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Pre-test result of the Le Mans 2012 24h race: is Audi or Toyota better equipped?

Pre-test result of the Le Mans 2012 24h race
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First meeting of the opponents

The fact is that Toyota did a remarkable job at the first outing on the 13.629 kilometer Le Mans circuit, because the Japanese from Cologne have only tested alone and have never faced direct competition. In this respect, one can already see a general competitiveness in the vehicle performance of the TS0303 hybrid. In addition, Toyota works driver Alex Wurz lost a lot of time on his fastest lap of 3:27.204 minutes in the third sector due to a few laps. Towards the end of the second test session, the Austrian made another attempt for a fast lap, was also able to improve in sectors one and two - and again got stuck in the winding third sector in the traffic of the 61-car field. 'That would have been a lot faster', was his conclusion after the first test of strength with Audi.

A uch the progression of lap times at Toyota was very promising: Right at the beginning of the first session, the Toyota TS030 set lap times in the range of 3.30 and 3.31 minutes, on a green and therefore generally slippery track. From this one can conclude that TMG in Cologne did good simulation work for the chassis setup and aero configuration. Both Toyota TS030s completed a total of 81 laps in the two four-hour test sessions before the 24h race in Le Mans, the four Audi - two hybrid R18s and two hybridless R18 Ultra - completed 172 laps. As a result, both manufacturers reeled off similar programs with comparable mileage. The downtimes at Toyota were also normal, which means that you didn't waste time with major repairs.

Audi was faster at Le Mans

The crucial question remains: what are the lap times worth from the pre-test, and especially: What are the Audi times worth? Can they be used as a reference to classify the Toyota times? The answer is: rather no. Before the pre-test, Audi-internally it was assumed that due to the power reduction for the diesel V6 engine ordered by the organizer ACO - from 600 HP to around 550 HP - you would be a little slower than in the pre-test a year ago, when you 3.27 lap times. But now they were suddenly a full two seconds faster this year: The Scot Allan McNish managed a lap time of 3.25.927 minutes.Several factors are decisive for this: First, it seems obvious that Audi has largely compensated for the regulation-related performance losses in the engine. Secondly, large sections of the track in Le Mans were re-paved, including the long Hunaudières straight, the chicanes and the area in Mulsanne. The new surface naturally provides more grip - and thus automatically improves lap times. How many seconds are to be set for the new asphalt over a total of 5.4 kilometers, the manufacturers did not want to announce.

Thirdly - and that is the crucial point - the hybrid R18 has a nice additional service that can be given back to the front wheels in several portions. That alone should make it faster than the previous year's car - and significantly faster than the identical R18 Ultra sister car, which has to do without the extra boost from the hybrid system. But the fastest ultra-Audi lost just six tenths of a second on the Allan McNish hybrid R18 in the pre-test for the 24h race in Le Mans. This is a clear indication that Audi has not even come close to putting its cards on the table, because on the long Le Mans track, energy can be recuperated seven times per lap in the braking zones. So if Hybrid brings anything, it will be at Le Mans. But there was nothing to be seen in the pre-test. The identical R18 Ultra also weighs just as much as the R18 E-tron quattro, and the aerodynamics are largely identical. The obvious additional performance of the hybrid was not implemented in Le Mans in lap time.

New asphalt brings advantages for everyone

In addition to speed, tire wear and fuel consumption, reliability should be another decisive criterion at the 24h race on June 16 and 17, 2012. Audi is the clear favorite here because Toyota lost valuable test kilometers due to an accident in preparation for the Le Mans race. Even for Toyota Technical Director Pascal Vasselon, stability is Toyota's Achilles' heel: “So far, we have not covered a 24-hour distance in one go. Ergo, Le Mans will be very tough for us. In a six-hour race, I would think we had good chances, but over the grueling distance of 24 hours it will certainly look different. '


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