800-Horsepower Hybrid to Race the 24 Hours of Nurburgring

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The guys behind the Gumpert Apollo supercar hope to prove that "green" and "performance" aren’t mutually exclusive when they line up at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring endurance race in a hybrid producing 800 horsepower.

It will compete alongside gasoline-powered cars from the likes of Porsche, Audi and BMW on one of the most famous tracks in motor racing, and it opens another front in the campaign to make auto racing more environmentally responsible. The Indy Racing League runs 100 percent ethanol and Formula 1 teams must use kinetic energy recovery systems beginning next year, and German boutique automaker Gumpert wants to see more gas-electric drivetrains on the grid.

"Motorsports cannot ignore the necessity to save energy," says former F1 driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who with Dirk Müller will drive the Apollo. "I see a chance that our sport will go back to the forefront of technical development, making cars outside the race track more energy efficient."

These guys know what they’re doing. Roland Gumpert was the head of Audi Sport when the automaker scored two World Rally Championship driver’s and constructor’s championships. Frentzen raced scored three wins during his F1 career and is ranked 59th among the "100 Greatest Racing Drivers Ever" in this month’s issue of F1 Racing magazine. Müller has raced in F3 and the American Le Mans series.

Gumpert hasn’t released photographs of the hybrid racer, but it probably will look a lot like the car pictured.

Gumpert worked with Lithium Technology Corp. to develop the hybrid drivetrain, which mates a 3.3-liter V8 twin-turbo engine to a 100-kilowatt electric motor to produce the equivalent of 800 horsepower. The motor uses a 9-kilowatt hour lithium ion battery comprised of 90 high-power 27 amphere hour cells connected in series. It weighs about 420 pounds and provides a full-electric range of 31 miles. The battery will be fully charged before the race and the car will use regenerative braking to keep it charged. Company CEO Klaus Brandt says motorsports is the perfect place to test its technology.

"LTC believes that racing plays a significant role in pioneering the use of new technologies, such as lithium ion batteries, and offers the opportunity for us to demonstrate the performance of our batteries under extreme conditions," he says.

This isn’t the first time a hybrid has gone endurance racing. The Toyota Supra HV-R handily won Japan’s Tokachi 24-hour endurance race last year. But the 24 Hours of Nurburgring is more famous, having started in 1970 as a low-cost alternative to the 1000 KM of Nurburgring, and will expose the technology to a wider audience.

Photos: Gumpert Sportwagenmanufactur

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Diesels Crush All Challengers at Le Mans

Diesels didn’t just win the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they crushed all comers to thoroughly dominate the race for the third consecutive year, taking the top six positions and leading the closest gas-fueled car by 19 laps in a race many pundits are calling one of the best ever.

The prestigious endurance race has in recent years become the key battleground in the fight for diesel engine supremacy, and an Audi R10 - running some biodiesel, no less - scored its third consecutive win in a hard-fought race with Peugeot’s 908 HDi.

Everyone expected a tight race going in, and Peugeot held the advantage with faster cars that started from the first three places on the grid. Peugeot got off to a better start, with the No. 7 car of Nicolas Minassian, Marc Gene and Jacques Villeneuve leading the No. 2 Audi of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello.

Then the rain started.

The Peugeots are a handful in the wet, and Audi seized the advantage.

Kristensen took the lead on lap 234 at 5:17 a.m. Sunday as Villeneuve stopped for fuel. There was no looking back from there, but the race stayed tight. By 2 p.m. Sunday, with 23 hours elapsed, the cars were still less than two minutes apart on a track that’s 8 miles long. Another spate of rain dashed Peugeot’s hopes, though, as Minassian - running on slicks to make up time on dry parts of the track - spun near the end of the race. Audi opened its lead to finish the race 4 minutes and 31 seconds ahead of the Peugeot.

But throughout the race - all 24 hours and 3,077 miles of it - the two cars were never more than one lap apart. Audi took first, fourth and sixth places, while Peugeot took second, third and fifth. The No. 7 Pescarolo Judd took seventh, the highest finish by a gasoline car.

The performances by Audi and Peugeot should put to rest any lingering doubts about the performance and reliability of turbo-diesel engines.