Audi will soon start official testing for the 81st running of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, which will be taking place on the weekend starting June 22. The works team is hoping to achieve its 12th victory at the event since 1999.

Audi plans to compete with three of its R18 e-tron quattro prototypes in the premier LMP1 category, one of which will be a ‘long-tail’ version. The drivers will be Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoît Tréluyer in one car, Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loïc Duval in another, and Oliver Jarvis, Marc Gené  and Lucas di Grassi in the final car.

The trio of diesel-electric hybrid race cars and their drivers will join the rest of the invited 61-car lineup in an official test session at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France taking place this Sunday. The one-day test an important dress rehearsal for the 24-hour race as it gives entrants the only opportunity to run on the Le Mans circuit prior to the actual race.

Each of the cars start the test day with a predetermined plan involving aerodynamics, so the teams can understand the feel of the car, and a tire program so that data can be recorded for official supplier Michelin.

The length of the Le Mans track doesn’t make it an easy task either. To judge a track, drivers need around 12 laps and that equates to an hour at Le Mans, so for three drivers per car that’s three hours meaning that’s the morning session done just for driver acclimatization.

Of course, the 2013-spec R18 e-tron quattro has already proven to be successful, winning the first two rounds of the 2013 World Endurance Championship. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the third round on the calendar.

The output of the R18 e-tron quattro’s electric drive system has been increased compared to last year’s spec, now delivering over 218 horsepower to the front axle. Peak output from the car’s TDI diesel engine has been reduced, however, by way of a larger air restrictor. The engine delivers 490 horsepower, 20 horses less than last year.

Of course, Toyota, along with a host of other LMP1 contenders, will be out to steal the crown from Audi. Toyota is probably the most in contention of achieving that feat, with its 2013-spec TS030 Hybrid Le Mans prototype also showing much promise.

The Motor Authority team will be at Le Mans this year to cover the race live. To stay completely up-to-date, bookmark our 24 Hours of Le Mans hub.


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