Photo by Mike Veglia
With an outstanding 1, 2 and 6th place win at this year’s Sebring, Audi is poised to sweep into the 24 Hour of Le Mans with proven technology as well as with a new ground-breaking kinetic hybrid-diesel quattro R18. The winning P1 Class Audi R18 was driven by the team of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish, and Dindo Capello.
Due to a handling problem and a subsequent crash, the second place winning car driven by the team of Loīc Duval, Romain Dumas, and Timo Bernhard finished 4 laps behind as the pit stop to repair the damage was costly in time.
Unfortunately an electrical issue with the gearbox which locked the car in third gear put the 6th place winning Audi team of André Lotterer, Benôit Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler behind by 15 laps. The car needed to be taken back to the paddock for analysis and repair by the fleet of Audi race mechanics. Emanuele Pirro gave us a mid-race update in the Audi Turn One hospitality suite, and a video of this can be found on the Audi Club website.
As the Yellow Flags were coming up and the race slowed down, there was a constant decline in the number of cars in the field for the Audi team to deal with. Allan McNish had said that besides the challenges of the track condition, having several different classes of cars with a wide variety of driving skills could be considered the greatest challenge of the race. As the Audi cars had to pick their way through the gaggle of other cars, one could see their passing strategy emerge. It was in the turns and not on the straights that the passing speed differential between the Audi cars was most apparent. Essentially, they just drove around the other cars as if they were inconveniently in the way. In a casual conversation with one of the Audi team folks, I mentioned that it seemed to me to almost be an unfair advantage for Audi, and he replied that any advantage was well earned. I wanted to fist-bump on that note!
Photo by Paul Rivera
Listening to the quiet rumble of the diesel and tire noise as these sleek and powerful agents of technological marvel pass you by, gave me an appreciation of what a brilliant job Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich and his team of 225 folks have accomplished.
Although these 9 Team Joest drivers were all on the same team, there is a inter-team rivalry, almost like knights in armor being chivalrous to joust against one another for their win and glory for their common king. They are fighting to keep their standing as a driver and their points, as well as bring home a win for the home team.
Of the first place Audi team drivers, the most outspoken is Allan McNish. This jockey size Scotsman has a determination and skill that far belies his size. Racing since he was 11, this seasoned veteran is an affable and a very social guy, and will engage anyone on the subject at hand. Dindo Cappello is the warmest of the bunch, and in Italian fashion he is also quite humble and kind. Tom Kristensen is like most Scandinavians, usually very serious in discussions, yet social at the same time. He strikes me as a deep thinker and one to plot his path quite deliberately. These are just my impressions, and as the drivers were constantly mobbed for interviews, it was not in the cards to do a video one on one. However, I did have a chance to talk with them briefly over the period of the race.
Photo by Mike Veglia
Sebring has lots of character, according to a talk given by Emanuele Pirro before the race. Translated that means a lot of uneven concrete surfaces, broken tarmac, and bad lighting at night. Suspension on the cars is well taxed as the broken and uneven surfaces exercise compliance and damping to the extreme to keep these cars on the track at the speeds needed to win. I observed cars on some of the sections shuttering and bouncing with a high frequency oscillation as they made their way around the track. Apparently the gearboxes get quite the workout as well.
GT VS P1
As fast as the BMW, Corvettes, and Ferrari were in the GT Class, by the end of the race they were 16 laps behind the winning R18. It was not so much in the straights where the superiority lay, but around several of the turns the R18’s would pass with as much as a 60 Mph speed difference-in the turns! The noise difference between the Audi cars and any of the other ones on the track was simply amazing. As the GT cars would roar by, a slight rumble would occur as the Audi cars would pass.
The Ferrari-BMW Shove off
Rivalry can be very inspiring, and when it gets a little too much, danger can result. The winning BMW E92 M3 (#56) driven by Hand/Summerton/Mueller was being driven off the track by the Ferrari 458 Italia (#71) driven by Bertolini/Cloci/Beretta-literally. As the race was getting near to the end, the Ferrari and the BMW would trade physical body blows, or trade paint-putting it politely, each time knocking the other into the weeds.
This was getting personal. So as they came into the final lap with the BMW hounding the Ferrari for the final lead, the BMW in the last turn passed the Ferrari to cross the line in front of the Ferrari and take first place. Yikes, what a dual.
Photo by Mike Veglia
Vorspung Durch Technik
The future was unveiled with the R18 E-tron Ultra at Sebring. With a technically innovative kinetic hybrid system, this quattro looks to be a game changer. In fact, new rules are being written due to ground breaking technology.
With the high performance 3.7 Turbo Diesel driving the rear wheels, and a pair of 75kW liquid cooled rare-earth magnet motors driving the front wheels, energy storage comes in a composite flywheel-motor-generator spinning at 45,000 rpm. As the braking is regenerative, and recuperates power lost in braking, the front motors become generators under load and feed this energy to the flywheel, driven by a motor-generator.
In the sections where passing power is briefly needed, if the car is travelling over 120 kmh (limited by the rules), the energy is then spooled off the flywheel and fed to the front motors for additional oomph. Instead of using batteries for energy storage, which are not ideal for large and fast charge and discharge cycles, and super capacitors (like Toyota) which are bulky, Audi uses a flywheel as big as an oversize briefcase. All of this and the related systems and motors weighs in at about 80 Kg. By the rules, regenerative braking is allowed only on the corners.
As the R18 Ultra is about 175 pounds lighter than the R18 that won last years LeMans, the weight saved is exchanged for the e-tron hardware and converts the car into a quattro. On the R18 Ultra non-etron, the weight saved was used for properly distributed ballast to gain a chassis balance advantage. By utilizing a composite gearbox case, as well as many other small changes, the car shed its pounds.
For LeMans, Audi will field two R18 etron quattro cars, and two R18 Ultra cars as well.
These four entries will be driven by the Audi veteran drivers of André Lotterer, Marcel Fässler and Benoît Tréluyer, plus multiple Le Mans winners Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello.
Through Audi Motorsports, Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich has brought home to the world the superiority of Audi diesel technology, and now it will show the world that quattro and e-tron combined is an unstoppable combination.
View the following videos on youtube (uploaded by riveramotorsport):