Hybrid-powered Audi R18 E-tron Wins 24 Hours of Le Mans [Video]

Audi has captured all three spots on the podium of the 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans race thanks in part to its diesel-hybrid R18 e-tron race cars. This marks the first time in the race’s illustrious history that a hybrid has come out on top of the pack.

Audi has achieved another technological milestone in motorsport. The company defended their Le Mans 24 Hours endurance title on Sunday with Germany’s Andre Lotterer taking the chequered flag for the second year in a row in a first victory for a hybrid car.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans 2012 race, completed on Sunday, was both familiar and unprecedented. It saw the 29th victory for a German carmaker (11th for Audi), 40th victory for a French driver, 27th victory for a German driver, and 21st victory for tire maker Michelin.

However, it was the first time a hybrid car — Audi’s R18 e-tron quattro — finished first in the famed French endurance racing event by completing 5,152 kilometers (3,201 miles) in 24 hours. The hybrid car runs partly on diesel and partly on kinetic energy recovered from braking that is converted to electricity.

In the last 13 years, this is 11th time that Audi has been part of the victorious team. This year, Audi Sport Team Joest driving the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro emerged winners after successfully completing 378 laps and a distance of 5151.76 kms. 24 Hours of Le Mans is held in France and is designed to test the endurance of car and driver to the limit.

A team comprises of three drivers and their aim is to drive continuously for 24 hours. Drivers rotate themselves after a gap of two hours in order to take rest and replenish themselves.

The drivers who won this year for Audi Sport Team Joest are Marcel Fässler (Switzerland), André Lotterer (Germany), and Benoît Tréluyer (France). The same team and drivers won last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Audi’s impressive performance wasn’t a surprise in 2012, as its cars also won in 2011 and 2010.

“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,” said Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management of Audi AG.

“With the e-tron quattro in combination with ultra lightweight design,” Stadler added, “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.”

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.

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 ultra-light 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 kilometers 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.

After the early retirements of their fiercest rivals the two R18 e-tron quattro cars fought a thrilling duel for victory throughout the night until noon on Sunday during which the lead changed several times and the two diesel hybrid sports cars were often separated by just a few seconds.

One notable event during the 80th Le Mans race was Toyota driver Anthony Davidson’s horrific crash, in which his car flipped in the air and slammed into the barriers. Davidson broke his back in the accident, but he later tweeted that he was “generally just happy to be alive.”

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