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Germans Invade France: Victory at Le Mans

Disaster turns into victory.

by on Jun.15, 2011

Germany's secret weapon: the Audi R18.

It started back in 2000 when the first Audi prototype showed up at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  At a race where sports car manufacturer Porsche has won 16 times and Ferrari nine times, the upstarts from Ingolstadt came with a serious race car, the turbocharged gasoline-engined R8, and took first, second and third the first time out.

In the years since, the Audi R8, R10, the R15 diesel and now the new R18 diesel have won the race nine more times.  They took a year off in 2003 when, at the suggestion of management, the Audi race car was reconfigured into a Bentley coupe, and the Bentley took first and second using Audi engines.

In 2004, the R8 returned and took first, second, third and fifth.  The following year, the updated and heavily restricted R8 won again, with Danish driver Tom Kristensen winning his seventh Le Mans in a row.

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The world of sports car racing changed forever in 2006 when Audi showed up with its new R10 race cars, powered by 5.5-liter turbocharged diesel engines.  Diesels?  At Le Mans?  Yes.  Using specially distilled diesel race fuel, the Audis qualified first and second and beat the closest gasoline-powered car by four LAPS, owing to the diesel’s reliability, huge torque off the corners, and far fewer stops for fuel.  The winning Audi diesel covered 3164 miles in 24 hours, at an average speed of 131 mph.


Audi, Chevrolet, BMW and Even Ford Enhance Their Reputations at Le Mans

Despite two crashes, Audi overwhelms field with new R18 turbodiesel.

by on Jun.13, 2011

Though two of its three cars crashed, Audi's #2 R18 turbodiesel went on to win.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans, the greatest auto race on Earth, tests engineering skill, driving skill, mechanical skill and everyone’s patience.  This year’s race, the 79th running, showed once again what great racing companies like Audi, Chevrolet, Nissan, and BMW can do.

Audi brought three brand new, brutish-looking diesel-powered R18s to race in the top LMP1 class, with new V-6 turbodiesel engines replacing the older, heavier and less efficient V-10 turbodiesels.

Before 15 laps were done, their #3 car had crashed heavily, sending Scottish driver Allan McNish to the infield hospital.  Around 11:45 PM, the #1 car tangled with a Ferrari and lost, taking out a huge section of guardrail and sending German driver Mike Rockenfeller to the hospital, as well.

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It took more than two hours to fix the guardrail while the field of 56 cars idled around in the dark under a yellow flag.  But the remaining #2 car, with drivers Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer, and Andre Lotterer, soldiered on and won the race, a close finish, with five diesel Peugeots trailing it home.  It was Audi’s tenth overall victory at Le Mans, now more than Ferrari.