuel ( if needed 7.00 or so.) lwk442@aol.com
          Master Chief
          • 3 Years Ago
          My Cutlass runs off a Flux Capacitor fueled by a MrFusion. No fuel cost :P
      • 3 Years Ago
      They said next years race will have a hydrogen powered car.......what you see on the racetrack today will provide the technology for tomorrows grocery getter.....awesome
        • 3 Years Ago
        I hope the hydrogen car doesn't crash like that Toyota, that could be nasty.
      • 3 Years Ago
      diesel is the future
      • 3 Years Ago
      great Job......Audi
      • 3 Years Ago
      Jeremy Clarkson and the rest of the Top Gear staff must be apoplectic over this...DIESEL/HYBRID WINS
      • 3 Years Ago
      hey, if it so fast and reliable, bring it to DAYTONA.....................................
      • 3 Years Ago
      Audi and Toyota sure do raise the bar in racing.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Toyota? No... they have never, ever been a serious innovator in racing. All they've done is steal ideas from other teams to try and stay with it. Audi? Yes.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Is Indy next?
      • 3 Years Ago
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        • 3 Years Ago
        what does the above have to do with the article???
      • 3 Years Ago
      Audi makes great cars...Toyota does also at half the cost...Next year Toyotas will be back in force ...Toyota is the company that can beat Audi.....The Toyota was not ready for a 24 hour race yet....It was more like a test...Next year it will be different...Oh if you want a cheap Audi get a VW..Same car different name and a very good car at that...
        Jeff DiCarlo
        • 3 Years Ago
        Saying that Toyota is the company that can beat Audi is just wishful thinking. In theory, anyone can beat anyone. Until they actually do it, your comments are meaningly. Look at Toyota's F1 record. Enough said. And you are also wrong about the Audi/VW relationship. They used to share some platforms, but that has pretty much changed.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'll take one ! $22,000... Right?
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