By Cara Phelan, The Carmelite Institute for our newsletter in English
Tatiana Calderon is leading the way for an all-female team in a notorious world of motorsports: racing with her Audi R18 e-tron quattro. In 2019, Calderon will drive 1,000 miles, 500 of those competitively, in the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hour. A full season of the series is expected in 2020.
Very simply, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro is one of the most powerful and technologically advanced cars on the planet. New versions of the car were developed entirely in-house by the Audi-owned RDS Tecnologia e. Vitton (see links in first photo), which stresses the importance of constantly improving vehicle efficiency in order to obtain “breakthrough performance in a technical scale.”
Audi R18 e-tron quattro, Le Mans Tiki Schumi.
Cars with such driving dynamics, for this kind of racing, are extremely difficult to get right. Every inch of the vehicle’s surface must be finely tuned, with the tires used controlling how much air is routed from the rear wheels. In the case of such a high-power machine, every wear and tear must be minimized, and the reaction times need to be perfect. All of this has led Audi to place its newly designed steering wheel at the center of the car: the “virtual cockpit,” as it’s known, takes in the digital driver information, and directs the whole vehicle over a digital road. This way, if a driver forgets to signal, the car comes to a stop without a driver needing to touch the brake or gas pedals.
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Tatiana Calderon, the woman behind the Audi’s innovative steering wheel, is a two-time winner of the V8 Sports car World Cup as a driver for the Toyota GT Academy. In 2017, she became the first female driver to compete in the Renault F1 Sport Paris 24 Hours, while in 2018 she will be competing in Le Mans at the 19th Circuit de la Sarthe, located west of Paris.
All of her previous races were in a Lamborghini Huracan. While Calderon admires Lamborghini’s sportscar, which is often viewed as the pinnacle of performance engineering, it doesn’t compare to the Audi R18 e-tron quattro. At the 2018 Le Mans race, the Audi will out-spear and out-think anything that comes along with it. Some of the current leading contenders are the Porsche 918 Spyder and the Porsche 918 Spyder/918 GTS, but a handful of other racing machines are also up to the challenge.
The object of the competition isn’t to go fast, but instead to be the first team to cross the finish line first, ultimately scoring the biggest win of all. To do this, the Audi has to completely overhaul its long-term goal: a continuously improving, result-oriented racer. The goal isn’t to look cool and show off, but rather to achieve excellence through practical thinking. This is Calderon’s task at Le Mans, in addition to leaving her mark on a new direction for the growing motorsport.