Hy­brid vigour ... it fig­ures

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - News -

HY­BRID cars are tak­ing over in the world of mo­tor­sport. Aus­tralia still has the roar­ing di­nosaurs of the V8 Su­per­car era but things are chang­ing fast at the top end in Europe.

Petrol-elec­tric hy­brid power is now the bot­tom line in For­mula One and it’s a sim­i­lar story, with a cou­ple of twists, in longdis­tance sports car con­tests in­clud­ing the blue riband 24 Hours of Le Mans.

In F1, en­gines have shrunk to 1.6 litres in ca­pac­ity, yet still lib­er­ate about 500kW, abet­ted by pre­vi­ously lost en­ergy from brak­ing and ex­haust gases. That en­ergy is chan­nelled into on board bat­tery packs.

At Le Mans, the hy­brid cars from Audi, Porsche and Toy­ota com­bine out­puts of 750kW plus and in­cred­i­ble econ­omy, at least for racers.

But they take vastly dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. Audi uses a diesel en­gine with a fly­wheel for en­ergy stor­age, Porsche has a V4 petrol en­gine with lithium ion bat­tery and Toy­ota pairs a 3.7-litre petrol V8 with a su­per­ca­pac­i­tor.

The three brands raced wheelto-wheel at Le Mans last weekend, tak­ing turns as the fron­trun­ner. Toy­ota had the out­right fastest car and was the hare, Audi rel­a­tively speak­ing) was the tor­toise and Porsche took the mid­dle ground.

With two hours to go, Aussie hero Mark Web­ber looked set for an un­likely win in his Porsche, af­ter turbo fail­ures on two Audi R18 e-tron qu­at­tros, be­fore his petrol en­gine packed up. The quick­est Toy­ota had ear­lier caught fire.

Watch­ing the con­test was a re­minder that the car world is chang­ing — fast. I’m not a fan of the Toy­ota Prius, or the aw­ful lit­tle Mit­subishi i-MiEV, but the Le Mans hy­brids are hero cars that have tech­nol­ogy that’s be­ing ac­cel­er­ated into a show­room near you.

At the end of the day — and it is 24 hours of full-on ac­tion — Audi main­tained its un­beaten hy­brid record at Le Mans with a 1-2 sweep ahead of the re­main­ing Toy­ota TS 040.

Even with­out the fly­wheel hy­brid pack­age, Audi en­gi­neers say we’ll soon be sit­ting be­hind the same turbo diesel tech­nol­ogy that won on the track. It’s the lat­est proof that rac­ing im­proves the breed.

Paul Gover

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