Audi Hybrids Kick Ass at Le Mans

ACO 24 Hours Le Mans, France, June 13-17, 2012

The winning team of Audi drivers soaks in the adulation of the huge Le Mans crowd

On the 80th running of the famous Le Mans 24 Hours, a vehicle with hybrid drive – the Audi R18 e-tron quattro – has triumphed for the first time. Around 240,000 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.

All four Audi R18 cars had the chance to clinch what amounted to the brand’s eleventh Le Mans victory in total. After 378 laps, last year’s winners Marcel Fässler (CH), André Lotterer (D) and Benoît Tréluyer (F) at the wheel of the Audi R18 e-tron quattro designated as car number “1” were again the front runners. Dindo Capello (I), Tom Kristensen (DK) and Allan McNish (GB) as the runners-up caused the all-wheel drive of the future in which the conventional drive system is intelligently combined with an electrically driven axle to record a one-two result. Audi is already testing this technology in which the drive shaft is replaced by electric cables for use in production vehicles.

Le Mans rookie Marco Bonanomi (I), Oliver Jarvis (GB) and Mike Rockenfeller (D) in the best conventionally powered Audi R18 ultra completed the fourth one-two-three victory for Audi at the Le Mans 24 Hours after 2000, 2002 and 2010. Romain Dumas (F), Loïc Duval (F) and Marc Gené (E) at the wheel of the second R18 ultra finished in fifth place.

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.

An accident by Allan McNish in the fast Porsche corners less than three hours before the finish caused the preliminary decision. Audi Sport Team Joest managed to repair the heavy damage at the front of the R18 e-tron quattro in record time and to thus save second place. In the early phase, car number “2” had lost nearly a lap after a massive piece of rubber pick-up had gotten stuck in the area of the rear suspension.

The winning Audi e-tron leads his ultra brother in the morning

The winning car with chassis number R18-208H nicknamed “Electra” was not spared from incidents either. Marcel Fässler touched the track barrier twice on Saturday morning: the first time after spinning at high speed and the second time when he had to evade a GT vehicle that was standing sideways in the Mulsanne corner. Benoît Tréluyer, who was suffering from a severe cold which he had caught on Friday while participating in the drivers’ parade in the rain in the center of Le Mans, spun once at the entrance to the pit lane.

The third-placed Audi R18 ultra – car number “4” – lost a lap right at the beginning of the race due to a check of the rear suspension. On late Sunday morning a gear got stuck twice which the driver was able to correct each time by switching the ignition on and off. Afterward the R18 was running perfectly again and allowed Marco Bonanomi and Oliver Jarvis to clinch the first podium place at Le Mans together with Mike Rockenfeller, who returned to the podium a year after his serious accident.

Two nearly identical slips caused the Audi R18 ultra #3 in which Loïc Duval set the fastest lap of the race to lose its chance for victory. On Saturday night, Romain Dumas in the first chicane while lapping a GT vehicle hit the dirty part of the track and slid against the track barrier. The same mishap occurred to Marc Gené on Sunday noon. In both cases, Audi Sport Team Joest managed to repair the R18 in an extremely short period of time. In total, though, twelve laps were lost.

“This was a race of the kind you can arguably experience only at Le Mans,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich after his four Audi R18 cars had crossed the finish line. “You should never rejoice too early at Le Mans, which was obvious again especially on Sunday noon. The whole world was already talking about a one-two-three-four victory and all of a sudden two of our cars had accidents almost simultaneously. That the squad repeatedly managed to repair the cars so quickly after the slips clearly speaks for Audi Sport Team Joest that can simply be banked on at Le Mans. On the whole, I can only take my hat off to the entire squad of Audi Sport that worked extremely hard for a year to make this triumph possible. It was a very big challenge to develop a hybrid car in such a short time that is quick and able to hold up for 24 hours. The fact that, as in 2001 with the TFSI engine and in 2006 with the TDI, we managed to be successful right on the first run simply proves the level of technological expertise that is available at Audi. This is a great day for Audi Sport, for Audi and for the e-tron quattro.”

“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,” commented Rupert Stadler, Chairman of the Board of Management of AUDI AG, who personally watched the race on location. “With the e-tron quattro in combination with ultra lightweight design, 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.”

With its eleventh victory at Le Mans, Audi has extended its lead in the World Endurance Championship. Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish as the runners-up recaptured the lead in the drivers’ world championship.

The Toyota hybrid at Le Mans

Audi’s chief rival was slated to be Toyota Racing, who experienced thrilling highs and extreme lows during an eventful Le Mans 24 Hours which ended in the 11th hour. An impressive start to the team’s first race saw the TS030 HYBRIDs fighting at the front, reaching a pinnacle when Nicolas Lapierre, sharing the #7 with Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima, took the lead as the six-hour mark approached.

However, the team’s joy at seeing its super capacitor-based hybrid powertrain lead the field was ended only seconds later due to a heavy accident for Anthony Davidson in the #8 he drove alongside Stéphane Sarrazin and Sébastien Buemi. He was tagged by Piergiuseppe Perazzini’s lapped Ferrari and suffered heavy impact with the tire barriers at Mulsanne Corner, which comes at the end of the Mulsanne Straight when cars reach a top speed of more than 330km/h. After getting out of the car on his own, he was taken to the circuit medical centre suffering from shock and back pain. Despite no obvious injuries, he was taken to hospital for checks which revealed breaks to his T11 and T12 vertebrae. Those injuries are expected to heal fully in approximately three months and he will remain in hospital until Monday.

A safety car period followed that incident and, when the green flags waved, Kazuki fought for the lead. However he was also unlucky with lapped traffic and punted the lil’ Nissan DeltaWing into the wall, ending the DeltaWing’s race and causing a puncture and rear bodywork damage to the Toyota.

That began a challenging period for the team, with several problems losing the #7 significant time in the pits as the crew worked hard to achieve the target of finishing the race. However, an engine failure after 10-and-a-half hours forced the difficult decision to retire the #7 and end Toyota Racing’s first race prematurely.The team will return to action with confidence at the WEC Six Hours of Silverstone on 26 August. “Right now our emotion is one of sadness,” said Yoshiaki Kinoshita, Team President. “Our best wishes are with Anthony, who is a fantastic colleague and a positive force in our team. We strongly hope he recovers very soon and we’re sorry we could not provide a result to cheer him up from the #7 car, which suffered firstly an alternator problem and then an engine failure. After all the hard work to get to this point, it really hurts to see both cars retire early. But in the next days we will look back on the first six hours of the race and feel great pride that we could lead Le Mans in our very first race. That is a remarkable achievement with such pioneering technology and this motivates us to push harder than ever to bring home some trophies in the remainder of the season.”

Post crash interview with Anthony Davidson

How do you feel?
I have felt better, that’s for sure. I am in a bit of pain, in my lumber area, the middle area of my back. That’s the only thing that hurts really so I’ve been lucky.

What’s the diagnosis and when will you be back?
Basically I have two broken vertebrae; T11 and T12. The doctors say the average recovery time is three months, but that’s an average person not a professional sportsman or athlete. That estimate is to get back to an absolutely healed bone; as strong as it was before. It’s more like three weeks until the pain subsides and I get my mobility back fully.

Can you describe what happened to cause the accident?
I was almost completely past the car after the apex of the kink. I passed a Corvette and a Ferrari with the pro driver sticker on. They were fighting each other and I just assumed the Ferrari ahead was part of their group and therefore another pro. The car was all the way to the left as you would expect a pro driver to do. It was only when I got right up to the back that I realized it was one of the amateur-stickered cars. But I still wasn’t alarmed, I still felt it was a completely legitimate move and thought he would stay to the left, which it looked like he was doing. I made the apex of the corner, started to brake and I was almost out of the corner when I felt contact on the left rear.

Can you describe what happened then?
Instantly it spun the car, pivoted round to the left, then took off and turned upside down. At that point I felt I was in an aeroplane out of control. I knew how close the barriers were, and travelling at that speed I was going to be there in no time. That part of the crash was pretty petrifying. It crashed back down to the ground, I felt an almighty punch up my spine when the car hit back down on four wheels. I still had my eyes closed and my hands off the wheels, in the brace position. Half a second after that I had the forward impact into the barrier.

What happened when the car came to a stop?
I reopened my eyes and realised I was still here, albeit in a bit of pain. I had feeling and could move my feet; everything was working. I know I should stay in the car, especially with back pain, but initially I felt full of panic and claustrophobia, I just had to get out of the car. It was really odd. I banged the door open and clambered out carefully because I knew I was in pain. I had to stretch out and the closest point was the side of the car, then the medics came over.

Has the team visited you already?
All the drivers have been. Stéphane and Sébastien turned up last night, the #7 guys this morning and it was a nice touch that my team-mate last year Sébastien Bourdais came to the medical centre. It was nice to see a familiar, friendly face at that moment. All the team came over this morning to check how I was.

What is your feeling about the TS030 HYBRID’s race debut?
When the team visited we all gave each other a pat on the back for our performance. More than anything, we wanted to show the speed of the car. When we look back, even from my hospital bed, there were a lot of positives. We needed to tick many boxes this weekend and being fast was one of them. We had a great qualifying session, splitting the Audis, and showed great pace in the race to take the lead through Nico in the #7. I think that was really good for the fans.

Corvette Racing finished the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans for the 12th time in 13 attempts as both the No. 73 and No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R race cars were running at the finish of the world’s most demanding sports car race. That’s not the result the yellow team from Detroit was looking for, as Ferraris and Aston-Martins filled the GTE Pro podium.

The No. 73 Corvette C6.R driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Jordan Taylor completed 326 laps and finished fifth in the GTE Pro category. The No. 74 Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Richard Westbrook completed 215 laps and was sixth across the finish line, but was not classified because the car did not complete the minimum race distance. The No. 51 AF Corsa Ferrari won the GTE Pro class by a three-lap margin with 336 laps completed.

The No. 73 Corvette crew was relentless as the drivers and mechanics clawed their way back into contention after losing time to a steering rack replacement and electrical problems. With four hours to go, the crew replaced the alternator and then made a series of battery replacements to cope with a problem in the charging system. Le Mans rookie Jordan Taylor did a triple stint at dawn, followed by doubles by Jan Magnussen and a triple by Antonio Garcia. Magnussen drove the car to the checkered flag.

The No. 74 Corvette suffered extensive damage in a crash in the Porsche Curves in the 18th hour. Tommy Milner nursed the battered car back to the garage, where the Corvette crew virtually rebuilt the back half of the chassis. After a 2 hours and 12 minute pit stop, Oliver Gavin had the No. 74 back on track. With no possibility of advancement in the final standings, the star-crossed car was held in its garage until the final 40 minutes of the race. Gavin drove the car to the finish in his 12th appearance at Le Mans.

24 Hours of Le Mans overall results:

Pos Car Drivers Class Laps Gap
1. #1 Audi Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer LMP1 378
2. #2 Audi McNish/Capello/Kristensen LMP1 377 + 1 Lap
3. #4 Audi Jarvis/Bonanomi/Rockenfeller LMP1 375 + 3 Laps
4. #12 Lola Prost/Heidfeld/Jani LMP1 367 + 11 Laps
5. #3 Audi Gene/Dumas/Duval LMP1 366 + 12 Laps
6. #22 HPD Brabham/Dumbreck/Chandhok LMP1 357 + 21 Laps
7. #44 HPD Potolicchio/Dalziel/K-Smith LMP2 354 + 24 Laps
8. #46 Oreca Thiriet/Beche/Tinseau LMP2 353 + 25 Laps
9. #49 Oreca Perez Companc/Kaffer/Ayari LMP2 352 + 26 Laps
10. #26 Oreca Ragues/Panciatici/Rusinov LMP2 351 + 27 Laps

24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro Results:

Pos./Car No./Drivers/Car/Laps
1. 51 Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander, Ferrari 458 Italia, 336
2. 59 Makowiecki/Melo/Farnbacher, Ferrari 458 Italia, 333
3. 97 Mucke/Turner/Fernandez, Aston Martin Vantage V8, 332
4. 71 Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci, Ferrari 458 Italia, 326
5. 73 Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor, Corvette C6.R, 326
6. 74 Gavin/Milner/Westbrook, Corvette C6.R, 215
7. 66 Cocker/Walker/Wills, Ferrari 458 Italia, 204
8. 77 Lietz/Lieb/Henzler, Porsche 911 RSR, 184
9. 80 Bergmeister/Long/Holzer, Porsche 911 RSR 114

Corvette Racing quotes

Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager: “Sometimes in motorsports, the greatest battles that are waged are not against a competitor, but rather against the challenges that one faces. Today was one of those days for both the No. 73 and No. 74 Corvettes. When we got to the 12-hour mark, it became clear that it would be difficult to leave Le Mans with a victory. At that point we engaged the enemy head on, which was adversity. I think by any measure, anyone who watched this event saw us emerge victorious against that enemy as we brought both cars home once again to a finish in one of the most brutal, hard-fought battles in our Le Mans history. I think we can all be proud of the passion, the dedication, and that never-say-die attitude of Corvette Racing. Hopefully, our fans enjoyed every minute of it.”

Antonio Garcia, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “All I could do was push, push, push, but in the end it’s not down to us whether we finish on the podium or not. It’s a shame, of course, because the car was really good throughout the race, except for the problems with the steering rack and the alternator. Some years ago you could maybe still hope to make up a five-lap deficit over 12 hours, but nowadays the competition is so tough that the slightest problem puts you out of contention. We’ll have to come back next year for some suitable revenge.”

Jan Magnussen, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “The car was fantastic, very fast and very consistent. My double stint in the morning was the best double I had in the entire race. It’s a shame we lost some time by changing the alternator. Other than that I’m feeling fine when I’m in the car as the adrenaline takes over and I then don’t suffer from my cold and fever.”

Jordan Taylor, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “It was great to race at Le Mans, every stint I’ve done has been better and better. It was a relief to get through those stints safely, without any mistakes and keeping the car on the track. That’s the name of the game here. We didn’t make any mistakes, although we did have mechanical problems. It was just beginning to get light when I started, and it was really cool to go through the Porsche Curves at sunrise and then down the Esses at Dunlop, to remember the footage and photos from the old days and to think that I was in the same position as those cars. I’m glad I got to do that kind of stint and feel the history while I was driving.”

Doug Louth, Engineering Director: “We had the drivers, cars, and team to compete for a win this weekend. It was a pleasant surprise to find our lead increasing at night as the cool conditions are the most challenging for us. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to leverage our warm weather performance on Sunday afternoon – we expected to gain performance as the temperature increased and for our competitors to drop off. What we ended up with is a fresh reminder of the scope of the undertaking that is the 24 Hours of Le Mans. There are so many details, checklists, and tasks that go into running the perfect 24-hour race. We missed a few of these today and had some bad luck along the way, but we have our 13th Le Mans 24 behind us, and we’re already looking to 2013.”

More Audi quotes

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “This is no doubt a historic victory for Audi. We were the first to win Le Mans with a direct-injection turbo gasoline engine and the first to be successful with a diesel engine. It’s a great result that Audi is now the first brand to have achieved victory with a hybrid vehicle – and right on the first run, as before with the two other technologies, and – what’s more – with both R18 e-tron quattro cars on the two top spots. That was an outstanding achievement by the entire squad, naturally with support from Audi’s Technical Development too, as we’re always working very closely together with the people who are developing our cars of tomorrow for the customers.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “What a race! It was a hot battle right at the beginning, as Toyota was a much tougher rival than many had been expecting. It’s a shame that both of their cars retired so early, and Anthony Davidson’s vehicle with a heavy accident. We only remember too well from last year what a team is going through in moments like that. Afterward, we fought a team-internal battle with cars number one and two – and it was an open and remarkable fight. I congratulate the winners but wouldn’t have minded seeing the other team win either, particularly Dindo Capello, whose birthday is today and who probably contested his last Le Mans race -although that’s what we’ve been thinking for the past five years … But not only the showing of the two hybrid vehicles was impressive. Our rookies Marco (Bonanomi) and Oliver (Jarvis) in the Audi R18 ultra together with ‘Rocky’ (Mike Rockenfeller) delivered a compelling race that caused them to finish in third place. They had to experience the fact that Le Mans has its own laws but they commandingly mastered this challenge. Our number ‘3’ had two accidents that were almost identical and unfortunately frustrated their race for the podium even though they were running fast. All in all, we’re very happy. All four car crews did an outstanding job. For Audi, having achieved the debut win of a hybrid car has marked another milestone at Le Mans after the initial triumphs with a TFSI and a TDI. We’re proud to have had the opportunity of being part of this.”

Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “This was an incredible race. There were so many highs and low – especially for me. I had a great team. The mechanics gave everything after the accident to repair the car as quickly as possible. As always, my driver colleagues did a fantastic job too. For Audi, this is a great day. Clinching not just victory but a one-two result with the new technology of the e-tron quattro is a brilliant feat.”

André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “The new Audi R18 e-tron quattro is very strong and gave us a lot of confidence. It’s brilliant to have won yet again! That’s an incredibly nice feeling. It was a really strenuous race. A year ago, we were battling against Peugeot and this year against Toyota at the beginning of the race. Unfortunately, our rival retired. But we contested a very fierce race against car number ‘2’ in our team as well. Audi Sport allowed all of us to give everything. It was real racing, and in your own team that’s particularly interesting. Last year, we were running against Peugeot by ourselves after two major accidents. This year, the trust among the entire squad has grown even further. Competing with Audi continues to be very special.”

Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “It was a very tough race because traffic on track was particularly heavy this year. You had to be extremely careful not to leave the racing line while lapping as the track was extremely slippery there. There were a number of critical maneuvers. In the morning hours, we had a thrilling and fair duel with our ‘sister car.’ The duel between the two Audi R18 e-tron quattro impressively proved the potential of the hybrid car. I’m happy to be on the top spot of the podium again.”

Dindo Capello (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “Up until the accident it was a great race. When it happened we were in contention for victory. As we could see last year, you’ve got to take risks if you want to win. Without those risks, Audi wouldn’t have won at that time. That’s why we took risks this year too. The result is a bit disappointing for the whole team and especially for Allan (McNish). As a racer, I know how he’s feeling at the moment. Tom (Kristensen) and I know that something like that can happen to any driver anytime, especially when you’re battling for victory. Here at Le Mans, you can’t afford to give away even a tenth of a second anymore. Sometimes it works out and at others it doesn’t. For us, it didn’t work out this time. But next time we’ll have better luck again.”

Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2):
“The race gave me a lot of pleasure because it offered everything. I particularly enjoyed the three stints at night. I was supposed to drive as fast as possible and complete twelve laps with each fuel tank filling. I managed this every time. Especially in the morning when we’d made up a lot of time and even taken the lead we were very confident. I’m sad that I wasn’t able to battle with André (Lotterer) for victory anymore on the final laps. But I’m even sadder about the fact that Dindo (Capello) didn’t win on his last run at Le Mans. He would have deserved it. We gave everything for that. ‘Well done’ to car number ‘1.’ They did a great job and deserve this success as well. Audi’s performance and reliability are impressive when you look at the challenges to be mastered in the race. At Le Mans, you’ve got to expect anything at any time.”

Allan McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “I’m devastated. I’m sorry for our team: Dindo, Tom, the engineers and the mechanics. They did a perfect job throughout the race. Despite a few problems we were in contention for victory up to my accident. I caught a slower GT vehicle in the Porsche corners and expected the driver to stay on the right-hand side. But he didn’t. I haven’t got a clue why. I spun and crashed into the guard rail with the right front. That damaged the front bodywork and the suspension – the necessary repair cost us two laps. That was a very, very big disappointment.”

Marco Bonanomi (Audi R18 ultra #4): “It’s simply great to have finished on the podium right on my first Le Mans run. The race wasn’t easy for us because we had a puncture early on and transmission problems later. But we were very quick and made no mistakes. I’m very happy for Audi, my team colleagues and myself. A perfect result.”

Oliver Jarvis (Audi R18 ultra #4): “Incredible. A race with a lot of ups downs. There were phases when I’d have never believed that we’d be able to make it on podium. We were running very fast for a few hours and then our car suddenly stopped on track. That’s when I thought ‘it’s all over now.’ But the team not only worked hard in that case and we were able to continue. I want to thank the guys; they did an outstanding job. We owe the podium to them. This has made a dream come true for me.”

Mike Rockenfeller (Audi R18 ultra #4): “To be honest, I’m pretty happy that we made it onto the podium at Le Mans. That was our minimum goal. We weren’t quick enough during major parts of the race to be in contention for the very top spots. Still, I want to thank the team and my two fellow contenders. We made the best of the situation and made no mistakes ‘Well done’ to the other three Audi teams who had an incredible speed. I think we’ve experienced a great day for Audi that we can celebrate today.”

Romain Dumas (Audi R18 ultra #3): “Actually, we had a good race in our Audi R18 ultra. Unfortunately, we were slowed by two accidents one of which I admit I was at fault in. This incident alone cost us so many laps that the leap onto the podium was no longer possible. Still, nobody in the team needs to feel bad about that. On the whole, all of us did a good job. That particularly goes for our mechanics, who had to repair the car twice.”

Loïc Duval (Audi R18 ultra #3): “For us, it was a somewhat frustrating, tough race. We had two accidents and related repair breaks. But like they had throughout the week, our mechanics did a fantastic job. Aside from the incidents our car was running superbly but the situation at the front was very tight, so we weren’t able to close up to the three front runners. But I’m already looking forward to next year and hope to achieve a better finish then.”

Marc Gené (Audi R18 ultra #3): “It was a very difficult race for us. We lost ground due to a puncture early on. We kept on battling afterwards but Romain (Dumas) and I both had an accident which cost us time again. But the mechanics did a great job of performing the necessary repairs. The most important thing, though, is that Audi managed a one-two-three win. I’m happy that I drove a large number of laps and learned a lot that I’ll be able to benefit from next year.”

Leading at 10, Corvette struggles at 12

The familiar yellow Corvette leads the Ferraris into turn 1 at Le Mans

After 10 hours of racing, the Corvettes were in control of the GTE Pro class, running first and third when the class-leading No. 74 Corvette C6.R suffered a sudden reversal of fortune. The No. 74 Corvette had taken the lead in the fifth hour, but after a routine pit stop and driver change, the No. 74 lost its left-rear tire when the crewman on that corner didn’t tighten the nut. Driver Richard Westbrook nursed the car 8 and a half miles back to the pits, and the crews from both cars descended on the damaged machine. Ten minutes later it was back on track, having fallen from first to sixth in the standings. But the misfortune continued when Westbrook had to take evasive action in the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight to avoid a car and eased into a tire barrier, damaging the nose and requiring another extended stay in the garage.

“Driving around with the left-rear wheel missing damaged the diffuser, so that was the major repair,” said team manager Gary Pratt. “We also changed the brakes, since that was scheduled to be done soon. We don’t know why the wheel came off – obviously the nut wasn’t tightened completely, but we don’t yet understand why that happened.

“Then as Richard came up on a car in the first chicane, the other driver checked up and Richard had to swerve to miss him and ended up in the tire barrier,” Pratt explained. “We changed the nose, and then saw that the previous incident had damaged the gearbox, so we changed that as well.”

The No. 73 Corvette C6.R moved up from fifth to third as Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Jordan Taylor cycled through their stints.

When the first safety car period ended at the 6:14 mark, both Corvettes came to the pits for fuel, tires, and driver changes. Antonio Garcia went into the No. 73 Corvette and Oliver Gavin into the No. 74 Corvette. Gavin retained the lead over the No. 51 Ferrari, and Garcia emerged in fifth. In the next hour, Garcia moved up to third, while Gavin continued to lead. Shortly after eight hours of racing, Garcia committed to a third stint, pitting for fuel only. Gavin pitted after his double stint and handed over the No. 74 Corvette to Tommy Milner, who extended the gap to the No. 51 Ferrari in second place to more than 50 seconds before the fateful pit stop.

Antonio Garcia, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “That was long – three hours! But it was a lot of fun as I was on the track together with Olly for most of the time. By also triple-stinting the tires we managed to gain some 16 seconds at each pit stop, while I only lost three seconds or so over an entire stint against the guys who’d put on new ones. Now I need some rest!”

Jordan Taylor, No. 73 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “It was tough out there. The first couple of laps of my second stint I had to adapt to the full tank again. I followed a couple of quicker guys around the track so I could learn more myself. The car is quick, but I don’t think we need all the speed it has just now as there are guys going off everywhere. We’re still only halfway.”

Oliver Gavin, No. 74 Compuware Corvette C6.R: “I was out in the car at good time, with the sun going down and the track cooling down a bit. The Michelin tires were working well, and I had a great battle with Melo in the Ferrari and also Antonio in our sister car. It was hard racing, hairy at times, measuring the risk versus reward trying to put them a lap down. After Melo got by me the second time, I decided to follow him and try to push him into making a mistake. We managed to get by him on the pit stop and then pull away on the second stint.”

24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro at 12 Hours:
Pos./Car No./Drivers/Car
1. 51 Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander, Ferrari 458 Italia
2. 59 Makowiecki/Melo/Farnbacher, Ferrari 458 Italia
3. 73 Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor, Corvette C6.R
4. 97 Mucke/Turner/Fernandez, Aston Martin Vantage V8
5. 77 Lietz/Lieb/Henzler, Porsche 911 RSR
6. 71 Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci, Ferrari 458 Italia
7. 66 Cocker/Walker/Wills, Ferrari 458 Italia
8. 74 Gavin/Milner/Westbrook, Corvette C6.R
9. 80 Bergmeister/Long/Holzer, Porsche 911 RSR

Toyota flips, punts DeltaWing at Le Mans

Toyota leads DeltaWing before it all went wrong at Le Mans

Six hours into the Le Mans 24 Hour race and it’s all but over for Toyota, who were doing a pretty good job of taking the fight to the long dominant Audi team. As Nicolas Lapierre (Toyota) and Benoit Treluyer (Audi) battled for the lead, Anthony Davidson’s #8 Toyota got clipped by Piergiuseppe Perazzini’s Ferrari and flipped wildly into the armco barrier. The Ferrari also slammed the armco and landed upside down. Perazzini was OK, while Davidson climbed out and laid down on the Toyota’s sidepod before going to the hospital.

Davidson’s crash neccessitated an hour-long yellow flag for armco repairs. Then seconds after going green, Kazuki Nakajima in the sole remaining Toyota punted the Nissan DeltaWing into the wall, damaging the Toyota and spoiling the car’s chances for victory. The DeltaWing took the brunt of the blow and is probably out of the race altogether.

Audi the first Hybrid on Pole at Le Mans

Audi and André Lotterer getting it done at night

The 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance classic that has been held since 1923 will see a sports car with hybrid drive starting from grid position one for the first time – the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

The intelligent combination of TDI power at the rear axle and an electrically driven front axle made it possible for André Lotterer in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro designated as car number “1” to achieve a fastest lap of 3m 23.787s in the final qualifying session on Thursday night shortly after 22:00 – and thus an improvement of last year’s best time by nearly two seconds.

“The car was running like it was on rails, simply incredible,” raved the 31-year-old German as he praised the advantages of the new type of electric quattro drive that is already being tested at Audi for use in production vehicles. “The guys at Audi Sport did a top job yet again and made my first pole position at Le Mans possible for me. Many thanks to them for this!”

But not only the R18 e-tron quattro showed a convincing performance on both qualifying days at Le Mans. World championship front runner Loïc Duval in the fastest conventionally powered number “3” R18 ultra was merely 0.291 seconds slower. “My lap wasn’t completely free, more would have been possible,” reported the Frenchman. “That’s why I’d actually expected my time to be beaten. But the main goal was to be in front of Toyota – and we achieved this.”

Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen in the number “2” Audi R18 e-tron quattro set the fourth-fastest lap (3m 25.433s) behind the quickest hybrid vehicle from Toyota. Le Mans rookie Marco Bonanomi in the number “4” Audi R18 ultra took grid position six (3m 26.420 s. This meant that all four vehicles fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest qualified for the three front rows.

After 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2011, this marked the seventh pole position for Audi at Le Mans. Each time, the brand with the four rings secured the complete front row at those events as well – albeit never before with two different technologies.

“Of course, we’re proud to be the first automobile manufacturer to clinch the pole position with a hybrid vehicle at Le Mans and to outperform the two Toyota hybrid cars,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “But this is just a very small step. The much bigger task is still ahead – the race. Therefore, as always, we used the two practice days almost exclusively to work on the race set-up. The result is that we’ve now got cars that are very good to drive and which until now ran with absolute reliability too. But you could also very impressively see today that you can’t only be fast at Le Mans with a diesel – that’s exactly what we’ve always said. This double pole is the nicest thank you for the entire squad that has been working hard on preparing the cars so superbly.”

The 80th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours will be started on Saturday at 15:00 and broadcast live by numerous TV channels worldwide. At www.audi-liveracing.com Audi is offering live streaming in which spectators can continually watch the race from the onboard perspective of the Audi R18 cars.

The smallest Audi made a big appearance at Le Mans as well. The A1 quattro that is produced in a limited number of 333 cars will be driven in front of the field on the formation lap.

Audi Quotes after Qualifying

Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “I think it’s fantastic that we’ve captured the front row of the grid for Audi. As expected, our e-tron quattro is a bit faster than the Audi R18 ultra. And we could see that our competition from Toyota is close. Still, we’re running in front – that may not necessarily be important for the race but it’s a good base and, most importantly, great motivation for the squad that has been working so hard for this.”

Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “We finished qualifying without any kind of incidents. We’ve worked out a successful set-up for all four cars. All the drivers are convinced that they’ve got a good race car. They were consistently fast. But with all cars we also went on the chase for times with less fuel and fresh tires once. That worked out better with some than with other – because traffic on track is a problem, among other things. In the end, Toyota unpacked fresh tires once more. They were running very fast. Congratulations on third place. That’s a respectable result on running for the first time. They showed that we mustn’t forget them in the race. ‘Thank you’ to the squad that perfectly prepared the cars, working nightshifts some of the time. This gives the drivers the resulting confidence.”

Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “First of all, I’ve got to congratulate André (Lotterer) on this superb lap! He countered once more after Loïc Duval had bumped us from the top stop in between – that was really cool. I’m really proud of him. The car is good. Both at night and during the day I found a good rhythm and I’m really confident because our R18 e-tron quattro is easy to drive – and that’s very important for a 24-hour race.”

André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “Clinching pole at Le Mans is a cool feeling. Of course a lot can happen in the race but our performance does show that we’ve got a strong car in our R18 e-tron quattro. So my thanks go to the squad that has been working hard for this for a year. I received only one set of new tires and had only one free lap which I made good use of. It’s good to know that the speed is there because the competition does not sleep. Toyota showed what they’re capable of toward the end of qualifying. We’ve now got a good starting base and have given the mechanics a nice reward for their fantastic commitment in the past few days.”

Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): “We’re very pleased with qualifying. Everything went according to plan: André (Lotterer) managed to drive a fast lap in order to secure a place at the front. Afterwards we continued to focus on the race set-up of our car. We found a good set-up, so we’re confident for the race. It’s always good to start into a 24-hour race with a car that you can handle really well.”

Romain Dumas (Audi R18 ultra #3): “The good work we’ve been doing for the past two days continued through to the end of qualifying. We did a lot of additional work on the set-up. Our Audi R18 ultra is really good now. We hadn’t expected to be so close to the best time, so in that respect the front row is a really nice result for us. Now we’re starting into the race from the far front. That’s a good sign.”

Loïc Duval (Audi R18 ultra #3): “This was a good qualifying session. We’re pleased and feel well prepared for the race. Obviously, we’d have liked to have clinched the fastest time but the Audi R18 e-tron quattro is simply a bit better here at Le Mans. Considering this, the best time for car number ‘1’ is also well deserved because they’ve been fast since the test day. For us, it’s good to start in second place. We’ve achieved good results over the distance as well.”

Marc Gené (Audi R18 ultra #3):
“I’m very pleased. We did a good job and invested a lot of energy in preparing for the race. Loïc (Duval) concentrated on qualifying and drove a good lap. That makes me feel optimistic about the race. Second place is better than I’d expected. The race will be long and hard. Our work was good and the car is handling superbly.”

Dindo Capello (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “Congratulations to André (Lotterer), who gave the Audi R18 e-tron quattro the second best time after Allan (McNish) had managed to do so at Spa. That was a positive conclusion. We tested tires on the first trial in order to be prepared for the race and to get a clear picture of the tire choice. At the beginning of the last session Tom (Kristensen) was stuck in traffic on his best lap. Afterwards we just worked on setting up the car for the race and gained a good impression.”

Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “It was a good day for us. We focussed on a good set-up for the race. Our Audi worked well and in my stint after 10pm, the lap times were good and competitive on new tires. We face good, stiff competition but are looking forward to a great race. Of course well done to Andre on a perfect ‘pole’.”

Allan McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): “First of all, ‘well done’ to André (Lotterer) and his guys, that was a brilliant performance. For us, the day was much better than yesterday – on the one hand no doubt because of the better track conditions but especially because we had worked out a good set-up for the race. The competition is very close and we’re right in the middle. It looks like we’ll be seeing a thrilling race.”

Marco Bonanomi (Audi R18 ultra #4): “That was a nice qualifying session although it actually wasn’t qualifying for us in the real sense. On both days we were trying to work for the race and drove several stints straight to see how the tires were working. So, considering this, our time is okay even though it’s a bit slower than that of the other cars. But the grid position isn’t so important at Le Mans. We found a good rhythm and are ready for the race.”

Oliver Jarvis (Audi R18 ultra #4): “Of course I know that the grid position isn’t important for a 24-hour race but I’m still disappointed about our sixth place. We had the potential for a position on the two front rows but never had a completely free lap – but that’s the way things are at Le Mans. We know that we’ve got a good car for Saturday and Sunday. And that makes us optimistic.”

Mike Rockenfeller (Audi R18 ultra #4): “Congratulations to the squad with car number one that’s back on pole again – that was a strong performance. I’m pleased with our qualifying session. We drove a lot, had no difficulties and are all happy with the set-up of the car. I’m optimistic for the race because Oliver (Jarvis), Marco (Bonanomi) and I harmonize very well and have got the same feel for the car. That’s why the starting base is secondary for us for now.”

Qualifying results

1 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 3m 23.787 s
2 Dumas/Duval/Gené (Audi R18 ultra) 3m 24.078s
3 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin (Toyota) 3m 24.842s
4 Capello/Kristensen/McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 3m 25.433s
5 Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima (Toyota) 3m 25.488s
6 Bonanomi/Jarvis/Rockenfeller (Audi R18 ultra) 3m 26.420s
7 Leventis/Watts/Kane (HPD Honda) 3m 29.622s
8 Prost/Jani/Heidfeld (Lola-Toyota) 3m 29.837s
9 Belicchi/Primat/Bleekemolen (Lola-Toyota) 3m 31.866s
10 Bourdais/Minassian/Ara (Dome-Judd) 3m 33.066s

Audi leads Q1, DeltaWing on track at Le Mans

“Send in the Flying Wing!” Nissan’s DeltaWing at speed in Le Sarthe

After the first qualifying session for the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours a car with hybrid drive is at the front of the field for the first time in the history of the endurance classic: the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

Last year’s winner André Lotterer in the diesel hybrid designated as car number “1” set a time of 3m 25.453s in the first qualifying session shortly after midnight, beating last year’s pole position time by 285 thousandths of a second. The result of Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen, who posted the second-fastest time at the wheel of the number “2” R18, caused both diesel hybrid sports cars from AUDI AG to provisionally occupy the front row of the grid. After the first qualifying session, the two R18 ultra cars are on positions three (car number “3”/Loïc Duval) and five (car number “4”/Mike Rockenfeller).

As usual, on the first practice day Audi Sport Team Joest concentrated on preparing for the race, tire tests and fine-tuning the cars based on the data gathered on the test day. As early as in free practice, André Lotterer – at 3m 25.163s – was clearly below the pole position time set last year. This best mark was not achieved in qualifying at night in cooler temperatures and on a more slippery track.

All twelve Audi racers completed the mandatory laps at night which are prescribed for qualifying. The four Audi R18 cars were running without any technical problems and reeled off a total of 330 laps. Before the final qualifying session on Thursday night, the cars will be completely prepared again from scratch and fitted with the engines and components intended for the race. The ultimate decision of the grid positions will be made on Thursday night from 1900 to 2100 hrs and from 2200 to 2400 hrs.

Last year, Benoît Tréluyer clinched the top spot on the grid for Audi 30 minutes before the end of the final qualifying session on Thursday night. Audi has so far started from the pole position six times at Le Mans and has won the French endurance classic as many as ten times since 2000.

“It was incredibly difficult to find a free lap,” said Mike Rockenfeller, who drove at Le Mans for the first time again after his serious accident a year ago and lost more than a second behind a slower GT car on his fastest lap. “Of course that was a shame – but it’s a lot more important that our car felt very good in the end and was comfortable to drive. That’s what counts at Le Mans.”

“On the whole, we had a very productive day,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “Finding a good set-up for the unusually cool temperatures in the night session wasn’t easy because the grip level on the track was pretty low. In the end, we managed that quite well on new tires. I do think, though, that even faster times will be driven tomorrow. But we’re fully concentrating on the race anyway because the pole position is not of decisive importance for the outcome of the race at Le Mans.”

Audi Sport Team Joest completed scrutineering for the Le Mans 24 Hours as early as on the Sunday before the race. The two Audi R18 e-tron quattro and the two R18 ultra cars perfectly passed the technical inspection. The unusually early scrutineering date, however, meant that three Audi drivers were not on hand this time and will present themselves a day later. Loïc Duval was contesting a race in Malaysia, Oliver Jarvis was competing at the Slovakiaring and Marc Gené was at the Canadian Grand Prix with Formula One. For the first time, the spectators witnessed the scrutineering event at the Place de la République in the center of the city of Le Mans, as the previously used Place des Jacobins square in front of the Saint-Julien cathedral is under construction this year.

After ten victories, the time has come for a new challenge for Audi, where Le Mans is not only about achieving the next success. The company’s aim is to be the front runner with new technologies – as it has often been in its over 30 years of motorsport history and particularly at Le Mans. In 2001, Audi managed to claim the first victory with the combination of turbocharging and direct injection (TFSI), which is standard in production vehicles today. The first Le Mans success of a diesel-powered race car in 2006 made worldwide headlines. In 2010, a vehicle with variable turbine geometry (VTG) triumphed for the first time.

Now it is the Audi R18 e-tron quattro – the first race car with diesel hybrid drive at Le Mans that concurrently marks the return of quattro drive. In car number “1” last year’s winners Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer (CH/D/F) will be starting from the grid. Their team-mates Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish (I/DK/GB) will drive the diesel hybrid marked as number “2.”

At the same time, Audi is bringing a “twin” of the R18 e-tron quattro to Le Mans, which has made the fielding of a diesel hybrid possible in the first place: the Audi R18 ultra, the lightest Le Mans prototype ever built by Audi. In the cockpit of the number “3” R18 ultra, Romain Dumas/Loïc Duval/Marc Gené (F/F/E) will be taking turns at the wheel. Number “4” will be driven by Marco Bonanomi/Oliver Jarvis/Mike Rockenfeller (I/GB/D).

“We’re competing with a totally new line-up compared with previous years,” said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport. “At Le Mans, for the first time, we’re fielding four vehicles and two different concepts, the R18 e-tron quattro and the R18 ultra, under our factory commitment. We used the race at Spa as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for Le Mans and managed to finish it with a good result. We started adapting our vehicles to the track on the test day. This time, we’re also in the situation of meeting with Toyota, whom we expect to be our strongest rival, for the first time in a racing situation. We don’t know yet where exactly our opponent will stand. In any event, Le Mans is a completely different challenge every year that has to be mastered first.”

|In terms of logistics, personnel and within our environment we have thoroughly prepared for this event,” said Ralf Jüttner, Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest. “For the first time, we’re also supporting two different technologies. The R18 ultra is considered a conventional car but it’s really not that conventional. If you weigh it without ballast it’s one of the lightest prototypes and packed with innovations. The R18 e-tron quattro is the first diesel hybrid vehicle. This is another premiere for a very highly advanced technology and the next milestone after TFSI and TDI. At the Spa 6 Hours, everything ran smoothly, including the way the technology was handled in the pits and during the stops. Now this has to stand the test of the 24-hour run. We’re ready for this.”

Marino Franchitti pulls the DeltaWing out of the pits

While the Audi entries are a technical tour-de-force, the Nissan DeltaWing is an exercise in out-of-the-box thinking, and the racing world has anxiously awaited this moment to see the car on track. With a race against time to prepare the hugely innovative DeltaWing for the 2012 Le Mans, the final pre-event test at La Sarthe, held less than 100 days after the car first turned a wheel, was a nail-biting affair for the whole team. But the DeltaWing showed impressive pace in qualifying in France tonight however its assault on the timesheet was unfortunately “extinguished” early.

With German Michael Krumm at the wheel, the Nissan DeltaWing had already improved on its earlier practice session time to stop the clocks at 3 minutes, 42.612 seconds. Krumm was confident of breaking into the “30s” until the car’s on-board fire extinguisher went off after striking a curb at Tertre Rouge – simultaneously shutting down the car’s electrical system.

The Nissan DeltaWing was brought back to near the pits but race officials did not permit the car to be returned to the pit lane where the crew could have cleaned the car and returned it to track action.

During the earlier practice session, Japanese driver Satoshi Motoyama recorded the fastest time of the session at 3:43.576. Teammate Marino Franchitti also drove the car – becoming the first man to pilot the unique machine in an official session.

The Nissan DeltaWing is competing in this year’s race after being invited to fill the “Garage 56” spot reserved for entries showcasing new technology previously unseen at Le Mans. The car features half the weight, half the horsepower, half the aerodynamic drag and half the fuel and tire consumption of a typical Le Mans prototype.

The project has pulled together the likes of concept originator Ben Bowlby; American Le Mans Series founder, Don Panoz; American racing legend and All American Racers founder, Dan Gurney; two-time ALMS championship-winning team owner, Duncan Dayton; concept patron and multiple Indy 500 and IndyCar championship winning team owner, Chip Ganassi; the world’s leading tire manufacturer, Michelin and innovative auto manufacturer Nissan.

The car is powered by a 300-horsepower, 1.6-liter Nissan DIG-T engine and equipped with unique Michelin tires – the front tires being only four inches wide.

The Nissan DeltaWing team also welcomed the arrival tonight of members of Gurney’s All American Racers organization who built the car in California. Led by AAR President, Justin Gurney, the AAR team has travelled to France to see the car race for the first time.

The team will have an additional four hours of qualifying tonight from 7:00 to 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm to midnight.

While last night’s session was cut short, Krumm, Franchitti and Motoyama will get the chance to complete their mandatory five laps at night during qualifying.

Michael Krumm
“Unfortunately I made a mistake in Tertre Rouge when I hit the curb too hard and the fire extinguisher went off and it shut down the car. But until then the car felt absolutely fantastic. We made the right choices on changes to the set-up after the practice session. The car felt much easier to drive and it was exciting to see the lap times drop more and more. We were able to prove that the car can be really fast and that is a big important step for us. It was an important box for us to tick that we could do low 40s and I think we can get into the high 30s as well. The team did a great job to get the car where it is now and now we keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t rain tomorrow. Most important thing is we know the car can do what we expected it to do and now we have to make sure we can all get our qualifying laps in at night.”

Satoshi Motoyama
“I was very comfortable in the car during my practice session stint and was able to reel off a series of fast laps. The car kept getting better and better with every lap. We were all looking forward to seeing what the Nissan DeltaWing would do during the night session and Michael was doing a brilliant job out there. What happened with the fire extinguisher was really unfortunate but it is much better to find out these issues today than during the race. Everyone on the team has been doing a great job and I think there is still a lot of time to be found in the car. The key tomorrow will be for everyone to get their night laps done and keep working on making the car reliable”

Marino Franchitti
“It is better to find these issues now than find out about them in the race. Obviously it was disappointing not to be able to run the entire session but I’d rather be able to fix it now than have something like that put us out the race on Saturday. To see the speed that Michael had at the beginning of qualifying was just fantastic. Hopefully Satoshi and I can get another run tomorrow night but it is certainly nice to see the Nissan DeltaWing show more and more performance every time we run. Everything is so new that we are still finding little things like this. It is much better to find these things now as it will make us much stronger for the race.”

Ben Bowlby
“It has been an evening of highs and lows. On one hand it was great to see the looks on the driver’s faces grinning from ear to ear when they got out the car and have them tell you ‘this car is absolutely awesome, but it is another thing to have the master switch trigger when the fire extinguisher goes off accidentally when you clip a curb. It is a terrible shame because I think we could have ended up at the top of the LMP2 class which is exactly where we are meant to be. It is very gratifying that the car has that type of performance and I know the team will all pull together and tomorrow we’ll get the guys qualified. Whether it is wet or dry we’ll do whatever it takes and we’ll be ready for the race.”

Darren Cox, General Manager, Nissan in Europe
“What happened to the Nissan DeltaWing tonight is something that could have happened to any car on the grid. We have only had 100 days to develop this car so this kind of problem is exactly the kind of little issue we haven’t had time to spot. We’re very disappointed but, at the ACO test two weeks ago, we proved the car is reliable. Tonight, we proved that it’s fast, too.”

Nissan is also supplying motors to a quarter of the Le Mans field.

Except for the hybrid system and different graphics, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro and the R18 ultra are technically identical in every respect. Both embody ultra lightweight technology, which is one of the company’s core competencies. The new CFRP transmission housing – the first of its kind in an LMP sports car – is just one example of this ultra lightweight expertise.

In addition, both vehicle concepts are packed with numerous other innovations – from the highly efficient charging concept of the 3.7-liter V6 TDI engine with its mono VTG charger through to the digital rear-view mirror with an active matrix OLED display. It clearly improves active safety, has high relevance for road traffic and is a perfect example of the close association between AUDI AG’s Technical Development and Audi Sport.

2012 impressively demonstrates the attractiveness of Le Mans as a stage for new technologies. Never before have so many different drive concepts been put on the grid. Audi is expecting Toyota as a strong new competitor in the field of the 56 entrants. The test day at the beginning of June saw the first meeting of the two manufacturers in a direct comparison – with Audi running in front then.

All four R18 cars are fielded by Audi Sport Team Joest, the most successful Le Mans team of all time. The driver line-up is a high-caliber one as well. The twelve Audi racers combined have achieved 19 Le Mans victories.

1,000 guests of the brand from 24 different markets will watch its showing at Le Mans. The spectator stands should be full too. Twelve months ago, 249,500 spectators flocked to La Sarthe – a similar turnout of fans is expected again this year for the anniversary event.

Spectators watching the race at home have numerous information channels available to them. In addition to national television broadcasts, www.audi-liveracing.com will be offering unique cockpit camera perspectives and summaries of the race. The Audi Sport iPhone app will carry comprehensive reports including a ticker, news, pictures and results of the year’s major racing event.

Facts and quotes by the Audi drivers

Marcel Fässler (36/CH), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1
-Is returning to Le Mans as last year’s winner
-Has so far been the only Swiss to win this classic race
-Most recently drove the fastest race lap at Spa
“It’s nice to travel to Le Mans knowing that you’ve won this race before. And it’s a special honor to compete in car number ‘1.’ We’ve been feeding on this for a year but now everything starts from scratch again. This year, the race will be particularly thrilling as we’re competing with the hybrid drive. We’re highly motivated and want to show that this new technology is immediately in contention for victory.

“Le Mans is a track that offers an incredible variety over a length of nearly 14 kilometers. Extremely long straights, very slow turns such as Mulsanne or Arnage and challenging high-speed corners like Indianapolis and the Porsche corners mean a very special rhythm. With an average of more than 230 km/h the track is incredibly fast. We’re mostly driving on public roads that are closed to normal traffic. This year, the circuit has various sections with fresh tarmac. Our Audi R18 e-tron quattro feels very good on the new track, as we could see on the test day.”

André Lotterer (31/D), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1
-The native of Duisburg celebrated his first Le Mans victory a year ago
-Drove the fastest race lap at Le Mans last year
“Naturally, it‘s very nice to run in car number ‘1.’ What we experienced a year ago was unique and very special. But now we’ve got to put that aside for a while. You can’t travel to Le Mans with an expectation of having to win again. You’ve got to get into a rhythm first and face the race with respect. Then we’ll see what position we’re in. If we have the opportunity to convert this into a nice result then we’ll do that. Many things can happen in this race that you can’t plan for.”

Benoît Tréluyer (35/F), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1
-Is returning to Le Mans as the winner from last year
-Is running at La Sarthe for the eighth time
“I think it’ll be a great race and a true challenge. The R18 e-tron quattro is a really good car that’s still very young but very mature too. Naturally, we’re hoping to be in contention for the top podium position again. After winning last year, we know that we’re able to win and how to best achieve this. But a race like this always remains an equation with many unknown quantities.”

Dindo Capello (47/I), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2
-Is traveling to Le Mans as the runner-up in the standings
-Has already clinched a victory at Sebring this year
-Is celebrating his 48th birthday on race Sunday
“In 1999, I ran for Audi at Le Mans for the first time. But even after so many years, this year will involve a premiere for me again. We can show the latest technology at Le Mans. The e-tron quattro is simply the technological spearhead. Engine output has been dropping for years due to the regulations but the driving sensation has remained the same. The aerodynamics help a lot and the cornering speeds are higher than in the past. Now hybrid drive is added to this. I’ve been able to experience major advances at Audi every year. That’s truly an honor.”

Tom Kristensen (44/DK), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2
-With eight victories under his belt, is the most successful Le Mans racer of all time
-Won the season opener at Sebring
“The 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours is a wonderful anniversary. And on this occasion, Audi is competing as a technology pioneer yet again. There has been a whole year of intensive preparation. To mention just a few key words: e-tron quattro, aerodynamics, LED headlights, ultra lightweight technology, V6 monoturbo TDI engine, electrical gearshift, digital rear-view mirror. Our aim, simply put, is to cover the longest distance with that at the Le Mans 24 Hours.”

Allan McNish (42/GB), Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2
-The winner of the season opener is ranking just two points behind the WEC front runners
-Has celebrated two victories at Le Mans so far
-Drove the fastest lap on the test day at Le Mans
“Le Mans is a special place and the race is really special. We made history before with TFSI and TDI technology. Now a new era is beginning with e-tron quattro. The latest generation of ultra lightweight technology is helping us as well. We’re driving two vehicle models in the team that are both capable of winning the race. After setting the first best time in qualifying at Spa we’d also love to clinch the first victory with the R18 e-tron quattro. This won’t be an easy feat considering the competition we’ve got. Everyone is perfectly prepared. The race is finally around the corner.”

Romain Dumas (34/F), Audi R18 ultra #3
-Is traveling to France as the WEC leader of the standings
-Won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Audi for the first time in 2010
“Le Mans is the biggest and most important race of the year. For me, it’s a great pleasure to be part of it again – not least because it’s a home round for us Frenchmen. Audi has created good prerequisites this year yet again. Our R18 ultra is running superbly. I’m contesting the event with two new team-mates. We already showed our capabilities at Spa. The race is open and that means a lot of suspense for the fans and for us. We’re expecting to have good chances.”

Loïc Duval (29/F), Audi R18 ultra #3
-Audi’s new signing is currently leading the WEC standings
-Celebrated his first victory with Audi at Spa
-Will be 30 years old on Tuesday of the Le Mans week
“Le Mans is the most important race of the year and this is where Audi is presenting its latest technologies. It’s also the most difficult round on the calendar. I’ve never been on the podium here, so I want to make up for that this year. The race is also about scoring valuable points for Audi in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The season has been going really well for us so far. We’re well prepared and want to clinch a nice result for Audi.”

Marco Bonanomi (27/I), Audi R18 ultra #4
-Is the only Audi driver to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time
-Finished third on making his racing debut in the R18 ultra at Spa
“This is my second year with Audi and now I’ve got my first opportunity to compete at the Le Mans 24 Hours. I’ve got many great memories of last year even though I was only at Le Mans as a reserve driver. This huge event, 24 hours of work without stopping for everyone – this is a very intensive experience. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to convert everything I’ve learned on track now and that we’ll be running similarly well as we were at Spa.”

Oliver Jarvis (28/GB), Audi R18 ultra #4
-Is returning to Le Mans after a single run in 2010
-Finished on the podium with Marco Bonanomi at Spa
“For six months, I’ve been planning for the race, training a lot and preparing myself well. Even on the test day we felt a special atmosphere there. I’m incredibly excited about the whole week of the event and about sitting in the car again. I’m hoping for a successful weekend.”

Mike Rockenfeller (28/D), Audi R18 ultra #4
-Won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 2010
-With seven Le Mans runs under his belt, is the most experienced racer in car number “4”
“I’m extremely pleased about competing with my two team-mates for Audi at Le Mans. I’m sure that we’ll be forming a superb team. I’ve got two good team-mates in Marco (Bonanomi) and Oliver (Jarvis). We tested together several times and I’ve known both of them for some time. Of the three of us I’m the one with the most extensive experience in the LMP at Le Mans but my team-mates have also driven and won races around the world. That’s a good mix. We’re very young yet experienced. I expect us to have a chance for a good race. My dream would be to stand on the podium because I know how difficult that is.”

Marc Gené (38/E), Audi R18 ultra #3
-Won at Spa on his debut with Audi
-In 2009 was the first Spaniard in history to take overall victory at Le Mans
“Audi is giving me an opportunity to participate in the 80th running of the world’s nicest and most important race. I’m proud of having the chance to be part of a successful team like Audi and driving such a good car as the R18 ultra. I’d like to battle for victory once more even though this won’t be easy. But with the help of Loïc (Duval) and Romain (Dumas) we’ve got the chance to do so.”

More from driver Marc Gené

In April, you joined Audi as a reserve driver. At Spa, you won in what has so far been your only racing commitment for Audi. As Timo Bernhard had to cancel his run you stood in for him and are replacing him at the Le Mans 24 Hours as well. What are your feelings?
“Of course it’s very regrettable that Timo’s health hasn’t been restored yet. In my role as reserve driver, my participation in the Le Mans test day had been planned anyway. Now, I’ll be running in the race too, which is an honor for me. The people at Audi never gave me the impression of only being a reserve driver, though – I’ve been feeling completely integrated in the squad right from the beginning.”

What has given you this feeling?
“I was fully involved as early as in the rests. Then I was allowed to drive the race at Spa. I had not been planned for the race at Le Mans originally. When it was confirmed I was very happy. I like this race, the team and the Audi R18 ultra very much.”

How were the reactions to your victory at Spa?
“This earned me a few nice press articles, many congratulations, and recognition in the Formula One paddock as well. I’ve begun to realize what an important brand Audi is. With it, this victory is even more special and the many fans of the brand watch us very closely. This is different than in other teams. The structure at Audi is at the same level as it is in the best Formula One teams. Plus the passion of the whole brand for the Le Mans 24 Hours is enormous.”

Track info

Track length: 13.629 km (about 8 and a half miles)
Race duration: 24 hours
Qualifying record on this track: Stéphane Sarrazin (Peugeot), Jun 11, 2008, 3m 18.513s (247.16 km/h)
Race record on this track: Loïc Duval (Peugeot), Jun 13, 2010, 3m 19.074s (246,463 km/h)
Pole position 2011: Benoît Tréluyer (Audi), Jun 10, 2011, 3m 25.738s (238,480 km/h)
Fastest lap 2011: André Lotterer (Audi), Jun 12, 2011, 3m 25.289s (239,002 km/h)
Distance record Le Mans 24 Hours: Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Mike Rockenfeller (Audi), Jun 12/13, 2010, 5,410.713 km in 24h 01m 23.694s (225,228 km/h)

Schedule

Thursday, June 14
19:00-21:00 Qualifying
22:00-24:00 Qualifying

Friday, June 15
10:00-20:00 Pit walk
14:00 Audi press conference
17:30-19:30 Drivers’ parade

Saturday, June 16
09:00-09:45 Warm-up
14:22 Beginning of starting procedure
15:00 Start

Sunday, June 17
15:00 Finish
Approx. 15:30 ACO press conference

courtesy of Audi