Audi became the first automaker to put a hybrid car on the pole at Le Mans this year with its diesel-electric R18. The cutting-edge prototype combines a 3.7-liter diesel engine driving the rear wheels with an electric motor at the front that gets its energy from a flywheel accumulator that charges up under braking.
Qualifying in second place, the R18 Ultra is a lightweight version of last year's winner powered by a diesel engine and constructed primarily of carbon fiber. Two of them suffered massive crashes at last year's event, but the drivers walked away unscathed.
Toyota returns to Le Mans for the first time since 1999 qualifying third on the grid with the Prius of prototype race cars. The TS 030 differs from the Audi e-tron by using a 3.8-liter gasoline powered V8 combined with an electric motor driving the rear wheels, which stores its energy in a bank of capacitors.
Nissan's Delta Wing only managed to qualify 29th, but may be the most significant car in the race. The rocket shaped prototype is the most radical car on the grid, weighing just half a ton with an ultra-aerodynamic body it only needs a300 hp four-cylinder engine to run with the pack and should be one of the most fuel efficient cars in the competition. Unfortunately, since its running as an experimental vehicle it technically can't technically win this weekend's race weekend, but in the high tech world of sports cars, winning isn't always everything.
The future is now at this year's endurance classic with some of the most cutting-edge cars ever seen.