AUDI ruled this year’s edition of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans as it scored its fifth successive victory and a 1-2 finish. Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer came home three laps ahead of the second Audi, led by driver Tom Kristensen.
But the team trailed until the 21st hour the Porsche of former Formula One driver Mark Webber, which retired because of a gearbox failure. With the Audis getting a clear run to the finish, taking the final podium spot, five laps behind, was the Toyota driven by a trio headed by Nicolas Lapierre.
Besides Le Mans race-winning pace, what do the Audi R18 e-tron quattros, Porsche 919s and Toyota TS 040s have in common?
All pack high-tech hybrid power plants.
The carmakers took radically different routes in developing their engine and hybrid recovery systems. But, surprisingly, all came in to within two seconds a lap in terms of pace.
The R18 is powered by a 4.0-liter, turbocharged, V6 diesel engine that makes more than 500hp. An additional 100hp is available electronically, sourced from a single flywheel-based hybrid system.
In comparison, the 919 runs on a small 2.0-liter, turbocharged V4 gasoline engine that spins out 500hp. Braking and exhaust-energy recovery systems, via lithium-ion electrical storage cells, can add 250hp more.
Toyota fitted a 520hp naturally aspirated 3.7-liter, V8 gasoline engine in its TS 040. Reportedly, as much as 480hp of hybrid boost is available from two braking energy-derived, motor-generator units that store power in a supercapacitor.
All the advanced power plant technologies stress the importance of efficient energy use, and this year’s Le Mans race served as a research and development lab for carmakers seeking to prove that hybrids are the future not only in motor sports, but in production models as well.
WITH A REPORT FROM AFP