When Toyota revealed its TS030 LMP hybrid, the Japanese automaker had its targets sighted onto the reigning diesel Audi R18. However, the R18 is proving to be a fast moving target. Earlier this month, Audi announced that it will field two innovative diesel-hybrid LMP1 cars for the first time in its team of four at the 2012 24 hours of Le Mans.
These are the first images of the 2012 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro LMP1 race car. While its exterior looks very much alike the race car that participated last year, the hardware underneath has been vastly redesigned. The new R18 will continue the use of the V6 TDI diesel engine (rated at 510-hp), but will mate it to Audi’s regenerating brake energy technology and an all-wheel-drive drivetrain. Rather than the use of a battery pack, the R18 e-tron Quattro is able to store energy from braking forces into the flywheel, where the electricity can then be used to power the two electric motors at the front wheels. Moreover, the added weight of the complex hybrid system will be neutralized by a carbon-fiber gearbox housing designed to be as light as possible. This is the first time a carbon-fiber gearbox housing will be used in endurance racing.
Although Audi is going to field two hybrid prototype racers, the German automaker does not intend to soley rely on the new technology for a win. For that, the team still believes last year’s R18 TDI will be more reliable for the job. Audi will get to face off against the Toyota TS030 throughout the racing season. Time will tell which prototype reigns supreme.