Diesel, Hybrid, AND Quattro? Audi off the hook!

 

Motorsport is used yet again by Audi AG to pioneer new technology: the brand with the four ring’s new Le Mans race car is the world’s first LMP1 car to combine a highly-efficient TDI with a hybrid system. quattro drive also celebrates its comeback to the race track with the prototype - in a entirely new form.

Audi R18 e-tron quattro is the name of the new Le Mans prototype that makes its race debut on May 5 in the 6-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) and fights for overall victory at the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans (France) on June 16/17. Audi unites two technologies in a fascinating way to create a new type of drive, which is also already being tested for future use in production cars: e-tron quattro.

Hiding behind this description is the next generation four-wheel drive with which Audi combines the advantages of the proven quattro drive with the potential of electromobility. To this end one vehicle axle is powered conventionally, the second by electric motors.



"Audi has always consciously selected championships and categories in racing that have a close relationship to production and therefore have technical relevance for the Audi customers," explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, who personally drove the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro onto the stage on Wednesday evening during its world premiere in the Audi Training Center at Munich airport - electrically and almost silent. "quattro, TFSI and TDI are three excellent examples of how motorsport has stimulated production development. A similar tendency is apparent with the e-tron quattro: we test a completely new technology on the race track before it’s introduced to the Audi production line."

On the Audi R18 e-tron quattro kinetic energy is recovered on the front axle during the braking phase. It is fed as electric into a flywheel accumulator before being retrieved under acceleration again above a speed of 120 km/h. During this procedure only the front axle is integrated. The V6 TDI power plant producing 375 kW (510 hp) continues to transmit its power to the rear wheels. Both systems complement each other to create the new drive principle e-tron quattro.

Project began in February 2010



The project e-tron quattro for motorsport started in February 2010. Only 18 months passed from the initial conceptual ideas to the first test. "This is a relatively short cycle for a technology that has never been tested in motorsport and which still doesn’t even exist in production," stresses Dr. Martin Mühlmeier, Head of Technology at Audi Sport. "The challenge is correspondingly big."

Audi Sport developed the Audi R18 ultra in parallel to the Audi R18 e-tron quattro - because Audi takes a two-pronged approach this year in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and in the newly created FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) - the 2012 model year Audi R18 is built with and without hybrid drive. The trick: the base of both cars is completely identical, which is why the additional logistical effort is kept limited for Audi Sport and the race team.

"The TDI engine invented by Audi is still the most efficient drive in the world," says Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "We are convinced that the TDI has even more potential. This is why Audi not only supports the hybrid in motorsport as it does in production, but in parallel also the further development of the conventional drive."

Innovation in transmission area

The R18 e-tron quattro’s twin brother more than lives up to its model name ‘R18 ultra’: it is the lightest Le Mans prototype that Audi Sport has ever built. To compensate for the additional weight of the hybrid system the subject of lightweight design and construction was the focus throughout development of the 2011 Le Mans race winning R18 TDI. In addition to the many detail optimizations there is also a genuine innovation in the transmission area: a new gearbox with a carbon-fiber composite housing was developed for the R18 - a premiere for endurance racing.

"The new R18 ultra is a distinct evolution of last year’s Le Mans race winning car," summarizes Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "Our drivers’ impressions were very positive from the first moment. Without the weight optimized R18 ultra we would have not been capable of realizing the R18 e-tron quattro which is absolutely identical with the exception of the hybrid system."



Le Mans 2012: two R18 e-tron quattro and two R18 ultra

Audi Sport Team Joest will field two R18 e-tron quattro and two R18 ultra prototypes in the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 16/17. The two hybrid cars are driven by last year’s winning trio Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (D) and Benoît Tréluyer (F) as well as Dindo Capello (I), Tom Kristensen (DK) and Allan McNish (GB) who boast a total of 13 Le Mans wins between them. New signing Loïc Duval (F) starts together with Timo Bernhard (D) and Romain Dumas (F) in an R18 ultra as do Marco Bonanomi (I), Oliver Jarvis (GB) and Mike Rockenfeller (D).

Audi Sport Team Joest also contests the World Championship round at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) on May 5 in the same formation. At the same time the race doubles as a dress rehearsal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Only Mike Rockenfeller will miss this race due to a clashing date with the DTM.

After the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi plans to enter an R18 e-tron quattro and an R18 ultra in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). André Lotterer and Allan McNish have been nominated as the drivers so far.

At the World Championship opener at Sebring (USA) on March 17, Audi Sport Team Joest relies on the proven R18 TDI from last year, which are driven by Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer, Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish as well as Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Loïc Duval.

Interview with Audi team boss Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich

Dr. Ullrich, for the first time an Audi race car is no longer powered exclusively by a combustion engine. Are we standing on the threshold of a new era?

It’s clear that here at Audi Sport we are dealing with a completely new subject: the electrification of the drive, an issue in which our colleagues from production are also totally absorbed. In this respect a new era has in fact started - and as always Audi is involved as pioneer from day one and, as a result, is trendsetter.

Audi last appeared at Le Mans with two different concepts in 1999. At that time it was primarily a question of the bodywork, today the drive. Why the decision to bring two types of car to the grid in 2012?

Quite simply, the TDI engine invented by Audi is still the most efficient drive in the world. We’ve also proved this at Le Mans since 2006. It’s not a coincidence that turbo diesel engines are unbeaten there for six years now, even though the diesel cars were repeatedly limited. We are convinced that the TDI has even more potential. This is why Audi not only supports the hybrid in motorsport and production, but in parallel also the further development of the conventional drive. The combination of TDI and hybrid is, however, without doubt particularly interesting and very promising. This is exactly what the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro stands for.

The R18 e-tron quattro is only at the beginning of its development. In your view how much potential is combined with the energy recuperation?

The potential is certainly very big, since the entire subject of hybrid is still in its infancy. There are many obstacles, the weight of an energy storage system suitable for mass production for example. At the moment we still benefit enormously from the groundwork done by our colleagues in the production advance development, who have been studying the subject for a little longer. However, in this case I also think that motorsport can accelerate development of a new technology. Over the last few months many good ideas have already emerged, which we want to implement in the future.

Motorsport was never a means to an end for Audi, but rather always served the technical development of its product range. What contribution will the R18 e-tron quattro be able to make?

That is correct. Audi has always consciously selected championships and categories in racing that have a close relationship to production and therefore have technical relevance for Audi customers. quattro, TFSI and TDI are three excellent examples of how motor sport has stimulated production development. A similar tendency is apparent with the e-tron quattro: we test a completely new technology on the race track before it’s introduced to the Audi production line. Efficiency and lightweight design and construction are particularly important in motor sport. It’s exactly this aspect of a hybrid vehicle that provides so much development potential, where one or the other point could possibly be exploited a tic faster due to our Le Mans involvement.

Progress must also be welcomed - and from those who draft the regulations. What chances and risks does the current classification of the R18 e-tron contain?

The ACO and FIA are faced with a very difficult task here. The more different technologies there are in the game the more difficult it becomes to correlate them all. The biggest problem is that the Audi and Peugeot diesel cars were in a class of their own over the last few years - and not just because the TDI is the world’s most efficient engine, but also because no other competitor developed an LMP1 car with a gasoline engine to a similar level of detail and know-how. For this reason the diesel was trimmed again for the 2012 season, so that from our point of view the diesel is now at a real disadvantage on paper. We are, however, prepared to face this challenge and are convinced that the ACO and FIA will make the right decisions for the future. As far as the hybrid issue is concerned we can easily assess the pros and cons through our two-pronged approach, since the base of the R18 ultra and R18 e-tron quattro really is identical. The hybrid system alone makes the difference. The ACO and FIA will receive particularly meaningful data from us.

Audi goes hybrid at Le Mans

With Peugeot out, you'll have to get an Audi Hybrid for a high speed, high mpg run between MIR & The Rock

Audi competes in the 80th running of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 16-17, 2012 with a total of four LMP1 sports cars. Two of the four cars in action will be equipped with hybrid drive for the first time. Audi Sport Team Joest also follows a two-pronged approach in the newly created FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) during the 2012 season.

Following the first win for a TFSI engine (2001) and the historical first triumph for a diesel powered car (2006) the brand with the four rings targets yet another technical milestone at the world’s most famous and most important endurance race. "To develop the hybrid technology for Le Mans is at least as ambitious and challenging as our diesel project was in its early stages," explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. "The first test results are very encouraging and we are intrigued to see just how this technology performs in combination with our ultra lightweight technology on the race track at Le Mans. As before, we still, however, see potential with the conventional drive - just as our colleagues do in production development. This is why we are absolutely delighted that the ACO and FIA selection committee has accepted our entries and that we can join the grid with four cars at the commemorative running of the Le Mans race."

Audi Sport Team Joest has entered two cars for the new FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). Audi plans to field additional cars at selected races such as the 12-hour race at Sebring (USA) and in the 6-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps (Belgium) which doubles as a dress rehearsal for Le Mans for the Audi squad.

At the 80th running of the French endurance classic, Audi competes with the start numbers ‘1’ and ‘2’ (hybrid drive) as well as ‘3’ and ‘4’. As stipulated by the regulations one driver per car is now nominated. Those drivers are André Lotterer, Allan McNish, Timo Bernhard and Oliver Jarvis.

The new Audi sports prototype with hybrid drive will be presented at the end of February. The first competitive outing follows in the 6-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps on May 5. For the World Championship opener at Sebring on March 17 Audi Sport Team Joest relies once again on the Audi R18 TDI that proved victorious at Le Mans last year. Audi has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans a total of ten times since the year 2000 and is, as a result, the most successful brand by far in race’s recent history.

courtesy of Audi