Audi confirms R18 hybrid as part of 2012 endurance racing program

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The diesel era at Le Mans may not be over yet, but already we're seeing the emergence of a new propulsion trend: hybrids. Toyota recently announced the TS030 Hybrid LMP1, Peugeot was working on a hybrid version of its 908 prototype before it killed the race program, and now Audi has confirmed a hybrid version of the R18 TDI.

Few details were released, but what we can tell you is that Audi will field four cars at Le Mans this year: two with hybrid assist and two without. One will be headlined by Allan McNish, one by Oliver Jarvis, one by Timo Bernhard and one by André Lotterer, with supplemental drivers to be announced sometime before the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans kicks off in June.

Audi also announced a two-car entry for the inaugural FIA World Endurance Championship, with four cars to be run at select racers like Spa and Sebring. Expect more details on the R18 hybrid to be released later this month, but in the meantime you can check out the official announcement after the jump.
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- Audi with hybrid drive at Le Mans for the first time
- Four "factory" Audi LMP1 sportscars entered for Le Mans
- McNish in hybrid drive Audi – Jarvis in conventional drive car

British duo Allan McNish and Oliver Jarvis will bid for glory in the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours in June driving for the "factory" Audi Sport team which enters four cars – two equipped with hybrid drive for the first time.

McNish (42), from Dumfries, and Cambridge's Jarvis (28) were announced at an Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) presentation in Paris this evening (2 Feb) along with André Lotterer (D) and Timo Bernhard (D) as the nominated driver for each of the German manufacturer's four sportscars aiming to earn Audi an 11th Le Mans win.

McNish is a former two-time winner of the legendary annual sportscar endurance race (1998 & 2008) – having finished on the top-three rostrum a further five times.

This year's event staged over 16-17 June marks the Scotsman's 13th Le Mans race – his 10th with Audi who have won on 10 occasions since making its race debut in 1999.

Jarvis, meanwhile, competes at Le Mans for only the second time and the first time with the "factory" Audi team. Oliver, who has raced in the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) with Audi since 2008, drove a "customer" Audi R10 TDI in the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Following the first win for a TFSI petrol engine (2001) and the historical first triumph for a diesel powered car (2006) the brand with the four rings targets yet another technical milestone at the world's most famous and most important endurance race.

In addition to the 56-cars invited to compete in the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours, the ACO also announced today (2 Feb) the entrants for the re-born FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC).

Audi Sport Team Joest enters two cars for the new WEC and also follows a two-pronged approach. Audi plans to field additional cars at selected races such as the 12-hour race at Sebring (USA) and in the 6-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) which doubles as a "dress rehearsal" for Le Mans for the Audi squad.

The new Audi sports-prototype with hybrid drive will be presented at the end of February. The first competitive outing follows in the 6-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps (May 5). For the WEC "opener" at Sebring (March 17), Audi Sport Team Joest relies once again on the Audi R18 TDI that proved victorious at Le Mans last year. Audi is the most successful manufacturer in the race's recent history.

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