Audi’s power cut

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Le Mans king reins in hybrid targets | By Gary Watkins

Audi has revealed that its new R18 e-tron quattro will race with just one energy-retrieval system and run in the lowest class of hybrid power in this year’s World Endurance Championship.

Audi has abandoned a system that recycles energy from exhaust gases and confirmed as much late in March, when officially launching its new car and livery in Le Mans. It will now rely solely on a revised version of the front-axle energy-retrieval system that it has used for the past two seasons in the original R18.

The announcement included Audi’s intention to run in the sub-class that allows for only two megajoules of energy retrieval over the course of the 8.47-mile Le Mans lap. That means Audi has more modest targets than rivals Toyota and Porsche: the new Toyota TS040, also unveiled at the end of March, will run in the 6MJ class and Porsche will field its 919 Hybrid in the highest 8MJ division.

Audi Sport boss Wolfgang Ullrich explained that the exhaust system, part of the first instalment of technical details announced in December, had been abandoned because it did not meet its targets and raised reliability concerns. “We tested it, but in the end we said that the ratio between the benefits and the risk was not a good one,” he said.

Ullrich revealed that the decision to run in the 2MJ class was linked to a desire to optimise weight distribution, which would not have been possible with a heavier hybrid system.

“From the calculations we have done, we think the combination of the diesel engine and the 2MJ system is a better combination than going into a bigger class and having the problem of not getting the weight where you want it,” he added.

Audi also announced that its existing single-turbo V6 diesel had been increased in capacity from 3.7 to 4.0 litres, in the name of efficiency. As part of the launch, Tom Kristensen drove an R18 from the city centre to the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Toyota, which unveiled its TS040 two days later, has increased the capacity of its normally aspirated petrol V8 from 3.4 to 3.7 litres. Its new car retrieves energy from the front and rear axles and Toyota claims it has a potential 1000bhp when outputs from the V8 and its twin-hybrid systems are combined.

Porsche, meanwhile, has revealed the livery its pair of 919 Hybrids will run in the 2014 WEC. When viewed from above, the livery incorporates the opening letters of company slogan ‘Porsche Intelligent Performance’.

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