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Audi’s menacing 2014 R18 e-tron quattro diesel hybrid tries for third Le Mans victory

Yup, it’s a hybrid.

The 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro is latest effort from the company’s unbelievably-successful endurance racing program, and possibly the most intimidating-looking hybrid ever built.

Audi introduced the R18 e-tron quattro for the 2012 racing season, and for 2014 it gets numerous updates to meet new World Endurance Championship (WEC) regulations, and to generally improve the car’s efficiency.

The R18 will continue to use a diesel engine for primary propulsion, with a flywheel-based hybrid system for part-time electric assist. The diesel engine powers the rear wheels, while the electric motor powers the fronts, giving the car all-wheel drive.

On the track, the hybrid system reduces fuel consumption, and the electric motors’ low-end torque helps accelerate the car out of corners faster.

The updated version will race in (WEC) events, including there series’ signature event, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. If past experiences are any indication, the revised R18 should fare pretty well.

The R18 e-tron quattro won its Le Mans debut in 2012, beating rival hybrids from Toyota and a field of conventional cars. It was the first hybrid to win the race, and it wasn’t a fluke: Audi won the race again in 2013.

In fact, Audi has amassed 12 Le Mans victories since 2000, making it second only to Porsche’s 16 wins. Audi is currently the overachiever of endurance racing; in 2006 it also became the first manufacturer to win with a diesel car, paving the way for the current R18.

The 2014 R18 e-tron quattro is currently undergoing testing at Sebring, but American fans won’t get to see it race. U.S. endurance racing was recently reorganized under the TUDOR United SportsCar Series, and European LMP1 cars like the R18 are verboten.

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