Audi has won the Le Mans 24 Hours for the 11th time in 13 years, with victory this year going to André Lotterer, Benôit Tréluyer and Marcel Fassler (the same trio as won last year), but this year they were in an Audi R18 e-tron quattro, a hybrid which uses the Williams Hybrid Power flywheel KERS system. A second Audi R18 e-tron quattro finished second, driven by Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish.
It was the first year that hybrid vehicles have raced at Le Mans with WHP’s electromechanical hybrid flywheel system. The two Audi R18 e-tron quattro’s dominated the race from start to finish, only relinquishing the lead once for a few laps on Saturday night. The two hybrid cars fought a close run battle throughout the night during which the lead changed several times.
WHP designed an entirely new, ultra-lightweight electric flywheel and associated power electronics for the Audi R18 e-tron quattro, working closely with Audi engineers to fully integrate the system into the car. The key features and benefits of the WHP system are highly suited to endurance racing and this made the WHP flywheel the prime candidate for Audi’s project when compared to other technologies such as batteries, ultra-capacitors or mechanical flywheels.
“This is no doubt a historic victory for Audi,” said Dr Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport. “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.”
Ian Foley, Managing Director of Williams Hybrid Power, said that it was “immensely satisfying” to see the system enjoying such success.
“Our flywheel technology started its life as a motorsport application and whilst it’s since been adapted for a variety of other purposes, motorsport will always be close to our heart and is the ultimate proving ground for our technology,” he said. “Hopefully we have shown that innovative hybrid systems not only help the environment, but give a race car a fundamental performance boost in terms of power injection and fuel saving.”
The other major news from the Le Mans 24 Hours was an accident which left Grand Prix driver turned F1 commentator Anthony Davidson with fractured 11th and 12th vertebrae after an accident early in the race when his Toyota TS030 Hybrid was in collision with the AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia GTC driven by Italian gentleman driver Piergiuseppe Perazzini. The collision occurred at the Mulsanne Kink and Davidson’s car was turned sideways and took off, flipping over before going into the barriers. Perazzini’s car hit the barrier close by and was flipped over by the tyres. Davidson hopes to be back in action in a couple of months.