This year marks Audi's 18th Le Mans participation since 1999, and they're competing with less fuel energy at their disposal than ever before - even less than their competitors, as specified by the regulations. Even so, the new Audi R18 LMP sports car is ready to battle for the top spot on the 18th and 19th of June thanks to notable efficiency. Audi has won the 24-hour race 13 times to date, and this year it will arguably be as tough as ever before.
“We’ve already seen how great the challenges are this year in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC),” says Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. Audi met with strong rivals, won round two at Spa (Belgium) with Lucas di Grassi/Loïc Duval/Oliver Jarvis (BR/F/GB) and achieved the best time on the test day at Le Mans on 5 June with di Grassi. “However, it would be premature to draw clear conclusions from this for the race at Le Mans. We have great respect for our strong opponents,” says Dr Ullrich.The three manufacturers battling for victory with their hybrid sports cars have already logged leading kilometres in the FIA WEC, however conditions at Le Mans and much different from those of the WEC rounds at Silverstone and Spa. Practicing on the 13.629km circuit is impossible as it is made up of public roads and is closed to regular traffic only for the test day and the race week. Audi will be racing with special low-drag aerodynamics, which must have helped Lucas di Grassi achieve his average speed of nearly 244km/h on the test day.
The duration of the 24 hours event is unique on the FIA WEC calendar, so 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 a fantastic 13 times - most recently in 2014 with Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F). As a result, Audi is ranked second place on the all-time winners list which began 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 high efficient diesel hybrid powertrain, and was the first manufacturer to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with a diesel engine in 2006. Since then Audi has secured eight victories with the TDI, and set a new distance record in 2010 that has not been broken to date.
Audi is now celebrating ten years of TDI with a look back at the numbers that reflect the progress that has been made. In 2006, the Audi R10 TDI was equipped with a V12 TDI engine with 5.5 litres of displacement. The R18 used today boasts a 4-litre V6 TDI, uses 46.3% less fuel and achieves better lap times. Alongside a powertrain made up of an internal combustion engine at the rear axle and a hybrid system at the front, Audi has utilised major aerodynamic potential, perfected its lightweight design, converted innovative ideas in suspension, system solutions and other detailed areas into reality, playing a pioneering role at this years Le Mans. The 24-hour race at La Sarthe is the perfect laboratory for testing technology of the future, and subsequently making them available for Audi customers.
Eurosport will be airing live TV coverage of the practice sessions, including qualifying and warm-up, and the race with pre-race reports starting at 14:15. Actor Brad Pitt will be waving the cars off in his honorary starter role before the race starts on Saturday, 18 June, at 15:00. Audi will be providing extensive reports on its Facebook (AudiSport) and Twitter (@audisport) channels. The brand’s fans can additionally watch on-board footage with telemetry data and further information at www.audi-motorsport.com.