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Holy race lasers, Batman! Audi’s R18 Le Mans hybrid racecar has lasers … for headlights

A racecar that looks like the Batmobile with lasers on it? Seven-year-old me is very, very excited. But, really, there couldn’t be a better car to use the new lighting technology than Audi’s new Le Mans racer the R18 e-tron quattro.

I don’t just mean that frivolously either. One of the big challenges of endurance racing is that you have to travel at race speeds at night. Low light not only makes it hard to see the track ahead of you, and drains your mental energy, it also drastically limits peripheral vision. That can be a terrifying proposition at 120 mph.

All this makes lighting a surprisingly important factor for endurance racers. Laser light is an important step forward. Laser lights work by diffusing two laser beams through a diffusing lens to create an elliptical light source, rather than the point light source we are familiar with from lasers.

The critical advantage of laser headlights is that the illumination they produce doesn’t dissipate nearly as quickly as that from traditional or even LED headlamps.

The other big advantage of laser lights is the type of illumination they produce. The closer a headlight can mimic the sort of light produced by the sun, the more effective it is. Our eyesight is understandably geared towards working in sunlight. And so even a very bright light that produces light in a different wavelength than the sun won’t illuminate nearly as well.

Laser lights can nearly perfectly mimic the ‘color temperature’ produced by the sun. This is a huge advantage is night racing, where the ability to see the track with the same clarity as you would during the day could shave time off of a lap.

This fits with the overall goals of the R18 e-tron, which seeks not just to go fast, but to go fast efficiently. As we reported recently, the R18 already makes use of two different hybrid systems and a high efficiency turbo diesel race engine. So anything that helps the car make use of the speed it already has is a big advantage.

It will be interesting to see how all this efficiency fairs when it comes to actual racing, but, given that it looks like the Batmobile, I am optimistic. 

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How tech from Audi’s insane R18 e-tron is coming soon to a garage near you
2014 Audi R18 e_tron quatro track angle

For nearly a century, racecars have been about pure speed. They’ve been stripped-down tarmac leviathans built for one purpose: going faster than the other guy. Over the years, that speed obsession widened the gap between road-going cars and racecars. One look inside the gutted cockpit of a NASCAR racecar will confirm that even today’s “stock” cars bear little resemblance to what you can get at the local dealer.
That, however is changing. Instead of being merely temples to speed, today’s most advanced racecars are crystal balls that show us what sort of technology will be in our driveway soon.
There’s a good chance, though, that for 2014 the most efficient racecar at Le Mans will win the day.
In order to reconnect racecars to their road-going roots, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) has rejiggered the rules of several of the top racing series in the world, including Formula 1 and the World Endurance Championship (WEC), to better parallel the efficiency constraints facing global automakers.
Not only does this make the racing more compelling to watch, the billions of dollar spent and technology developed adapting to the new racing guidelines can be directly applied to production cars.
Perhaps the best example of this transfer from race-day to road-going tech is Audi’s R18 e-tron, a totally unique car that will soon compete in the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans. With both a super-efficient diesel engine and a hybrid power system, Audi’s R18 is a far cry from the brutish, gasoline-swilling racecars we’re familiar with. And some astoundingly high-tech bits aren’t far off from the next Audi you spot on the road.
We caught up with Audi at the Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 racetrack in Austin, Texas to find out more about how this new breed of car could change not just racing, but the entire automotive industry.
No gold medals for lead feet
Historically, the fastest car with the best overall time has been crowned the victor in the WEC. There’s a good chance, though, that for 2014 the most efficient racecar at Le Mans will win the day.
That’s because the new regulations limit a team to how much fuel can be used every lap. Using too much will be penalized, but unlike last year, any fuel not burned in one lap will not be rolled over into subsequent laps, but rather lost.

It’s essential, then, that the driver drive at 100 percent every single lap. Go too fast and they risk exceeding the energy limit. Go too slow and they risk falling behind in the race and forfeiting not just time but also energy. Drivers will now have to not only battle for position, but also battle for efficiency – a staggering concept that flips basic preconceptions about racing on their head.
Drivers are trained to accelerate as long and as hard as possible on the track. And when they have to brake, it needs to be hard and fast, with virtually no time going from gas to brake. For 2014, though, there are instances in the WEC where drivers will have to coast. This is almost inconceivable in the racing world, as it goes against the core strategy of racecar driving.
From racecar to road
Audi joined the 24 Hours of Le Mans race back in 1999. Back then, the German automaker ran a gasoline-powered racer. In 2001, Audi upgraded its fuel delivery technology to a turbocharged, direct-injected TFSI system, which would later make its way into production cars. The 4.0-liter TFSI V8 that we named Engine of the Year last year, is a perfect example.
Unlike the LED headlights of years past, which moved with the turn of the steering wheel, the new laser headlights are guided by GPS.
Then in 2006, Audi made a controversial leap to TDI diesel-powered LMP cars. Audi driver and 9-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen wasn’t thrilled. “The first time I heard about it, I thought, ‘That’s going to be at least one year gone,’” he concedes. “But the first time I opened the throttle and felt the torque of the engine … it was quite powerful.”
This TDI system, just like TFSI before it, would be implemented in road-going cars. While all Audi diesels utilize TDI technology today, the first and direct implementation of this fuel delivery technology was offered in the 6.0-liter V12 TDI Audi Q7, which – unfortunately – was never sold Stateside.
Distinctively, Audi’s motorsport and consumer car engineering teams work together; anything one side creates is shared with the other, benefitting both consumers and the racing team.
For 2012, Audi brought its Le Mans cars even closer to its showroom models with a quattro all-wheel drive hybrid, called e-tron, which used electricity to drive the front axle. While this EV quattro system has yet to make its way to everyday Audi models, it could very well make an appearance in road-going cars in the years to come.

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Next-gen Audi R8 may get four-cylinder engine … We hope not
audi r8 may get smaller engine hopefully 1

The next-gen Audi R8 is due out in 2015 and will run on the same platform as the Lamborghini Huracán. To keep up the universe in order, both a V8 and V10 will be offered under the mid-body hood of the sleek German supercar, according to Autocar.
Audi techical chief Ulrich Hackenburg stated the brand is looking at smaller engines saying, “It’s a big step from 10 cylinders to four though – there are some numbers in between that we could look at.” And to this I say, ”What? You’re right; that’s a big step!” A smaller engine is nice when I’m buying a daily-driver, but I want a supercar with an engine that mimics the sound of a furious lion being sucked through a jet engine.
Hackenburg justified his statement by saying engines with smaller capacity are desired in “other countries.” Well, I don’t know what countries this includes, but I certainly can’t think of one. And if the R8 is running on the same platform as the Huracan, I can just see the folks at Lamborghini gasping – and, honestly, giggling – at a four-cylinder supercar.
This isn’t to say I’m not all for fuel efficiency, but this is not the way to do it.
Hackenburg did give a glimmer of sanity in saying the R8 e-tron is back on the table. The e-tron was nixed last fall due to a lack of usable charge range, but Audi has apparently reworked the EV supercar and increased the range to around 450 kilometers, or about 279 miles. This may not seem like a lot, but realistically how many times are you going to drive a supercar 279 miles in one sitting?

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Despite its size, Porsche’s positively tiny 919 Hybrid racecar makes massive power
porsche 919 hybrid details photos  feature

Porsche finally took the wraps off its 919 Hybrid Le Mans Prototype race car at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.
The 919 will mark Porsche's return to top-tier endurance racing when it hits the track for the 2014 World Endurance Championship season.
Camouflaged prototypes have been seen testing, but now that the camouflaged has been removed … it looks like Porsche should have left it on. Much of the design was dictated by racing regulations, not to mention aerodynamics.
The 919 won't go down in history as the prettiest race car ever, but luckily race cars don't need to be pretty.
As its name implies, the 919 has a hybrid powertrain. Internal-combustion motivation comes from a 2.0-liter gasoline V-4, which produces around 500 horsepower, and is teamed with two energy-recovery systems.
An electric motor mounted on the front axle can recover energy during braking and store it in a lithium-ion battery pack. It can also drive the front wheels in certain situations, giving the car temporary all-wheel drive.
In addition, the 919 has a thermal energy-recovery system, which uses an electric generator powered by exhaust gases to send additional power to the battery pack.
After a 16-year absence, Porsche is looking to rack up some victories in top-level endurance racing, including an overall victory at Le Mans. To do that, it will have to beat the hybrids from corporate sibling Audi and Toyota.
Porsche will field two cars for the 2014 World Endurance Championship season. The number 20 car will be piloted by ex-Formula One drive Mark Webber, along with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley. The 14 car will be driven by Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb.

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