Published September 20, 2012
By Philippe Crowe
Audi has opted to go hybrid on both its entries for a pivotal race Sept. 29 in Bahrain.
In the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the two Audi driver line-ups are currently fighting a thrilling battle for the title.
For the sixth of the season’s eight rounds in Bahrain, a new Audi strategy will guarantee absolute equality of opportunity. Audi will start to compete with two hybrid vehicles.
Audi entered the 2012 endurance racing season with two different vehicle concepts. The Audi R18 ultra makes full use of the potential of a conventionally powered LMP sports car with a TDI (diesel) engine whereas the R18 e-tron quattro was the brand’s first hybrid race car.
That both concepts have their particular fortes was obvious on several occasions. While the R18 e-tron quattro made history by achieving the first victory of a hybrid vehicle at the Le Mans 24 Hours and subsequently won the 6-hour race at Silverstone, the R18 ultra managed to score a debut victory at Spa. With the better grid position and fastest race lap by Lucas di Grassi at the fifth round in Brazil, the conventionally powered TDI sports car proved its potential through to the most recent event.
There are good reasons for the change in strategy nonetheless. Whereas the R18 ultra has always been very competitive on a single lap, the R18 e-tron quattro has notable advantages in certain topographic track conditions and when lapping other cars in traffic.
As Audi is convinced of the future of hybrid drive, the engineers are now starting to fully concentrate on the development of the race car with an electrified drive system.
In addition to the experiences that can be gathered for the future during the second half of the season, this decision assures perfect equality of opportunity. Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Tréluyer, after scoring two victories this season in the number "1" R18 e-tron quattro, are leading the WEC drivers’ standings.
With 78 points yet to be awarded, Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish trail by only 7.5 points. The Danish-Scottish driver duo of car number "2" is returning to hybrid drive in Bahrain after having run twice before in the R18 e-tron quattro, at Spa and Le Mans.
For Audi Sport Team Joest, this involves a challenging task. After transporting the race cars from South America, the number "2" Audi R18 will be converted from a conventional to a hybrid drive and the body will receive completely new graphics.
In Bahrain, the teams can expect to find unusual overall conditions. The race is held in the middle of the desert on the Sakhir circuit south of the capital Manama. Extreme temperatures, high humidity and sand particles mean tough conditions for the drivers and the cars. For the Audi factory drivers and Audi Sport Team Joest, the track in the island state is new territory. The sixth race of the season is scheduled from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. local time and will take place mostly during hours of darkness.
Like at all WEC rounds, Audi is offering comprehensive coverage on its Web site to spectators at home and will broadcast the race for six hours on the internet and also offer cockpit camera perspectives and summary reports of the race.