• Audi R18 e-tron quattro on the two top spots
• Eleventh success in total for Audi at Le Mans 24 Hours
• Audi R18 ultra completes one-two-three win of Audi Sport Team Joest
Le Mans, June 17, 2012 – AUDI AG has achieved another technological milestone in motorsport. 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 200,000 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. “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.”
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 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.”
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.
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.”