Vijay Pattni21 March 2012

Audi tests hybrid Le Mans racer

Sebring circuit hosts new R18 e-tron and experimental ‘DeltaWing’. The future is here


Has Batman hung up his cape? Are the Joker and his army of miscreants about to swathe Gotham City in unmentionable crime? One can only surmise as such, because it seems the Dark Knight has offloaded not one, but two of his Batmobiles onto the starting grid for this year's Le Mans 24hrs.

Both were spotted testing at the Sebring circuit in Florida this week, with Audi's Allan McNish piloting the hybrid R18 e-tron. This, don't forget, is the sports prototype that transforms brake energy from the front axle, feeds it into a flywheel accumulator as electric energy and then sends it back into the front axle at speeds over 75mph (120km/h). Basically, it's like KERS for the front wheels.

Gallery: the Audi R18 e-tron quattro at Sebring

It also gets a V6 diesel engine permanently running the rear wheels with 510bhp, so - obviously - above 75mph becomes four-wheel-drive. A quattro at Le Mans! Check through the gallery for more pics of this black-liveried beast. On a side note, Audi driver Timo Bernhard was testing a ‘standard' R18 Ultra headed for Le Mans... and ended up binning it backwards in a tyre wall at "high speed". He managed to climb out of the car unhurt, but spent the night in hospital as a precaution.

Also at Sebring for some demo laps was the outrageous Nissan DeltaWing racer: that experimental one-off with a modified 1.6-litre Juke diesel engine, skinny front tyres and a body shaped like a dart. While your initial reaction tends towards the cynical "it'll never go around corners shaped like that", the reality is different, as you can check out below. 

Gallery: the Nissan DeltaWing

There'll be plenty more from Le Mans, so stay tuned to TopGear.com for more updates. But for now, tell us which Batmobile you find the most disarming: Audi's or Nissan's?

 

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