Audi has been a force to be reckoned with and the team to beat at Le Mans in the modern era. It still may not have topped its sister brand and chief rival Porsche's record 16 wins, but Audi's 13 have all come in the past fifteen years since the turn of the millennium. That's one heck of a winning streak, which the German outfit will highlight by bringing every single one of its winning prototypes back to La Sarthe this year. From the R8 that kicked it all off in 2000 through the diesel R10 TDI to the R18 E-Tron Quattro that won last year.
Ingolstadt won't be alone in racing down memory lane. McLaren announced it will be bringing back all five F1 GTRs that dominated the race in 1995. The quintet that finished first, third, fourth and thirteenth overall will lead a parade lap around the French circuit, joined by the new P1 GTR that will be making its dynamic debut as well as the customer examples of the special edition 650S Le Mans. What's more, winning drivers from '95 – Yannick Dalmas, Masanori Sekiya and JJ Lehto – will be on hand to participate in the parade lap as well, further highlighting the occasion.
- Efficiency technologies since 2001 in the Audi R8
- Pioneering achievements with the TDI diesel engine
- R18 e-tron quattro with hybrid technology unbeaten at Le Mans
Ingolstadt, May 15, 2015 – 29 days to go until the Le Mans 24 Hours: Audi is intensively preparing to battle for its 14th victory in the world's toughest endurance race. Since 2000, the brand has won the race 13 times. This year, Audi has assembled all of its Le Mans winning models for a group photo for the first time. Every single one of them represents 'Vorsprung durch Technik.'
The string of victories began with the Audi R8 in 2000. "Following a year of learning and gathering experience at Le Mans, we started the 2000 season with a completely new design," says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "From weight distribution to cooling, the suspension, aerodynamics and many other aspects, we managed to create a well-balanced car." What's more, Audi Sport Team Joest, and subsequently the brand's customer teams as well, received a race car that the mechanics still rave about to this day. It featured a modular design that was equally robust and simple, thereby enabling quick repairs. As the transmission of LMP race cars is highly stressed, and was regarded as a vulnerable assembly at the time, Audi developed a particularly clever modular solution: a rear end – consisting of the transmission and the rear axle – that could be exchanged within a matter of minutes by means of quick-release fasteners.
In 2001, FSI technology marked a major step forwards in the powertrain. Gasoline direct injection optimised consumption, had a favourable effect on the race car's responsiveness and shortly afterwards was introduced in Audi's production models. Between 2000 and 2005, the R8 won at Le Mans five times, and 'Mr. Le Mans,' Tom Kristensen, was a member of the driver squad in each of these events.
In 2006, Audi sparked a technological revolution. The R10 TDI was the first Le Mans winning car with diesel power. Ever since then, only LMP race cars with diesel engines have been winning the classic race at La Sarthe – including eight Audi cars. "The challenge was to develop a diesel engine with more than 650 hp for racing," says Dr. Ullrich. Integrating this V12 unit into an LMP race car posed an equally great challenge. Weight, the axle loads and the cooling requirements in a racing category with particularly sensitive aerodynamics made high demands on the engineers. The R10 TDI won at Le Mans three consecutive times since 2006.
The R15 TDI is linked with a feat that has continued to exist to this day. The race car with a V10 TDI engine and a lithium-ion battery for the onboard electrical system broke the 39-year-old distance record at La Sarthe in 2010. A year later, the Audi R18 TDI debuted. It, too, was instantly a winner. "This closed-wheel race car marked the beginning of a new era at Le Mans for Audi," says Dr. Ullrich. "The regulations required us to reduce the cubic capacity of the engine from 5.5 to 3.7 litres. Therefore, the aerodynamic efficiency of the closed race car, considering all the factors combined, became even more important." The optimized aerodynamics helped improve lap times although the race car had less power output than its predecessor and consumed clearly less fuel.
Since then, all Audi LMP1 race cars have been designated as 'R18' even though they have included ever new model generations. The 2012 R18 e-tron quattro, the brand's first hybrid sports car, marked the next major step. Audi, as the first winner with hybrid drive, set the next milestone at Le Mans and, in 2013, won again with a significantly updated version of this model. A V6 TDI engine powered the rear axle, a hybrid system the front axle, and the entire control system was fully electronic. "Audi has never before developed such a complex race car," says Dr. Ullrich. The most radical change to the regulations to date followed only a year later when each of the LMP1 race cars was restricted to a limited amount of fuel and hybrid energy per lap. Therefore, Audi developed a basically new, even more efficient R18 e-tron quattro. It won the race in 2014, was faster than its predecessor, but used 22 percent less fuel. There is hardly a better way to demonstrate 'Vorsprung durch Technik.'
FAMOUS FIVE McLAREN F1 GTR FINISHERS TO BE REUNITED AT LE MANS TWO DECADES AFTER DOMINANT RESULT
- The five McLaren F1 GTRs that finished the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans to complete a parade lap 20 years after famous victory
- Ultimate celebration of the GTR legacy as the McLaren P1™ GTR makes global dynamic debut
- Follow the celebrations and join the conversation on the McLaren social channels using the hashtag #McLaren95
McLaren Automotive and McLaren Special Operations (MSO) will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans win next month with the ultimate display at the French circuit. The five examples of the McLaren F1 GTR that dominated the 1995 race, including the race-winning chassis #01R, will take to the track led by the latest McLaren model to wear the famous GTR badge as the McLaren P1™ GTR makes its global public dynamic debut. This will be the first time all five cars have been on track together since the chequered flag fell shortly after 16.00, 18 June 1995.
Twenty years on from the famous win, the five cars that finished – chassis #01R, #06R, #02R, #07R and #05R – will return for a parade lap of the legendary circuit prior to the lights going green for the 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The McLaren P1™ GTR will lead the charge driven by French former racer Yannick Dalmas, who was part of the winning driver line-up in the number 59 McLaren F1 GTR. His teammates J.J. Lehto and Masanori Sekiya will also join the parade, along with owners of the limited edition 650S Le Mans.
Designed and developed by MSO, the McLaren P1™ GTR is a 1,000PS (986bhp) track-dedicated model which provides membership to the world's most exclusive McLaren ownership programme. The McLaren P1™ GTR Driver Programme offers unique access to race winning knowledge and expertise within the McLaren Technology Centre, and a bespoke driver training programme designed to hone and optimise driving skills.
DEBUT VICTORY SECURES TRIPLE CROWN
The McLaren F1 secured its place in motorsport history 20 years ago when five lightly race modified examples crossed the finish line of the world's most famous endurance race in France to complete one of the most dominant results the event had ever seen. The McLaren F1 GTR, in its debut outing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, claimed outright victory, and also finished third, fourth, fifth and 13th against a field of purpose-built prototypes and more established manufacturers. This result meant that McLaren was, and still is, the only manufacturer to have claimed the Triple Crown of Motorsport – victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500.
THE FAMOUS FIVE FINISHERS
Team: Kokusai Aihatsu Racing (GB) – chassis #01R
Car number: 59
Drivers: Yannick Dalmas (F), J.J. Lehto (SF), Masanori Sekiya (J)
Qualified: P9 / Finished: P1
Team: Mach One Racing (GB) – chassis #06R
Car number: 51
Drivers: Derek Bell (GB), Justin Bell (GB), Andy Wallace (GB)
Qualified: P13/ Finished: P3
Team: Gulf Racing (GB) – chassis #02R
Car number: 24
Drivers: Ray Bellm (GB), Mark Blundell (GB), Maurizio Sandro Sala (BR)
Qualified: P11 / Finished: P4
Team: Giroix Racing Team (F) – chassis #07R
Car number: 50
Drivers: Jean-Denis Delétraz (CH), Fabien Giroix (F), Olivier Grouillard (F)
Qualified: P15 / Finished: P5
Team: Société BBA Compétition (F) – chassis #05R
Car number: 42
Drivers: Jean-Luc Maury-Laribiére (F), Hervé Poulain (F), Marc Sourd (F)
Qualified: P20 / Finished: P13
MSO HERITAGE GETS THE McLAREN F1 GTR BACK ON TRACK
McLaren Special Operations, as it is known today, was launched at Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in 2011. However, a division was first set up as the McLaren Customer Care Programme in the 1990s to service, maintain and personalise the McLaren F1 for owners. This service continues at McLaren, and is now managed by the MSO Heritage team, offering an unrivalled level of knowledge and expertise on the McLaren F1. Following its last public outing at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2013 to honour 50 years of McLaren, the MSO Heritage team has been responsible for returning the race-winning #01R to the track.
Ahead of the 20th anniversary, a number of key figures involved with the original McLaren F1 GTR project have looked back at preparations for the race weekend, and the event itself. Visit
cars.mclaren.com/le-mans-memories to hear these unique insights into one of the true milestones in the history of the McLaren brand.