Next June, two of the jewels in the mighty Volkswagen Group crown will duel head-to-head at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Porsche versus Audi – it promises to be an epic confrontation.
For more than a decade, Audi has treated Le Mans like its own, winning year after year and using the endurance race to prove that first diesels and now hybrids are track-worthy high-performance machines.
But Audi faces a new challenge in Porsche, which returns with two LMP1 prototypes 16 years after its overall victory in 1998 with the Porsche GT1. New World Endurance Championship (WEC) rules suggest that, although Audi has dominated Le Mans, Porsche has a fighting chance. Indeed, the works teams must use the latest hybrid drive technology in order to significantly reduce fuel consumption among the race cars.
The winner of the 2014 Le Mans race will likely lead the pack in fuel efficiency while at the same time produce plenty of horsepower. The race car and the hybrid production vehicles sold to real customers are both developed at the Porsche Development Centre in Weissach, says global sales boss Bernhard Maier.
Imagine that: Racing engineers and regular production types sharing notes.
Maier says Porsche will mount a serious challenge to Audi and the outcome will reflect fierce competition between the two VW brands. Aside from the internal rivalry, Porsche has its heritage to defend, too. Porsches have driven to more than 100 victories in a variety of racing classes. The push in 2014, then, will be no small effort.
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