- ROAD-GOING AUDI MODELS WILL SHARE THE SPOILS OF EIGHTH TDI WIN IN LE MANS
- Le Mans-winning Audi TDI hybrid sports prototypes lead the evolution of its road cars
- Le Mans-winning R18 e-tron quattro sports prototypes covered up to 379 laps and travelled over 10,000 kilometres (over 6,300 miles) during the course of the 24hr race
- Technologies tested at Le Mans have successfully transferred to millions of Audi road cars with more to come
The Le Mans 24-hour marathon has just been won by a pair of diesel-powered hybrid Audi prototypes which covered over 6,300 miles over the course of the race to not only secure an eighth victory for Audi TDI Power but also to shape the future of road-going Audi models.
Audi has been using Le Mans as a test laboratory to support future production line developments for many years. TFSI petrol direct injection appeared for the first time at the 2001 race, and has since benefited millions of Audi road cars through improved fuel economy and engine response and reduced CO2 emissions. The brand was also the first manufacturer to win the gruelling marathon with a diesel engine in 2006, winning five times overall with pure TDI power, and is viewed as a leading exponent of alternative propulsion methods in racing after introducing hybrid power with the R18 e-tron quattro in 2012.
The two Audi R18 e-tron quattro race cars which secured their momentous one-two victory last weekend in one of the toughest races in recent Le Mans history are the ultimate champions of Audi ultra technology, which has also played a crucial role in the design and construction of Audi production cars.
The umbrella term for the pinnacle of progress in everything from lightweight construction and aerodynamics to engine efficiency, Audi ultra and its core principles touches virtually every stage of development in the roadgoing model programme, but its influence is most immediately evident in new, exceptionally economical A4, A5 and A6 TDI ultra models launched in the UK this year. The evolution of their successors, and of many other future Audi models, has unquestionably been accelerated by lessons learnt from each of the 379 laps of the 8.46-mile circuit made by the winning R18 e-tron quattro.
New era of efficiency at le Mans
The thirteenth Le Mans victory for the Vorsprung durch Technik brand in sixteen attempts is a particularly convincing showcase for Audi ultra, because 2014 heralds a new era for endurance racing in which efficiency plays a much more decisive role.
New rules applied this year mean that, depending on its class, a race car can now only consume a specific amount of energy per lap. Fuel flow is limited, and where hybrid systems are fitted, as is the case with the R18 e-tron quattro, so is the maximum usable energy that the hybrid system can recuperate and return to the drivetrain. Other factors, including the requirement for cars to be ten centimetres narrower and run on considerably narrower tyres, also added to the challenge facing Audi engineers.
Despite these hurdles, the two completely new TDI hybrid sports prototypes managed to reach the chequered flag using 30 per cent less fuel than last year’s cars. Their state-of-the-art V6 TDI engines naturally made a significant contribution to this reduction, and the development work that made it possible will of course inform and influence the design of future road-going TDI units.
With the TDI engine driving the rear wheels and an electric Motor Generator Unit (MGU) powering the front axle at permitted points on the circuit, the R18 e-tron also features world renowned quattro all-wheel drive in its most futuristic form. Under braking, the kinetic energy generated at the wheels is converted into electric energy, which is stored in a new, optimized flywheel accumulator mounted in the cockpit alongside the driver. The recovered energy is reconverted during acceleration by the MGU and powers the front wheels.
Lightweight build, another fundamental pillar of the Audi ultra philosophy, is also exemplified by the R18 e-tron quattro, which in spite of its additional technology for 2014 actually undercut the minimum weight requirement of 870kg set by the Le Mans governing body.
Lasers for racing and road
The harnessing of light is also a particular area of Audi expertise which has benefited greatly from racing input. Matrix LED light was honed in the 2013 iteration of the R18 e-tron quattro– this year the units, which incorporate individual LEDs that can be switched on and off or dimmed individually to ‚divert‘ their beams around following traffic, also incorporate laser light to dramatically improve vision for the driver. The first road-going Audi model to feature laser light – the R8 LMX – is already on sale.
The motorsport-honed technology that helps the latest Audi A4, A5 and A6 ultra road cars to cover as much as 67.3mpg (according to the combined cycle test) with CO2 emissions of as little as 109g/km can be enjoyed at prices starting from £28,320 OTR.