Williams KERS helps Audi win Le Mans

Ferrari was a Le Mans winner at the weekend, but so too was Williams. It has emerged that British F1 team Williams helped Audi win the top prototype course, LMP1.

Audi’s R18 cars – which finished in first and second place – were fitted with Williams technology – their flywheel KERS system.

Ian Foley, Managing Director of Williams Hybrid Power, commented, “Because of Audi’s pedigree at Le Mans there was pressure to get this project right, and to see our technology play a role in this historic triumph is immensely satisfying.

“Our flywheel technology started its life as a motorsport application and whilst it’s since been adapted for a variety of other purposes, motorsport will always be close to our heart and is the ultimate proving ground for our technology. Hopefully we have shown that innovative hybrid systems not only help the environment, but give a race car a fundamental performance boost in terms of power injection and fuel saving.”

Davidson breaks back in Le Mans smash

F1 television pundit and former Super Aguri driver Anthony Davidson is in hospital after a huge airborne crash during the Le Mans 24 hour race.

The 33 year old was involved in a smash whilst at the wheel of his Toyota hybrid prototype sports car after an attempt to overtake the Ferrari of Piergiuseppe Perazzini on the entry to the corner at the end of the Mulsanne straight. Davidson’s car was launched into the air before smashing into the barriers. Perazzini’s LMPGTE Ferrari also hit the barriers before flipping onto it’s roof.

Toyota initially released a statement saying “Doctors at the circuit have confirmed that Anthony is suffering from shock and back pain, however there are no signs of any injuries and he is walking and talking with no problems.”

However after Davidson had been taken to a local hospital for some checks, it emerged that the Brit had suffered breaks to his T11 and T12 vertebrae. It is understood that it will take around three months for the breaks to heal.

Davidson later tweeted from his hospital bed, “Well that was a big one! Lying in a French hospital with a broken back wasn’t what I had in mind at this stage in the race…”

25 F1 drivers to tackle Le Mans race

More than 25 drivers with Formula One experience will be on the grid at this weekend’s 80th running of the fabled 24 hour Le Mans race.

Near the front, in the premier LMP1 prototype class, will be Allan McNish and Marc Gene, driving for Audi. Scot McNish raced in F1 with Toyota in 2002, while Gene drove for Minardi and is still a Ferrari test driver. Toyota has since left F1 and for 2012 has entered Le Mans, and the Japanese marque’s number 8 entry is a grand prix-superteam featuring Anthony Davidson (Super Aguri), Sebastien Buemi (Toro Rosso) and one-off 1999 Minardi driver Stephane Sarrazin.

Another hybrid Toyota prototype will be raced this weekend by Alex Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima. Also in the premier prototype class will be the F1 veteran Nick Heidfeld, driving a Lola-Toyota. His teammates are Neel Jani, a former third driver for Toro Rosso, and quadruple F1 world champion Alain Prost’s son Nicolas.

Also driving in the LMP1 class this weekend are Franck Montagny (Super Aguri), Jean-Christophe Bouillon (Sauber/1995), Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso/2008-9), David Brabham (Simtek/1994) and Karun Chandhok (HRT/2010).

In the LMP2 class, former Ferrari and McLaren driver Stefan Johansson, now 55, will be driving a Lola-Nissan. Also racing will be the Swiss Jean-Denis Deletraz (Pacific/1995) and Bas Leinders, a Belgian who was Minardi’s Friday practice driver in 2004.

British veteran and highly respected F1 commentator Martin Brundle, meanwhile, is sharing a Zytek-Nissan with his son Alex, who this year is a regular in the support series GP3. Also in the LMP2 class are Shinji Nakano (Minardi/1998) and Brendon Hartley, the 22-year-old New Zealander who was an official Red Bull reserve driver in 2009.

Driving a Ferrari 458 in the GT class is grand prix winner Giancarlo Fisichella and Gianmaria Bruni. Italian Bruni, now 31, raced for Minardi in 2004.

Ferrari test driver Andrea Bertolini and Olivier Beretta (Larrousse/1994) share the other Ferrari-linked AF Corse entry, while Jan Magnussen (Stewart/1997-8) is driving a Corvette.

In another Corvette will be the former F1 safety car driver Oliver Gavin, while former Minardi driver Pedro Lamy is set to race a similar car.


F1 could power Le Mans in 2014

Formula One power could be on the Le Mans grid in the near future.

According to technology magazine Racecar Engineering, the sports car organising body Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) will in 2014 allow Le Mans prototypes to be fitted with F1 engines and gearboxes. In 2014, Formula One is scheduled to switch over to all-new engine regulations, with turbo V6s replacing the current normally aspirated V8s. But when asked if F1 engine supplier Renault will use the opportunity to move into Le Mans, Jean-Francois Caubet said in Monaco recently: “I don’t think so.”

Indeed, there has been a push recently to have F1’s 2014 regulations delayed, with the small teams concerned that the manufacturers’ higher than expected research and development costs look to have increased the engine lease fees.

“I think we are very clear,” Caubet insisted. “We have already delayed the engine once, from four cylinder to go to six cylinders. I think it cost us around ten or 15 million, probably the same for Mercedes and Ferrari.

“So we have blown nearly 50 million for nothing. If you delay one (more) year, we think it (the V6 debut) will be never. As for the cost, I don’t think the cost of the new engine will be a drama,” he said.