Audi ups the hybrid ante at Le Mans with its four-megajoule jewel
bAckstroke for rAllY sAfetY
A bizarre incident during Rally Mexico
focused attention on safety standards for
World Rally Championship stages. Ott
Tanak’s Ford Fiesta slid off course and into
a lake after damaging its suspension in a
previous corner, forcing the Estonian and
co-driver Raigo Molder to swim for it.
Fortunately neither man was injured
and the car – once rescued from the drink
and dried out heroically by its crew – even
restarted the next day, but residual water
in the engine coil thwarted the comeback.
Commemorating its victory at Sebring in
1975 that showed America what the letters
BMW stood for, the company’s works Z4s
raced at the 12 Hours 40 years on with a
livery emulating that classic 3.0 CSL.
Tanak suggested the FIA bring in an
expert like recently retired co-driver
Jarmo Lehtinen to pre-run WRC stages
and point out such potential dangers.
“There are plenty more places like this
and Jarmo is the guy who has the most
experience of us – he should be the guy
who the FIA is listening to,” Tanak said.
WRC manager and former driver
Michele Mouton’s curt response? “We
have being driving this stage for a lot
of years without any problem...”
However much racing traditionalists
may grumble about hybrid tech displacing
their beloved cubic inches, electric
enhancement continues to generate all
the buzz in the LMP1-H class of the FIA
World Endurance Championship and its
signature race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
At the introduction of its heavily revised
2015-spec R18 e-tron quattro, Audi
announced that its cars will run in the
four megajoule hybrid sub-class this year.
The German manufacturer has hit its
target of moving up one step from the
2MJ class in which it ran last year
CHARGE AND COUNTER-CHARGE
OUT OF THE
Eager to forget his
lamentable stint with
the Marussia F1 team,
Max Chilton joined
Nissan’s LMP1 squad
just in time to see its
IT’S IN A LAKE...
call to M-Sport boss
Malcolm Wilson after
his Mexican cliff-dive
must have been tough.
through development of its existing
hybrid concept. That means the latest
R18, which is built around the same
monocoque as last year’s car, has a single
front-axle kinetic energy-recovery system
and a flywheel mechanical battery to
store the retrieved energy.
The single electric motor-generator
unit at the front is rated at in excess of
200k W (the equivalent of nearly 270hp),
whereas last year’s had a potential power
output of 170k W. According to Andre
Lotterer, who tested the new car at
Sebring, the extra boost is significant.
“You can really feel the benefit of the
all-wheel drive now, especially at
somewhere like Sebring,” he said. “Out of
Turn 17, the rear of the car used to step
out over the bumps; now you floor it, the
car jumps and off you go.”
Still, there can be risks in relying on
cutting-edge tech. Nissan announced its
front-engined GT-R LM NISMO would skip
the WEC rounds at Silverstone and Spa
for more testing. That will make Le Mans
the public debut of Ben Bowlby’s roadster,
which had already earned the double-
edged compliment of “brave” from rivals.
Sebring testing showed that the additional
power from the uprated hybrid system
accentuated the AWD strengths of the R18.