The R10 Position
Before the discussion over the performance of, specifically so far, the Audi R10 goes any further, we asked an engineer (who wished to remain anonymous) to explain the position over turbo-diesel performance at Le Mans, under the current and new (for 2007) regulations. This is what he had to say:

"When the R10 was launched last December, you used some expression like "the R10 must be scaring the pants off the rest (in LMP1)." Presumably you sensed that there was something unbeatable about the Audi diesel, but didn't know what? How could you, at the time?

"Ignoring Sebring, which I didn't attend, Audi's game plan started to become apparent at the Le Mans test day. The Pescarolos were faster over a single lap of Le Mans, at the test day, but we hadn't seen the full performance of the R10s by then. We still haven't, I would say.

"Audi initially owned up to a figure of 1000 Nm of torque from its turbo-diesel, so let's assume, for want of a better starting point, that they ran at that torque output on that first Sunday in June. This is the weak link in the argument, because estimating actual power and torque is a waste of time because the unknowns are too significant - like the actual fuel used. However, if you search the web long enough, the figures are out there.

"For qualifying (not on the Wednesday, when it was wet, when I'd assume that they ran with minimal power and torque), power and torque levels must have been increased - I'd suggest to a figure of about 1250Nm of torque. 25 % more.

"We probably never did see one flat out lap from any of the drivers: they could manage the torque, in particular, and set laps that didn't look particularly quick - while still looking after their tyres. They completed five lap runs that evening (three flying laps).

"Did they run even higher power/torque curves in the race? I'm not sure - perhaps they realised that they didn't need to. Whatever level they ran at, they could complete two more laps on a tank of fuel than the opposition, and run a faster pace - and look after their tyres.

“However, when you look at what Audi achieved this year, it was a huge technical accomplishment by their engineers: the challenges were enormous, and they overcame them and won Le Mans first time out there with a diesel.

"Dr. Ullrich has been complaining recently about the IMSA performance equalisation, but he's conveniently ignoring the fact that in the ALMS, the R10s are clearly running for economy, not absolute power.

"I'd suggest that by doing this, they were adding to their case for no change in the ACO's rules for 2007, which is more or less what has happened.

"McNish always says how hard he is driving: yes, of course he is! Flat out, I'm sure - on the economy map they're using. Is that 25 % less torque than possible - and perhaps 20% less power? Reliability shouldn't be a problem at all at those levels.

"It's hard to know how hard they could run those engines if they had to - that is, what is the absolute performance of the TDi engine? With over a year's advantage over Peugeot, it's going to be very difficult for Peugeot to take on Audi next year.

"With the 2007 regulations just announced, the privateers with their petrol engines really haven't got a hope in hell of winning, unless the diesels hit long delays. The ACO, for whatever reason, has been sucked in by Audi and Peugeot, and with special fuel, and those diesel combustion pressures, it's almost 'the sky's the limit'.

"No way will a petrol-powered car be in contention - and depending on how fast the diesels push each other, and how much below 3:30 Audi is prepared to run, the margin is likely to be bigger than in 2006. Audi seems to want to win at any cost - any cost in financial terms, and any cost in terms of the race, even if that means that the rest of the LMP1s don't even have a sporting chance of being competitive.

"There are other issues over the Audis too: you must have been reading about their little aero tricks? That's all well documented. It is still a very, very good chassis though.

"It's a great shame for the Le Mans 24 Hours next year. I'm amazed that the ACO has only penalised the diesels with a smaller tank. Over the course of 24 hours, the time saved with less pit stops is much less significant than the time gained by lapping three or four seconds quicker.

"I'm sure Henri will come out with evidence to prove much of the above (he has Ed.) – and probably rather more than I've touched on. In conclusion, what was put in place for 2006 gave the diesels, running special fuels, a huge advantage. The ACO has hardly limited that advantage at all for next year. In contrast, in the ALMS, the racing in LMP1 is very close, and IMSA has created what almost amounts to a level playing field. You could even argue that one of the other LMP 1s should have won that race – although once the no. 2 car pitted under the yellow, it was clear that it was going to run to the flag if possible, so no one else could win if it did.

"What's really confusing to an engineer (perhaps not to a politician, or someone more familiar with what goes on behind the scenes) is that the ACO admitted in July that the Audis were 3.2 seconds quicker than the Pescarolos. Do they expect Pescarolo or anyone else to gain that much by June next year? On his budget? Do they not expect the Audis to be faster, 12 months on – and more reliable? They might as well hand over the trophy to Herr Ullrich and Tom Kristensen now!

“The alternative – and a very sensible one – would be to call the diesel class LMP D, and the rest LMP 1. Sadly, for the privateers, they’ll never be able to run a diesel, because the cost of overcoming the technical challenges to develop a customer diesel engine are simply too great.”

 

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