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9 de abril de 2021

The Audi vs Peugeot duel at Le Mans 2007


Antonio Eiras

(This text was writen in 2007, in a presentation article of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.)


In the next 24 Hours of Le Mans, the two most sophisticated cars that have ever raced in the French circuit will face off.


Forty years after what is still considered “The Race of the Century”, the La Sarthe circuit will be the stage for a fantastic duel of titans. On one side we have the winner of last year's race, the Audi R10, and on the other the brand new Peugeot 908 HDI, which has the hard task of fighting the winner of the last seven years races (the 2003 Bentley had an Audi mechanic).


The two cars follow the most current and cutting-edge concepts of sports cars technology. Thus, both cars have a carbon fiber chassis, with the engine in the central rear position, both using turbo diesel technology, that results in an excellent level of power with low consumption. The cooling is carried out by radiators and heat exchangers, arranged in the sidepods, for a better weight distribution. The suspensions, with double wishbones and shock absorbers.


The aerodynamics of both cars use to the maximum, with different concepts, the limits of the FIA technical regulations.


Thus, both have a front wing, disguised between the front wheels of the car, one meter wide, and whose presence is allowed by the elevation of the front part of the chassis, more evident in the 908, which has a flap, on its trailing edge, designed to create additional downforce, when compared to the wing used in the R10.


Both cars have the front suspension arms very well faired, in the form of an inverted wing, and intended to create downforce.


In both, the sidepods are independent and separated from the front car bodywork, which allows the drainage of the air that flowed under the front wing, by the side slits thus created behind the front wheels.


An important part of the air that flowed between these wheels will be channeled, in the two cars, to cool the radiators and heat exchangers. The hot air outlets are also carried out in a similar way by fences in the lateral and upper surfaces of the sidepods.


The flat underfloor of the car is limited in the generation of downforce by the very restrictive technical regulations. In both cars, as we can see in the bottom view of the Audi, with the front wing clearly highlighted, the leading edge of the flat surface, acting as a flow separator, and generating significant downforce, which will be applied to the front axle. The lateral edges of the flat bottom are limited by rounded angles that allow the passage of the airflow next to the outer walls of the sidepods and that will increase the flow of air that passes through the diffusers, located posteriorly and longitudinally in continuation of the flat underfloor, on each side of the car's central and longitudinal axle. The dimensions, angles and inclination of the diffusers, as well as of the flow separator allowed for each diffuser, are similar in the two cars, due to the already mentioned limited freedom that the technical regulations allows.


The rear wing has a low camber, on both cars. Its main objective is to balance the downforce on the two axles of the car, and must not create excessive drag, that would penalizated the car on the Hunaudieres straight.


A point where there is a significant difference in the concept of both cars, is in the cockpit.


For the R10, the german technicians have maintained the open cockpit concept, previously used in the R8, and that allows a better vision to its drivers.


On the other hand, at Peugeot, the 908 HDI was developed as a closed car, in anticipation of the future Le Mans regulations, and surely have a better aerodynamic efficiency. Despite the increase in the front surface, they will achieve a more clean airflow, that will reach the rear wing less disturbed and with an additional inclination, which will induce, in this wing, a higher angle of attack, with consequent generation of more downforce, for a very similar drag.


Each car is conceived as a whole, and that is how it must function perfectly. We are sure that the Peugeot and Audi technicians have created the most efficient cars that have ever raced at Le Mans.


Audi has the experience and a very efficient car.


Those from Peugeot have an innovative car that has already won, but in shorter races. If its drivers manage to drive thoroughly, at night, they will give the Audi drivers a strong fight, and perhaps, they will be able to create the surprise at La Sarthe.

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