France: History Meets Hybrid at Le Mans

Le Mans, France. By Sara Herbert-Galloway, Herbert’s Heroes.  Le Mans – birthplace of Henry II of England, once seiged by the Romans in 47 B.C., with its visible amphitheater built in the third century B.C. – was under the spell of Audi recently.  In fact, Audi has reigned king of Le Mans for more than a decade.  At the 80th running of the ‘24 Hours of Le Mans’ sports car race set in the historic Loire Valley, I realized that Audi has revolutionized racing.

I was there this month for the world-renowned auto race and witnessed the new Audi e-tron quattro as it took first and second place, the diesel powered  Audi quattros took 3rd and 5th place. The fourth place car was a normal gas engine powered Lola Toyota race team, but not a hybrid.  The Toyota hybrids did not finish as one was forced off of the track by a Ferrari GT driver in a stunning airborne crash.  The second retired after technical issues following a collision, so their true durability is not known.
Fans anxiously await the beginning of Le Mans 2012. Photo:
History was made on June 17th at Le Mans with ‘Audi the Conqueror’ driving where ‘William the Conqueror’ once walked.  The Hybrid powertrain cars were triumphant and are the future of Le Mans and perhaps of the world.
Victorious, Audi e-tron quattros finish the race. Photo:
Not being an automobile expert, I quickly learned that the new e-tron quattros are powered by a combination of 510 horsepower, a V6 diesel engine and a regenerative braking system that stores spare electrons in a flywheel that boosts performance by sending them through an electronic motor that powers the front wheels.  Pretty cool.
# 1 , Audi returns to pit after 2012 victory at Le Mans. Photo:
The winning Audi e-tron quattro driver greets the pit crew after winning.
I also learned that Audi is also the first car to have a carbon fiber engine.  During the pit tour, I was actually able to pick up the body of the car, made of carbon fiber and a tape like covering (this is usually referred to as a wrap on the car that looks like paint).  You read correctly, a wrap, which is used because its lighter than paint.  My hand bag weighs more that the body of the Audi race car.
Nissan Delta Wing car held high hopes but unfortunately crashed after seven hours.
Audi’s e-tron quattro’s make a pit stop together during the race.
Caption. Photo:
The track ‘Circuit de Sarthe’ is about eight miles long – some of it weaving through the picturesque French countryside.  Each car has three alternating drivers who endure the 24 hour race.  If a car crashes, the driver must be able to drive it back to the pit for repair or be eliminated from the race.
Audi’s hybrid e-tron quattro on display at Le Mans. Photo:
Pagani Zonda, Lamborghini Aventador, Koenigsegg CCR at parade before Le Mans.
Audi has taken home the award for the invention of Audi Space Frame (ASF) technology in the past.  The ASF was a major innovation in the automotive industry as it results in an aluminum car body that is not only stronger and safer than a steel body, but also significantly lighter and, I discovered, more fuel efficient.
Corvettes in pit before the beginning of Le Mans. Photo:
As if meant to be, the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci, where he lived until his death in 1519 near Le Mans – le Château du Clos Lucé – is now a shrine to the knowledge and inventions of this Renaissance.  Da Vinci was known as the Master of Mechanical Principals.  He used leverage, gears, rack and pinion gears, lubrication systems, bearings, and even water powered engines in his inventions.  In the park outside his residence, I was thrilled to view and try his action machines, including the first treadmill and hydraulic machines.
The author relaxing before the race at the last home of Leonardo da Vinci – le Château du Clos Lucé, Loire Valley of France. Built in 1471, an elegant fifteenth century residence that served as a summer retreat for French royals. Photo:
Da Vinci was not only a great painter, but an incredible scientist, engineer, botanist and inventor. Leonardo revolutionized the world in more ways than we will ever know.  I’m sure he would be fascinated with the new Audi and Toyota hybrid powertrains that will revolutionize the auto world. How fitting that the victory of the hybrid motor cars at Le Mans took place so close to the property where Leonardo’s last forty inventions are displayed.
All photos courtesy of Sara Herbert-Galloway, The Herbert Collection

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About Sara Herbert-Galloway: Herbert’s Heroes

View all posts by Sara Herbert-Galloway: Herbert’s Heroes
Sara Herbert-Galloway: Herbert’s Heroes
If you had to encapsulate a person's life work in one word, Sara Herbert-Galloway would best be described as a humanitarian due to her focus on helping those who are most vulnerable. Through her charitable work and civic involvement, Sara has been able to impact the lives of many. When Sara isn't busy chairing an event, consulting for a charitable cause or fund raising, she busies herself as a photojournalist. She is a Registered Nurse, former fashion model, actress and spokesperson for several companies. Sara enjoys bringing notoriety to people and causes through her writing. Sara attributes her values to her upbringing and nursing experience. Her unwavering commitment to help as many people as she can in her lifetime is an admirable legacy that will live on and inspire her two children and others to do the same. Sara divides her time between New York City, Greenwich, CT and The Hampton's. She works with several organizations and is a member of the Board of Directors of the J. Luce Foundation.

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