Hybrid battle set for Le Mans 24-hour race
Audi is to take on Toyota in this year’s Le Mans 24-hour race with hybrid-powered race cars.
The announcement follows Toyota’s intention to race two petrol-electric hybrids at Le Mans.
The Audi hybrid engine has been under test for several months and has apparently yielded promising results.
Audi hopes to add the first hybrid victory to its first win for a TFSI direct-injection car in 2001 and the first win for a diesel in 2006. But the brand’s Motorsport head Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich describes developing the hybrid technology for Le Mans as at least as ambitious and challenging as the diesel project was in its early stages.
“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,” he adds.
The prospect of the two versions of the hybrid technology battling each other has boosted interest in the race, which had been hit by Audi’s great rival of recent years, Peugeot, announcing the immediate ending of its race programme last month.
Audi will also have two conventional diesel cars in the race. “We still, however, see potential with the conventional drive – just as our colleagues do in production development,” Ullrich says.
“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.”
Both the Audi and Toyota hybrid cars will make their debut in the Spa 6-hour race in Belgium on 5th May, preparing for the Le Mans event on 16th-17th June.
Words by: Andrew Charman