Audi Unveils R18 e-tron Quattro and Upgraded R18 Ultra Le Mans Prototypes

Audi R18 e-tron Quattro prototype

After trying out its TFSI and TDI engines at Le Mans—and scoring 10 victories in 13 years of competition—Audi is now launching a diesel-hybrid, all-wheel-drive LMP1 sports car. The R18 e-tron Quattro is powered by the same 510-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 TDI powerplant used in last year’s victorious car; it adds two electric motors on the front axle, each of which makes around 100 hp. Energy recuperated during deceleration is stored in an electric flywheel accumulator and released through the front-axle motors at velocities above 75 mph. Driver Tom Kristensen says the system is “genial,” and that the extra acceleration is clearly noticeable. The new car debuts at the six-hour race in Spa, Belgium, on May 5.

Audi R18 Ultra Le Mans prototype

That race will also see the debut of the R18 Ultra, which uses the same 3.7-liter V-6 TDI that powers the e-tron Quattro but does without any hybridization. At about 1984 pounds, this more conventional R18 is the lightest Le Mans prototype in Audi’s history.

The manufacturer will race two units of each car at Le Mans. Despite the clear evolution of the R18, it bears the same model designation as last year’s car—this is done in an attempt to “follow road car habits,” explains Audi. Every closed-roof LMP1 car will carry the R18 moniker from now onwards.

Audi’s R18 e-tron Quattro is not the first hybrid to compete: Zytek Engineering, based in the U.K., ran a hybrid LMP car that scored a podium place at Lime Rock in 2009. But Audi’s will be the first diesel hybrid. And even with cash-strapped Peugeot out of the series, this racing season promises to be an exciting one.

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