The 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans is already looking like one for the history books, thanks to new rules, the expanded use of hybrid technology, and a major sibling rivalry.
Porsche will return to top-tier competition at Le Mans this year after a 16-year absence, and face off against corporate sibling Audi, the reigning champion. It's unusual to see two divisions of the same company--in this case, Volkswagen--competing against each other, but Audi made its intentions clear in a new video.
After a (likely computer-generated) journey from Audi headquarters in Ingolstadt, past a vintage Porsche tractor and its waving driver, to Porsche's hometown of Zuffenhausen, an Audi R18 e-tron quattro and its driver leave a very special "welcome back" message. Nothing says "bring it on" like doing donuts in your rival's parking lot.
Once the smack talk is over, it will be interesting to see how the Audi-Porsche rivalry plays out. Both carmakers will field hybrids, but each powertrain is markedly different. Audi will stick with its battle-tested TDI turbodiesel V-6 and ERS-K (Energy Recovery System-Kinetic) flywheel energy-storage system, which provides electric power to the front wheels for temporary all-wheel drive.
The Porsche 919 Hybrid will use a gasoline V-4, teamed with two forms of energy recovery. One recovers thermal energy from the exhaust, while a second system similar to the one used in the road-going 918 Spyder employs a front-axle mounted generator to recover kinetic energy during braking.
Porsche has the most overall wins at Le Mans of any manufacturer, but Audi has been the most dominant marque of the modern era. It's about time these two faced off.
Of course, there's also the possibility the Toyota TS040 Hybrid prototype will spoil the German rivalry. The 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans kicks off June 14. More the latest updates, check out our dedicated hub.