Published on June 11th, 2016 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
24h of Le Mans: The Toughest Race of the Year for Audi
Never before has Audi made so much out of so little: In its 18th Le Mans participation since 1999, Audi has less fuel energy at its disposal than ever before – and less than its competitors, as specified by the regulations. Still, the new Audi R18 LMP sports car is to battle for the top spot on June 18 and 19 thanks to notable efficiency. 13 times Audi has won the 24-hour race to date and this year the endurance classic will arguably be as tough as never before.
Each of the three manufacturers battling for overall victory with their hybrid sports cars has already logged leading kilometres in the FIA WEC. Conditions at Le Mans differ from those of the WEC rounds at Silverstone (UK) and at Spa (Belgium). Nobody can practice on the 13.629-kilometer circuit as it largely consists of public roads and is closed to normal traffic only for the test day and the race week. Lucas di Grassi achieved an average speed of nearly 244 km/h at the test day. Audi will be racing at Le Mans with special low-drag aerodynamics.
The duration of 24 hours is unique on the FIA WEC calendar as well. In return, the classified entrants are awarded twice the number of points compared with the other rounds. The “marathon” at La Sarthe is arguably the world’s most prestigious endurance race. Audi has won it an amazing 13 times – most recently in 2014 with Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F). As a result, the premium brand from Ingolstadt is ranked in second place of the all-time winners list that was begun in 1923. Audi’s line-up this year consists of Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer in car number “7” and di Grassi/Duval/Jarvis in car number “8.”
Audi is the only brand to rely on a highly efficient diesel hybrid powertrain. In 2006, Audi was the first manufacturer to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with a diesel engine, has clinched eight victories with the TDI since then and set a new distance record in 2010 that has not been broken to date.
Ten years of TDI are a perfect occasion to look at numbers reflecting the progress that has been made: In 2006, the Audi R10 TDI had a V12 TDI engine with 5.5 litres of displacement. Now, a 4-liter V6 TDI powers the R18 – it uses 46.3 percent less fuel and the race car achieves better lap times. In addition to the powertrain made up of an internal combustion engine at the rear axle and a hybrid system at the front, Audi has tapped major aerodynamic potential, perfected its lightweight design, converted innovative ideas in the suspension, system solutions and other detailed areas into reality, and plays a pioneering role in lighting technology at Le Mans.
With that, the 24-hour race at La Sarthe remains a perfect laboratory for testing technologies for tomorrow today and subsequently making them available to Audi’s customers.