1. Darth Vader to compete at Le Mans
Audi’s new LMP1 car has lasers! Though unfortunately not for ionising slower cars to their component molecules, but for lighting the road. The new laser headlamps will make their debut on Audi’s new R18 e-tron quattro, and can apparently light the road up to 800m ahead. Or alternatively blind everyone on the traditional paddock Ferris Wheel. But, of course, the laser headlights just point to Audi’s habit of trying out new tech at Le Mans.
In 2001, it used a V8 equipped with direct injection that eventually became the TFSI system you can find on a humble A3. The company has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans seven times with a turbodiesel (unheard of up to that point), and 2012 saw the company’s first victory with the R18 e-tron quattro with a hybrid: a TDI for the rear axle and an electric motor on the front. Suffice it to say, it is the LMP1 team to beat in 2014, and the new R18 e-tron quattro has been “fundamentally redesigned” to stay ahead of the newly ferocious pack.
The ‘new’ R18 looks a lot like the old, but new rules regarding fuel efficiency mean that it is actually 5 per cent narrower, and features a pair of hybrid systems to go with the V6 TDI powering the rear wheels. One is called Energy Recovery System Heat (ERS-H), and the other a more traditional KERS system, which Audi calls ERS-K. Both store energy in a new improved flywheel energy recovery system. We assume it will also be quite fast as well as clever.