Audi was first to win Le Mans with a direct-injection turbo gasoline engine as well as first to be successful with a diesel engine. It’s no doubt a victory for Audi to now be the first brand to have achieved triumph with a hybrid vehicle- and right on the first run. Audi and Toyota both submitted environmentally friendly racers, but the latter’s LMP1 crashed, which left the German automaker to a 1-2 finish while a pair of non-hybrid racers placed third and fifth, respectively.
The diesel-electric Audi R18 e-Tron Quattro took first and second places in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours claiming a unique result for hybrid technology. In winning the 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi reaffirmed not only its own recent dominance but the underlying vision of endurance racing in general and Le Mans.
Audi won because the R18 e-Tron Quattro’s combination of flywheel-hybrid and electric-motor Quattro technologies not only worked but survived for a full day’s racing; Toyota didn’t because (by its own admission) it wasn’t ready to, not over 24 hours.
Audi’s diesel/electric contender had flywheel energy storage technology; Toyota’s petrol/electric had super-capacitors – both extreme iterations of possible road car futures. Audi had far more development time; Toyota stepped into the breach left by the withdrawal of Audi’s long-time rival Peugeot which, but for economic and political pressures, would have been in the mix with its own diesel hybrid.
Audi’s R-18 e-Tron diesel-electric hybrid has become the first car of its kind to win the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race, unlike battery-based hybrids, the R-18 uses a hefty turbo-diesel V6 pushing power to the back wheels, along with a flywheel to recover braking energy and drive a motor attached to the front wheels. The company has revealed that it’s actually testing this far cheaper, battery-free system in a production vehicle, so perhaps it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be able to go a full day on a tank — give or take the odd rest stop.
The name ‘e-Tron’ has been seen in the French-speaking press as laughingly because ‘étron’ means turd, there is though nothing funny about this great victory for Audi, it has been speculated that the second e-Tron concept car, shown in 2010 in Detroit, provides a preview of a future mid-engine Audi sports car production model to be launched in 2012 possibly to be named Audi R4 or Audi R5… Audi never seems to disappoint.
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