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Audi hybrid creates history at Le Mans

Friday, June 22, 2012    

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INGOLSTADT/Le Mans — AUDI AG has achieved another technological milestone in motorsport. On the 80th running of the famous Le Mans 24 Hours, a vehicle with hybrid drive — the Audi R18 e-tron quattro — has triumphed for the first time.

Around 200,000 spectators witnessed a fascinating race with the drama and incidents that are typical for Le Mans plus an impressive demonstration of “Vorsprung durch Technik.” The four Audi R18 cars from Audi Sport Team Joest were the quickest and most reliable vehicles and after 24 hours occupied positions one, two, three and five.

“By achieving this further success at the world’s most important endurance race our engineers demonstrated their high technological expertise in a particularly impressive way,” commented Rupert Stadler, chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, who personally watched the race on location.

“With the etron quattro in combination with ultra lightweight design, we put a completely new technology on the grid and immediately won with it — this cannot be taken for granted by any means, particularly here at Le Mans. This weekend again showed the type of things that can happen in this race and how important perfect preparation is.”

All four Audi R18 cars had the chance to clinch what amounted to the brand’s 11th Le Mans victory in total. After 378 laps, last year’s winners Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (D) and Benoît Tréluyer (F) at the wheel of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro designated as car number “1” were again the front runners. Dindo Capello (I), Tom Kristensen (DK) and Allan McNish (GB) as the runners-up caused the all-wheel drive of the future in which the conventional drive system is intelligently combined with an electrically driven axle to record a one-two result. Audi is already testing this technology in which the drive shaft is replaced by electric cables for use in production vehicles.

Le Mans rookie Marco Bonanomi (I), Oliver Jarvis (GB) and Mike Rockenfeller (D) in the best conventionally powered Audi R18 ultra completed the fourth onetwothree victory for Audi at the Le Mans 24 Hours after 2000, 2002 and 2010. Romain Dumas (F), Loïc Duval (F) and Marc Gené (E) at the wheel of the second R18 ultra finished in fifth place.

Operating at the rear of all four Audi R18 cars was the latest evolution of the compact V6 TDI engine with VTG mono turbocharger that was used at Le Mans for the first time in 2011. The new ultralight transmission with a carbon fiber housing — a novelty in a Le Mans sports car — held up to the Le Mans endurance test covering a distance of 5.151 kilometres in all four vehicles without any problems as well. Like quatto all-wheel drive, ultra-lightweight design is a core competency of the company.

The two Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars embody these two technologies in a particularly extreme form – and they were the protagonists at the 80th edition of the endurance classic right from the beginning. They only had to relinquish the leading position to one of the two Toyota hybrid vehicles once for a few laps on Saturday night.

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