For the first time in history, a hybrid vehicle has won at Le Mans 24 Hours. Audi fielded a team of four of its Audi R18 e-tron quattro hybrid vehicles, and the cars have taken first, second, third, and fifth place.
“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,” said Rupert Stadler, chairman of the board of management of Audi. “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.”
The hybrids were out of the lead for only a few laps on Saturday, when Toyota hybrid cars overtook them. When the Toyota vehicles were forced out of the race early, it was clear that the Audis, if they could stay in the race, would be the victors. Audi touted the electrically-driven axles of the cars, and stated that it is already testing the technology in some production vehicles, where the drive shaft has been replaced by electric cables.
“This was a race of the kind you can arguably experience only at Le Mans,” said Audi Motorsport head Wolfgang Ullrich. “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.”
(photo courtesy Audi)