Features

Road to Le Mans: Audi celebrates R10 TDI, first diesel winner

Here's where Audi's diesel assault on Le Mans began - and our drive in the modern R18 e-tron quattro

Nine years on from their first appearance, Audi’s diesel Le Mans racers still divide opinion like little else in motorsport – short of F1’s decision to run turbocharged V6 engines.

In the plus column, they’re undoubtedly fast, reliable and relatively economical, in a sport where those factors really matter. And their advantages haven’t led to stagnation within the sport – the cars aren’t so dominant that other manufacturers have shied away from introducing their own hybrid prototypes to chip away at Audi’s many records.

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to our exclusive new offer and SAVE 39% on the shop price, get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £20!

On the negative side, some still bemoan the racers’ lack of noise when watching trackside. Anyone who has seen the R18 TDI e-tron prototypes whoosh by will be familiar with the differences between them and the screaming Toyotas.

Back in 2006 though, the cars’ dominance was less assured. The R10 TDI was the first time any team had attempted to win the race with a diesel engine (though not the first to compete – that honour fell to the Delettrez brothers with a 4.4-litre diesel racer in 1949).

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Audi didn’t take half measures – the R10’s diesel V12 developed as much as 650bhp and put 811lb ft of torque to its rear wheels. The team’s confidence in the car’s ability was confirmed by its decision to run the same engines in the race as it had used in all practice and qualifying sessions – though to ensure longevity, Audi had to limit mileage during those sessions.

It paid off: while car number 7 suffered issues during the race, Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner secured victory in car number 8, making history in the process. The engine had covered nearly 4000 miles in all sessions and to illustrate its cleanliness, a swab of each tailpipe with a napkin came up clean.

Such a feat has undoubtedly helped Audi promote diesel technology in its road cars, and with the advent of the e-tron quattro racers, two more technological frontiers can be used to please the marketing men.

All this would be to naught were the cars no longer competitive, but Audi’s results speak for themselves. Only once since 2006 have its diesels failed to win – and that car, Peugeot’s 908 HDi FAP, racked up yet another victory for the fuel itself.

And as Dickie Meaden found out when he tested 2014’s winning R18 e-tron quattro at Misano in Italy, the cars are also mind-blowing to drive – and far from silent.

Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/peugeot/201948/peugeot-to-launch-le-mans-hypercar-for-2022-wec-season
Peugeot

Peugeot to launch Le Mans hypercar for 2022 WEC season

13 Nov 2019
Visit/porsche/911/201865/porsche-919-hybrid-review-driving-one-of-stuttgarts-most-successful-racers
Porsche 911

Porsche 919 Hybrid review - driving one of Stuttgart's most successful racers

18 Oct 2019
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/bentley/202227/ps15m-bentley-bacalar-revealed-in-six-new-designs
Bentley

£1.5m Bentley Bacalar revealed in six new designs

Bentley’s exclusive Mulliner brand is returning to low-volume manufacturing with the striking Bacalar convertible
3 Apr 2020
Visit/porsche/718-boxster/202408/new-porsche-boxster-t-2020-review
Porsche 718 Boxster

New Porsche Boxster T 2020 review

In many ways the best 718 Boxster to drive, but that sadly doesn’t paper over the inadequacies of the flat-four engine
2 Apr 2020
Visit/used-cars/19675/used-car-deals-of-the-week
used cars

Best used cars for sale this week

We’ve delved into the classifieds and chosen our favourite cars for sale this week
1 Apr 2020
Visit/features/22907/hyundai-i30-fastback-n-versus-the-col-de-turini
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Col de Turini

We take the Hyundai i30 Fastback N up the Col de Turini, a 31km stage of the Monte Carlo World Rally Championship
19 Jul 2019