This weekend’s 6-Hours of Spa is a daunting race in itself, but many teams see this race as a warm-up for the Le Mans 24-Hours on 16/17 June, just six weeks away. Audi will line-up at Spa with the first race win of the year under their belt in the revamped WEC series having raced their 2011 R18 at Sebring, but this weekend’s race in Belgium will see the Ingolstadt team rolling out two of their new 2012 R18 TDI Ultra cars as well as a pair of R18 e-tron quattros (see our 8 Weeks blog). This race will be as much a warm-up for the spectators as it will for the teams as the 2nd round of the WEC is also the first of the season in Europe.
Head of Audi Motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, said, “Like last year, Spa will be a dress rehearsal for us for the Le Mans 24 Hours. We’d been planning to compete there with exactly the same teams as at Le Mans, in other words with all four vehicles and the squads assigned to them.” Unfortunately though, these plans will be slightly upset with Mike Rockenfeller driving in the DTM race at the Lausitzring and with Timo Bernhard not yet fully fit after his accident at Sebring, and so Marc Gené will be behind the wheel of the No.3 R18 Ultra with Romain Dumas and Loïc Duval in order to get used to the vehicle in case Audi need him at Le Mans.
Since its inception in 1923, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has served as a test bed for new technologies – front, mid or rear engines, petrol or diesel, turbocharged or atmospheric – but the latest area of development today is seen in the emergence of kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS). The development of hybrid powertrains is seen this year in high profile teams such as Toyota and Audi, but even here their application is different in each case.
To be considered as a hybrid, an LM P1 must be able to move the entire length of the pit lane at 60 km/h using only its KERS. When the car is running on the circuit, the amount of energy delivered between two braking zones should not be greater than 500 kilojoules (approximately 100 horsepower for 6 seconds). While this technology has already been used in Formula 1 racing for some years, it is yet to gain full acceptance within the sport but its benefits may well be more apparent in endurance racing than in short sprint races. Whatever the resultant performance advantage may be at Le Mans, you can be certain that the other conventional LM P1 teams such as the Honda, Judd and Toyota powered cars will be waiting to pounce should the leaders run into trouble.
LM P1 Technical regulations: Minimum weight 900kg
|Petrol||3400cc max.||2000cc max.|
|Petrol||75 litres||73 litres|
|Diesel||65 litres||63 litres|
LM P1 Entrants
|1||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 e-tron quattro Hybrid|
|2||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 e-tron quattro Hybrid|
|3||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 Ultra|
|4||Audi Sport Team Joest||Audi R18 Ultra|
|7||Toyota Racing||Toyota TS030 Hybrid|
|8||Toyota Racing||Toyota TS030 Hybrid|
|12||Rebellion Racing||Lola B12/60 Coupe Toyota|
|13||Rebellion Racing||Lola B12/60 Coupe Toyota|
|15||Oak Racing||Oak Pescarolo Judd|
|16||Pescarolo Team||Pescarolo 03 Judd|
|17||Pescarolo Team||Dome Judd|
|21||Strakka Racing||HPD ARX 03a Honda|
|22||JRM||HPD ARX 03a Honda|
The word from Toyota is that they have completed the construction of the team’s second TS030 tub following the testing accident at Paul Ricard on 4 April. Toyota will return to the track today (4 May) for a functionality test of its TS030 HYBRID at the Magny-Cours circuit in France. A total of seven test days were cancelled in April as a result of the accident, leaving the team no opportunity to validate the aerodynamic and hybrid system specifications intended for its first race. This incident forced the team to withdraw from the Spa 6-Hour race this weekend making the Le Mans Test Day on 3 June all the more important for the car’s debut at the Le Mans 24-Hours on 16/17 June.
The future … well we have the possibility of not one but two names ‘returning’ to Le Mans in the foreseeable future. One name, Porsche, has not been absent from the 24-Hour race since the marque’s first appearance there back in 1951, but its return to this great race with a works team in 2014 is about as tantalizing a proposition as you are likely to get. The other name is that of Bentley who of course won there in 2003, but details are sketchy at this stage as to whether the company will make its return to Le Mans in the near future or if it will test the water in GT3 first. Back in September 2009 when this writer attended the launch of the Continental GT Supersports in Spain, I quizzed the Bentley engineer to see if they had plans for developing the car for racing and of course the answer was a ‘no’, but then you would expect that wouldn’t you. What is exciting though is that it was apparent even back then that the Continental GT would make an awesome addition to any race car grid, and if the whispers are to be believed, it’s the Continental GT that could form the basis of such a GT racer. Exciting times indeed!