Spinning the (fly)wheel: Audi's quest for hybrid history

Spinning the (fly)wheel: Audi's quest for hybrid history

Audi has been the great technical innovator at the Le Mans 24 Hours for the past decade. As Simon Strang found out, the German manufacturer plans to break even more ground with its hybrid-powered R18 e-tron quattro this year

Thirty years from now, we may just come to see the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours race as a tipping point in the sport's evolution; a definitive shift in the tidal flow of endurance racing that in future years becomes the standard.

Just as Audi's first victory for a turbodiesel car in 2006 sparked a rivalry between two of Europe's largest manufacturers that went on to produce at least two of the finest Le Mans races we have seen (in 2008 and 2011), therefore, a maiden victory this year for a hybrid car – and in Audi's case, also a four-wheel drive one – could initiate a wave of further triumphs for energy recovery systems and change the very approach manufacturers take to Le Mans.

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