The legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans have always held a certain fascination, but is also a formidable challenge for drivers and race cars. The character of the race has changed greatly over the decades: once a consistency race, it is now a long-distance sprint race, essentially consisting of 2-hour intervals divided up over 24 hours.
Since the 70s of the last century, by far the majority of Le Mans victories were won with MAHLE pistons. From 2006 to 2008, the Audi team won with the 5.5-liter Audi R10 TDI, making history with the first diesel engine in Le Mans. In 2009 and 2010, the success story continued with the Audi R15 TDI. From 2012 to 2013, the 3.7-liter V6 Audi R18 e-tron quattro followed suit as the first hybrid vehicle. With the highest specific power output in the world, these diesel engines demonstrate maximum reliability and performance under the toughest conditions. The diesel engine has a peak pressure of far more than 200 bar and is very close to its optimum. MAHLE steel piston technology that is already in use here, however, offers additional potential for future leaps in development.
The extreme cylinder bank angle of 120° in the Audi racing diesel engine means that the pistons are nearly horizontal, placing particularly high stresses on the coatings of the pistons and the housing. Under the conditions within the diesel engine, with its extremely high combustion pressures and aluminum housing, the NIKASIL® coating developed by MAHLE continues to prove itself as a stable solution.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans are raising more and more interest from automobile manufacturers; competitive pressures will thus continue to increase in the future and many exciting technological approaches can be expected.