Many automakers claim that their exploits in the world of motorsport go towards improving their road cars.

It's a tenuous connection sometimes, but Audi could lay fair claim to motorsport -derived technology in its road cars, from its Le Mans program.

With maiden wins for its TFSI technology in 2001 and TDI diesel in 2006, Audi will this year field a diesel-hybrid Le Mans Prototype at the famous 24 hour race in France.

The hybrid racer will provide a compelling rival for Toyota's gasoline-electric TS030, also set to debut at Le Mans this year.

With several wins for diesel technology under its belt, Audi has wisely decided to continue with the fuel for its latest challenger, but pairs it with a hybrid system. "To develop the hybrid technology for Le Mans is at least as ambitious and challenging as our diesel project was in its early stages," explains Audi's head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich.

Audi says early testing has been encouraging, but the cars, run by Audi Sport Team Joest, won't be replacing the standard diesel cars entirely - instead, they will be part of a four-car team in both the Le Mans 24 Hours, and this year's FIA World Endurance Championship.

If Audi's technology really does filter from its Le Mans efforts to its road cars, perhaps the diesel hybrid is a sign that the company is also exploring similar technology for the road?

Audi will reveal the hybrid Le Mans Prototype at the end of this month. Its first outing will be at the 6-hour race at Spa Francorchamps in Belgium, on May 5.

This year's 24 Heures du Mans takes place on June 16-17.


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