Audi is at the forefront of LED lighting on road cars, and the German maker is now ready to reap the benefits in racing too.
The company has announced that it intends to use LED lighting technology on its 2011 Le Mans contender, the R18 TDI. The new closed-cockpit racer, designed with the intention of continuing Audi's staggering Le Mans success, will take lighting to the next level with a full LED lens unit. Last year's R15 TDI racer used a combination of Xenon and LED lights.
There are several reasons that Audi wants to use LEDs. The first is reliability. LED lights last much longer than incandescent bulbs and also draw less current from the electrical system, saving energy. They're also lighter - weight is the enemy of the racing car.
The drivers see benefits too from the eight high-power LEDs in each unit. Multiple Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen says "When you’ve driven once with full LED headlights you don’t want to have anything else... The light is stronger and vibrates less than a normal headlight". In a 24-hour race with several unlit sections, you need every bit of light you can get.
Audi introduced full LED headlamps with the R8 supercar in 2007, and LEDs are now available on the A6, A7 Sportback and A8 luxury sedan as well. The road cars can even adapt lighting patterns depending on the type of road you're driving on, using information from the satellite navigation system.
The 2011 '24 Heures du Mans' takes place on the 11th and 12th June.